Maintenance of Chinese Antique Furniture
Every piece of furniture has been carefully selected by Zhong-hua Wu for your use and enjoyment. Our furniture is circa
Wood is an organic substance and each species has its own characteristics in terms of color, grain, texture and smell.
The first step in the care of your furniture is to understand the conditions that can cause damage. The second step is to
follow some basic guidelines for care, handling and cleaning.
Causes of Damage
The primary cause of damage to furniture is careless handling. Furniture, no matter what size, should always be moved by
grasping the sturdiest part (for example, chairs should be lifted by the seat and table by the rail.) Items should never be
dragged as this will place stress on their legs, feet and arms.
Furniture surfaces must always be protected from alcohol and water (drink coasters, for instance.) If water or alcohol does
come in contact with the finish, it should be removed immediately. This is particularly important if you have a shellac based
finish. If tables are protected by glass tops, felt or plastic tabs should be used so that the glass does not stick to the
All wood finishes are subject to change when exposed to light Depending on the type of finish and wood, this can range
from darkening to fading. If objects are left in the same position on a piece of furniture for a long period of time, uneven
facing will occur. Where possible, direct sunlight should be avoided as the heat generated may cause damage by
softening or cracking the finish.
Temperature and Humidity
Wood is a porous material and absorbs water when humidity levels are high. This causes the wood to swell. Conversely,
wood shrinks in a dry environment. This causes movement within the structure of the wood and can produce cracks,
veneer lifting and gaps in joints. Rapid fluctuations in humidity and temperature cause the greatest amount of damage.
Furniture can withstand considerable variation in temperature and humidity provided the change occurs at a slow rate.
Remember, houses prior to the 20th century did not have air conditioning and central heating and by and large the furniture
survived quite well. The main damage was generally done to the feet.
In an ideal world, the recommended temperature and humidity levels should be:
Temperature Relative humidity
Winter 70° F 35 - 45%
Summer 70° - 75° F 55 - 65%
Contrary to common belief you do not have to "feed" the wood, and the following information will assist you to keep your
furniture in prime condition.
Do not use a polish containing silicone. Just dust with a soft dry cloth.
Once or twice a year you may wish to wax the furniture with a good polish containing beeswax and carnauba wax. Apply
sparingly, and buff with a soft cloth.
Do not use kitchen cleaners as they may scratch the finish.
Do not use chemical cleaners, Pledge® or other commercial cleaners.
If you maintain properly, your Chinese furniture will give you pleasure for years to come. Any changes in the wood structure
will only add character and not affect the integrity of the furniture.
Taking good care of your furniture will enhance its practicality as well as its value. Central to this is understanding how a
piece is constructed and decorated, and—if it is made of wood—how this natural material reacts to its environment.
Appropriate use, swift repair in response to accidental damage, and the right environmental conditions should ensure that
your furniture remains in good condition.
Furniture generally requires a minimum of cleaning. A weekly light dusting together with a twice-yearly wax polishing—if
the piece is made of wood—should suffice. Particular care should be taken with inlays, marquetry and veneers, in case
your polishing cloth lifts a piece. If this does happen, keep the broken piece and contact a restorer. Lacquer is also
vulnerable to excessive handling. Gilded fittings should not be cleaned since the gilt may easily be removed.
The definition of the word "furniture" is a "moveable article to equip a room or a house"—its portability is central to its
function. Considerable care should therefore be taken when handling furniture. At least two people should lift larger
pieces, balancing the load and supporting the main carcass or frame rather than grasping chair backs or tabletops, for
example. Never drag an item of furniture; even pieces with castors should be lifted when possible since legs can be easily
broken. Drawers and other detachable elements can be removed to lighten the load, and doors should be tied shut.
Wood is particularly susceptible to the effects of light and heat. Direct sunlight causes wood to fade and lose its color; heat
warps and shrinks wood, causing veneers to lift from the carcass. Always keep pieces away from fireplaces and radiators.
If it is impossible to avoid direct sunlight, use a protective cover on the furniture, a thick blind on the window, or apply
ultraviolet-absorbent filters to windowpanes, which will prevent these damaging rays from entering the room.
In addition, antique furniture is sensitive to humidity. The ideal room climate is 64°F (18°C) and 50% humidity, with a 20%
variation. Humidifiers are available at hardware stores and will help to maintain and monitor humidity levels.
Should your furniture suffer shrinkage or splitting, it is essential that you adjust the environmental conditions before repairs
are carried out. Otherwise, further splitting may occur.
It is natural that the enjoyment and use of antique furniture might lead to accidental damage, such as stains, loose joints,
or broken inlays and veneers. Should this occur, consult a reputable furniture restorer.
Wood is a natural living product, therefore, wood furniture will "breathe" in response to changes in the atmosphere. Rapid
or extreme fluctuation in temperature, humidity or direct sunlight may cause cracking, splitting, and/or warping of the piece.
The ideal condition for furniture is a stable atmosphere with fluctuations ranging between: a relative humidity of 40 - 70% ;
a temperature of 15 - 25 degree (Centigrade) . Operating a humidifier or placing a glass of water inside or underneath the
furniture will help to maintain the right level of humidity. Wood as a plant contains water in its structure. Throughout our
manufacturing process, substantial amount of water would have been eliminated from the wood to make it stable.
However, wood still expands or contracts as related to the relative humidity in the air. One exception is wood that has
undergone chemical treatment.
The design of Chinese furniture has already catered to this behavior of wood. In particular, a large surface is usually made
with floating panel framed by wood members on four sides. The floating panel can expand or contract but still has its
surface secure and intact. In an extremely dry environment, the contraction, however, might reveal certain "un-colored"
portion of the tongue that is inserted into the wood members. If the furniture is moved to a higher humidity environment, the
wood will expand and the "un-colored" portion will be concealed again. This is a normal behavior for Chinese furniture.
The ideal condition for furniture is a stable atmosphere with relative humidity fluctuations of 40 - 70 percent, and a
temperature from 60 - 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Operating a humidifier or putting a glass of water inside or underneath the
furniture may help to maintain humidity.
Strong sunlight can cause fading or other changes. If you leave objects in a permanent position on the furniture, uneven
fading may also occur. Avoid placing furniture next to radiators, hot air vents, air conditioners, or open windows. Do not
place hot containers directly onto the surface of the furniture.
Careless handling of the furniture may also cause damage.
Wood is an organic substance, and each species of wood has individual characteristics such as color, texture, and smell.
We apply appropriate finishes on each piece with those characteristics in mind, so the finish and the design of the wood
enhance one another and work together harmoniously.
Use dry cloth, soft brush or the brush of a vacuum cleaner to remove dust on the furniture. If needed, use a dry or mild
damp cloth to wipe away dirt or stains. This is the only cleaning you need for the furniture. Never use too much water to
clean the furniture.
There is normally no need to re-wax the furniture very often. Just wiping with a dry cloth can restore the shimmer. However,
if there has been too much stain on the surface, or the furniture has lost its shimmer altogether, re-wax is then needed.
Use only a thin layer of soft "paste like" furniture wax. High quality furniture beeswax is easily available in the market. Never
use the spray type furniture wax, otherwise you will have to say good-bye to the beautiful furniture color.
For certain finish of our pieces , the paint and color is made very thin to best reveal the wood grains. The furniture surfaces
therefore cannot withstand too much scratching. So if objects such as lamps or vases are to be placed on furniture top, it
is highly recommended to shield them with soft padding on their bottom surfaces.
Do not use abrasive kitchen cleaners, as they will scratch the surface.
Do not use chemicals or other commercial cleaners on furniture.