Maximizing the lifespan of favorite pieces of furniture, and keeping them looking good, is no easy task. The presence of toxins in many commercially produced cleaning products makes a tough job even tougher. According to the Environmental Working Group, fumes from some cleaning products can induce asthma, and may include low levels of cancer-causing substances such as 1,4-dioxane and formaldehyde. While it is possible to seek out clean alternatives (see Truly Clean Cleaners), it’s also easy to create natural cleaners yourself that keep wood, fabric and leather in tip-top condition, without exposure to dangerous chemicals. Here are a few simple recipes and tips:
Leather, like skin, benefits from regular moisturizing. Well-treated leather will withstand its fair share of wear and tear. Try this recipe for leather lotion to help leather upholstery stand up to the rigors of everyday use:
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/2 cup white vinegar
• 1 to 2 drops food-grade orange oil
To use: Place ingredients in a glass jar with lid and shake. Apply the mixture to leather with a soft, clean microfiber cloth one small area at a time, and buff until the surface dries. Always do a test spot in an inconspicuous location before using leather conditioner all over a piece of furniture.
It’s a good idea to vacuum or brush upholstered furniture (for example, couch or chair cushions) regularly to keep dirt from getting ground in. Manufacturer-supplied care labels can also provide tips on how to clean upholstery — fabrics labeled code “w” or “ws” can be cleaned with water-based agents such as mild detergents or nonsolvent-based shampoos. Code “s” and “x” fabrics require volatile solvents or dry cleaning. Instead of employing dry cleaning chemicals, try this DIY method to freshen your fabric:
• 1/2 cup baking soda
• 1/2 cup cornstarch
To use: Combine ingredients and place in a shaker-top container. Shake a dusting of powder onto upholstery, taking care not to over-apply. Leave the powder in place for 30 minutes or more, then vacuum thoroughly to remove powder.
As with leather, moisturizing wood furnishings can add years of use to their lifetimes. But tables, chairs and other cherished wood furniture items don’t require chemical-laden waxes or sprays to stay in good shape. Try this easy version, made with pantry staples:
• 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
• 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
To use: Combine ingredients in a reusable spray and shake well. Spray wood furniture and wipe away with a clean cloth.