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Clean, Dry, Repair and Disinfect Wood Furniture
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Depending on the extent of the damage and exposure time, water can damage your wood furniture in several ways and severity levels. From staining and structural changes caused by direct contact to loosened joints, warps or cracks, damage to wood can progress from slight to severe in a matter of days.
Generally, wood must be dried out gradually to prevent uneven shrinkage that may lead to cracks, warps, and splits. Often, tools and equipment are necessary and, therefore, it is recommended to hire an experienced furniture restoration professional who can best maintain the value of the item. Keep in mind that an attempt to save on restoration costs, in many cases, ends with improper drying and permanent damage to the item.
Salvaging Wood Furniture
Solid wood furniture can usually be salvaged and restored if treated quickly and professionally. The faster you start salvaging your furniture, the better. If your furniture has been submerged in water for more than a few days it is most likely severely damaged.
There are different salvage methods and techniques for different damage levels. However, if you choose to salvage your wooden furniture, slow-dry them and repair properly. Read the safety rules before you start in order to protect yourself from injury and infections.
Salvaging Damp Wood Furniture
To remove white spots, rub with a damp cloth dipped in turpentine or in a solution of 1/2-cup household ammonia and 1/2-cup water. Wipe dry immediately and look at the color and finish. If color is not restored, dip a 000 steel wool in olive oil or lemon oil, rub lightly along the wood grain, and wipe with a soft cloth. Once you see that the color is restored, polish with wax or furniture polish.
If all efforts to remove the spots fail, remove the finish and refinish the item or consult with a restoration professional.
Salvaging Submerged Wood Furniture
The first step in salvaging submerged wood furniture is to rinse off any mud and debris, preferably using a hose. The next step is to remove back panels, drawers, and doors. You may find it hard to remove drawers and doors if water has caused them to expand. Do not force them out.
Improve environmental conditions to promote fast natural drying. If possible, move the furniture to an outdoor area to allow better air circulation and humidity conditions. If the weather does not allow moving the piece out, open windows and doors and improve air movement by using fans. Consider using dehumidifiers to control humidity levels. Do not let wood furniture dry in the sun, as the heat may cause it to warp.
Air drying is another applicable drying technique. This technique, if utilized properly, will assure slow inside drying and will minimize cracking and splitting. Do not force drying using heaters as this may cause uneven drying resulting in warping or cracking of the wood. (More drying techniques)
Be patient as it may take several weeks to several months to completely dry wood furniture.