Salvaging Furniture

Claudette Reichel  |  8/18/2016 3:06:26 PM

Salvaging Furniture

Cleaning and Caution Tips:
  • Always wear rubber gloves and goggles when handling flooded items and restoration chemicals. Wear a respirator if mold, lead or asbestos might be present. Wash exposed skin often.
  • Read and follow warning labels. Many of the mentioned and other restoration products are flammable, irritants or produce unhealthy fumes
  • Take items outdoors to brush off and clean, if possible. When indoors, use only a HEPA vacuum and damp wipe methods to reduce airborne dust, mold and other contaminants.
Wood Furniture

Submerged or wet wooden furniture:

Pressed wood pieces and cabinets tend to disintegrate in water and may collapse when moved. Veneered furniture may not be worth the cost and effort of repair unless it is very valuable to you. Printed vinyl surfaces and low-pressure laminates tend to come unglued and may not be repairable,

Furniture made with solid wood and plywood may be restorable.

  • Take restorable pieces outdoors, and remove as many drawers, slides and removable parts as possible. Drawers and doors may be swollen andbe stuck tight. Do not try to force them out from the front. With a screwdriver or chisel, remove the back and push out the drawer from behind. After movable parts are removed, clean off mud, soil and mold with (see above guidelines).
    Move cleaned furniture indoors or a protected area where it can dry slowly. Furniture left in the sunlight to dry will warp and twist out of shape.
  • When furniture is dry, reglue it if necessary. You will need equipment and clamps to reglue some pieces. Before you start, decide whether you have the time, equipment and ability to do the work. Consult an experienced carpenter if necessary. Many books are available on the subject.
  • To reglue loose joints or rungs, cut or scrape off old glue so the area will be as clean and free of glue as possible. Use a white all-purpose glue, following directions on container. Hold parts together with rubber rope tourniquets or C-clamps. To prevent damage from ropes or clamps, pad these areas with cloth.

Damp furniture - removing white spots:

White spots or a cloudy haze may develop on damp furniture with shellac or lacquer finishes.

  • If the entire surface is affected, try lightly wiping with a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol, turpentine or a half-and-half mixture of household ammonia and water, then wipe dry. For deep spots, try a few drops of ammonia on a damp cloth or a mild abrasive paste (such as powdered pumice), then buff at once with a dry cloth.
  • If the color is restored, polish with wax or furniture polish. If color is not restored, dip No. 0000 steel wool in oil (boiled linseed, mineral or lemon). Rub lightly with the wood grain. Wipe with a soft cloth and re-wax.
    Black spots indicate water has penetrated the finish and entered the wood. You may need to remove the finish and treat the stained wood with oxalic acid or a commercial wood restoration product.
Other Furniture and Items

Submerged upholstery and mattresses should be discarded. If you wish to restore valuable upholstered furniture, do not attempt to dry and restore padding. It should always be replaced due to risk of contamination.

Professional furniture restoration is safest and may provide best results. Get an estimate from a reliable furniture repair shop and consider replacement cost and value of each piece. If your insurance covers part value on contents, it may be financially better to apply the money to new articles, rather than pay for extensive repairs.

To attempt restoration yourself,

  • First vacuum damaged pieces with a HEPA vacuum or take them outside to brush off. Avoid further wetting. Remove tacks, braids and other accessories for easier cleaning
  • Read fiber content labels of upholstery. Test a hidden area using a solution of lukewarm soapy water, hydrogen peroxide or diluted denatured alcohol to see if color is removed or fabric shrinks. Allow to dry, then decide if the fabric can be cleaned.
    Sponge colorfast fabric to remove dirt, and use hydrogen peroxide, alcohol solution or solvent cleaner to remove stains and mildew. If fabric will be removed from frame to replace padding, consider professional dry cleaning.
  • Wipe wooden frames with a wood cleaner or alcohol solution to remove mold. Wipe dry and allow to air dry in an open shady place (never dry furniture in direct sunlight).
  • Dry springs and other metal parts. If rust has formed, you may need to replace or clean with steel wool. A rust inhibitor or light oil coating on metal parts could help prevent later rusting.
    Be sure all parts are dry before reassembling. Some major manufacturers keep records of fabric or metal parts which can be ordered from the dealer for replacement.
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