Detail of an antique furniture regency cabinet

Advice on caring for antique furniture from the British Antique Dealers' Association.
 

Positioning antique furniture

Antique furniture should never be placed directly in front of a radiator or heater.

Ideally, furniture should be positioned at least two feet from any heat source.

An insulated or reflective barrier can help reduce the risk of damage caused by a heat source
 

Dusting and polishing

Dust furniture frequently with a soft cloth, and rub up to encourage a hard skin to form.

This will help to build up a good surface colour, which is known in the trade as patina.

Twice a year, polish thoroughly using a good beeswax-based polish.

Polish sparingly, and preferably leave overnight, before rubbing well.

Avoid spray polishes as they can create a sticky surface and will erode the natural oils in the timber.
 

Central heating

Antique furniture can be particularly susceptible to central heating.

Fluctuations in temperature and humidity are likely to cause significant and costly damage.

Antique furniture is constructed from air-dried timber.

Consequently it has a far higher water content than modern furniture.

Typical problems caused by central heating include cracking, lifting veneers and loosening joints.

Central heating can also cause drawers to stick and doors to warp, and no longer close properly.

A good humidifier can help prevent these issues and will help maintain a constant level of humidity.

We recommend aiming to maintain 50-55% relative humidity.
 

Direct sunlight

Detail from an antique furniture commode

Avoid exposing your antique furniture to direct sunlight.

Direct sunlight can dry out the wood and lead to uneven fading.

Where possible, turn furniture around occasionally to even the fading process.

It is also advisable to keep curtains drawn on sunny days when rooms are not in use.

Inspect your furniture regularly for lifting mouldings or veneer, which will sound hollow if lightly tapped.

Also check for loose joints, water damage or fresh furniture beetle (woodworm) holes, particularly around May/June.
 

Use professionals

If repair is required, use a reputable restorer. 

A BADA dealer will be happy to recommend a suitable specialist.

Good restoration takes time and is unlikely to be cheap. 

However, a botched repair will not last and could reduce the value of your antique.


To view dealers who specialise in furniture click here

To view items of furniture online click here

For advice on insuring furniture click here

For advice on valuing furniture click here

For BADA recommended specialists in packing and shipping antiques and fine art click here