Dusting furniture for many of us means aerosol cans, bottles of oil and a feather duster or two. But furniture experts say that all you really need are two cloths and a little water.
"The right way is the opposite of what people think," says Eli Rios, proprietor of ECR Antique Conservation & Restoration, in Long Island City, N.Y. "A damp cloth gets the dust off."
How often should you dust? Whenever you feel like it or the furniture seems to need it, the experts say.
Use a soft cloth, cheesecloth or even an old T-shirt, Rios says.
Here's how it's done.
Dampen one cloth — and don't go overboard on the water. "You want a slightly damp cloth," says Scott Chambers of Fine Woodworks, a Chicago-based maker of furniture and cabinets. "When you're done using it, there shouldn't be little pools of water or droplets. That's why 'damp' means 'damp' and not wet."
Philip C. Lowe, director and master craftsman at the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, a school that teaches furnituremaking and repair in Beverly, Mass., says you can even use a little dish soap in the cleaning if you like. Just rinse off with a damp cloth.
Use gentle motions. Lowe likes to move back and forth across the surface. No need to scrub, he says, adding that you should be careful around loose molding, raised veneer or other delicate spots.
Finish by using a dry cloth to buff the surface. It will restore a sheen to the furniture, Rios says.
Skip the feather duster. "The problem with those is they just make the dust airborne again and it settles back on the furniture," Lowe says.
Skip the furniture oils and aerosol sprays, these experts say, because they contain substances that give a temporary shine but can lead to buildup that obscures the wood grain and makes refinishing difficult.
If the finish on a piece of furniture is damaged or worn off, oils can soak into the exposed wood and eventually darken it, Rios says.
Experts recommend using a paste wax once or twice a year if the finish starts to fade. The wax fills in any scratches or spaces in the wood's finish, Chambers says, and the resulting smoother surface reflects more light and gives the piece more shine.
Use wax sparingly while following the directions on the can, he adds, making sure to remove all paste from any recesses or carvings in the furniture.