There’s nothing quite like wooden furniture or floors to give a house a sense of home. Here’s how to care for yours.

Picture a family sharing a meal – happy chatter, heaped dishes being passed back and forth and, at the centre of it all, a wooden dining-room table providing yet another night of faithful service. Or think of a new mom, gently cradling her bundle of joy in the same rocking chair her own mother put her in when she was that size. Remember finishing your homework at the mahogany writing desk your grandfather sat at when he became the first in your family to receive a university education?

Wood carries memories like no other material. It’s timeless and, if you look after it, can be passed down through generations.


The first step to ensuring the longevity of your wooden furniture is to tackle dirty marks as soon as they appear, whether they are coffee rings or crayon scrawls.

Do not go in guns blazing – you don’t want any cleaning to ruin the wood’s finish. Start with the gentlest products and work your way up. Test your cleaning solution, no matter how gentle, on a small, discreet part, for example the inside of a table leg. Just remember to keep your sponge barely damp, so as not to saturate the wood.

‘If the discolouration hasn’t penetrated too deeply into the wood, diluted white vinegar should remove it,’ advises Wytze Voerman of Wood Strippers Restorers and Showroom in Cape Town.


Never spray polish directly on to your furniture. First spritz it on to a soft cloth, then apply to the wooden surface. Polish with the grain and don’t forget to buff off any excess polish after 20 minutes.


‘You can tell your furniture needs to be resealed when the surface appears dry or cracked, and grey, milky-looking marks appear,’ says Nida Desjardins of Atelier Desjardins, a specialist woodworking and restoration service in Northcliff. Furniture that’s been left to gather dust will probably also be quite grimy to the touch.

Mix three parts linseed oil with one part turpentine, then add to two cups hot water. Dip in a super-fine steel wool (not the pad from your scullery) or a soft cloth and wipe with the grain to remove all the grime and old polish, and revive the wood. Polish and buff as usual.

As important is to choose your moment. ‘Don’t do restoration work in very hot or wet weather,’ advises Wytze. Wood can be very temperature sensitive, and you don’t want it at its most vulnerable in extreme conditions.


Wooden floors are a bit of a different ball game to wooden furniture, say Nida and Wytze. If you notice your floor is looking dry, cracked or showing milky marks, they recommend hiring a professional to restore it. ‘Make sure they use a minimum of three coats, and a product that makes it easy for you to maintain afterwards,’ says Nida.
Another problem is warping, usually due to excess moisture or lack of sealing. If the wood is bulging, Nida advises a little bit of patience until any inclement weather has passed. ‘Give it time to shrink back,’ she says. ‘However, if it is definitely warped, it will have to be replaced.’


Superficial scratches in your wood? Halve a walnut, rub the meat of the nut along the scratch and presto – the scratch magically disappears.


To lighten water rings on your precious coffee table, dab a little mayo on to just-made marks, leave for 30 minutes, then wipe away.