How to Take Care of Heirloom Furniture

Enemies of Heirloom Furniture: Temperature, Humidity and Sunlight

Now that you know how to properly clean, use and move your heirloom furniture, you might think that's all you need to worry about. However, there are enemies lurking about, just waiting to cause damage to your wonderful piece. You can't always see them, but you can see the evidence that they leave behind. Warped, cracked wood. Faded upholstery. Mold. Holes. You can stop all of these things from happening if you're vigilant.

When there are fluctuations in temperature and humidity, you're not the only one feeling it. And while we can thrive in a lot of different types of environments, heirloom furniture isn't so lucky. Most of us like our homes to stay at a steady, comfortable temperature and humidity level. For wooden furniture, about 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Celsius) and 50 percent relative humidity is optimal, but small variations higher or lower won't make a big difference. Extreme fluctuations, however, can cause serious damage. They can cause the wood to expand and then contract, resulting in warping, breakage and problems such as stuck drawers. Very high humidity can lead to rotting wood, while very low humidity will dry it out and cause cracking. To dodge these problems, don't store heirloom furniture in basements or attics, and keep it away from stoves, radiators, fireplaces and HVAC vents.

Sunlight isn't something that we necessarily think of as being damaging to furniture, but prolonged, direct exposure to ultraviolet light (including strong artificial light) can lead to permanent problems. Light can fade a piece of furniture's finish and upholstery, forever damaging its beauty. To protect it, keep it out of strong direct light if possible -- drawing shades and curtains will help, too. And although you may not like the look of it, use coverings on furniture when it's not in use.

The last type of enemy that we'll discuss can also be also one of the grossest. Read on to find out why.