Tips for taking care of your wooden investments
You’ve installed your new cabinets, they look great, and you hope they’ll last a lifetime (or at least not go out of style anytime too soon). You’re aware that wood reacts to environmental factors, such as moisture, temperature, and light. Most importantly, humidity may have a profound effect on wood. Controlling the elements is important.
An average temperature of 70 degrees is recommended as ideal for wood products, placing moisture in the air at approximately 25 – 55%. As the humidity in a room rises, wood will absorb moisture and expand. On the other hand, it loses moisture and contracts as relative humidity decreases. This natural manipulation of hardwoods may actually be observed by the appearance of fine stress lines at the joints, visible particularly on painted finishes. These are natural occurrences and nothing to be alarmed about.
However, if the humidity in an environment should exceed 55%, wood will expand too far, to the point of “wood failure”. Splits and cracks will emerge and the joints will separate. Meanwhile, light exposure will cause the gradual fading of the finish – a process that will occur even faster with direct sunlight as the culprit behind the expedited aging. Natural wear will also appear on the doorknob or handles, primarily from the oils and chemicals from our skin. Over time, this will cause the hardware finish to deteriorate.
So, when it comes to doing our best to maintain our cabinets there are a couple of things to understand that probably don’t even need mentioning. Keep them dry and protect them from liquids. Do not use abrasive cleaners or pads, especially on laminate surfaces where scratches can be irreparable.
Keeping the basics in mind, you’ll want to clean your cabinets twice a year. For stained finishes grab a soft cloth and some mild soapy water, apply to the surface and wipe away the accumulated dirt and grease. A similar formula requires that you mix two cups of water with two teaspoons of liquid detergent in a spray bottle. Immediately rinse with a clean fabric before quickly drying with a soft cloth. Use some pressure, but avoid being too forceful, as you could compromise the consistency of the finish. Avoid harsh detergents, strong soaps or liquid wax cleaners that feature dirt cutting agents.
If the cabinets have all but lost their entire luster, you can wax them with a quality paste wax. Be mindful that waxing is practically never needed for stained wood kitchen cabinets, but if it is indeed necessary, start with a small area to be certain of the effect. Be sure that you NEVER use wax on opaque, painted or matte finishes. For those, all you need is a clean cloth and a gentle soapy solution, rinse with a wet cloth and dry immediately.
If you are among the rare few who have stainless steel cabinets in their home, simply follow the instructions on the labels of your cleaners. Steer clear of acids, solvents or abrasive cleaners – they will damage the surface and adversely affect the appearance.
The soapy water solution and procedure apply once again for cabinets of plastic laminate. For tough spots use a grease-cutting agent. Rinse and dry as mentioned previously. If you have a flurry of oily fingerprint impressions, have no fear. Yup, same process, and be certain to buff in the direction of the grain, pattern, or texture.
Lastly, you have only the hinges to deal with. Lubricate them once or twice a year depending on need. You’ll extend their life and get the best performance from them by using white lithium spray grease. And if the screws loosen, be sure to tighten them as needed.
When following these instructions be mindful to apply the right solution to the corresponding surface. These are general tips, and results may vary depending on what you’re working with. One thing is certain – the proper maintenance of your cabinets can ensure a lifetime of carefree use.