Caring for Stickley Furniture

Page Contents

Finished Products

Our official policy is that there is no wrong furniture care product for our finishes. However, misuse and overuse of any furniture care product can ruin any furniture finish. Care products are only successful if they are used exclusively of each other, used only 2-3 times a year and used only with the use of water and a cloth for frequent dusting. Combining or switching polishes is not recommended. Pick one, stay with it.

The following polishing product is recommended for use on Stickley Furniture:

Stickley Furniture Dressing

 Stickley Furniture Dressing Application Recommendation:

It’s helpful to think of Stickley Furniture Dressing as similar to paste wax with an easier to apply consistency. Use a clean, water dampened, soft cloth (never use soap or a sponge) for weekly dusting or cleanup. When applied exclusively according to directions over a new finish or one free of other oils and previously applied care products, Stickley
Furniture Dressing will build a hard, protective coating to protect a finish from surface scratches.

Use Stickley Furniture Dressing for the following applications:

  1. Any new Stickley lacquer finish.
  2. To clean and restore vintage Stickley Cherry Valley Collection pieces from 1920-1980.
  3. To clean and restore original mission oak furniture 1900-1920 which still has its original finish.

DO NOT USE Stickley Furniture Dressing for the following applications:

  1. To repair or restore finishes damaged by silicone or where silicone polishes have already been applied.
  2. Oil finishes, Polyurethane finishes, sparvarnish, catalytic finishes.
  3. In combination with any other kind of polish.

SUGGESTED METHOD OF APPLICATION:

  1. Obtain a soft, lint free cloth (unstarched cheesecloth or a cloth diaper works well).
  2. Pour the dressing on the cloth, never directly on the finished surface.
  3. Wipe the Dressing in slightly overlapping strokes on the finish always moving back and forth with the grain of the wood. Do not over-rub!
  4. Allow the Dressing to haze slightly. This may take 1/2 hour or more. The longer you can wait before buffing it, the better.
  5. Use a clean cloth to wipe the Dressing dry using the same overlapping stroke technique (this may need to be done twice allowing the residue to haze after the first drying).
  6. Allow the Dressing to cure 1/2 hour before placing any objects back on the surface.

PURCHASE STICKLEY FURNITURE DRESSING AT YOUR NEAREST:

Stickley Dressing

Why is Stickley Dressing and Paste Wax recommended as a care product for the same finishes?

When Stickley Furniture Dressing and quality Paste Wax are both recommended as a suggested care product the reason is simple. Stickley Furniture Dressing is much easier to use than Paste Wax. We like to use the Paste Wax for the top surfaces to quickly build up protection on more heavily used surfaces. Use the Furniture Dressing for the less used surfaces like, sides, drawer fronts, legs, doors, etc.

Is this the same Stickley Furniture Dressing that has been made by Stickley for years?

Yes, this is the same product which has been made by Stickley since the early 1930’s. The formula is slightly modified from the original to eliminate certain solvents which have been found to be carcinogenic by the EPA.

Can Stickley Dressing ruin a finish?

Used according to directions Stickley Dressing cannot ruin a finish. Misuse is often the reason finishes begin to look cloudy or white. Beware of using it too often. Two to three times per year is all you need. Beware of rubbing the dressing into the wood as if you are trying to burnish it into the finish. The solvents which are required to keep the wax in suspension can strip a finish if they are not allowed to evaporate slowly. This is why you have to wait until the dressing hazes over. Use according to directions especially with 713 and 718 finishes. Use water and a cloth (never use a sponge) for weekly dusting or cleaning.

I have an old can of Stickley Furniture Dressing. Can I still use it?

As the Dressing ages, certain solvents critical to the formulation tend to evaporate if the cap is not on tight. Its best to dispose of the older can of Dressing if it appears that the waxes have congealed and are sitting at the bottom of the can. In addition, the old formula (pre-1974) contained benzene which can be hazardous to your health.

There should be no time limit on the current blend of Stickley Furniture Dressing if the cap is placed tightly on the can and the solvents don’t evaporate. You’ll know if the solvents have evaporated because the wax will have congealed and will pour out thickly if it pours out at all. Dispose of that can and do not place the contents on the furniture finish.

Paste Waxes

Quality Paste Waxes

Quality furniture paste waxes are a perfect blend of waxes and solvents which will provide protection from water, heat and surface scratches while enhancing the luster of the original finish. Recommended paste waxes include © Johnsons Paste Wax , © Butchers Paste Wax and © AntiqueWax . There are other fine waxes on the market as well but these are ones that we have tested in the shop and are happy with. We suggest not using © BriWax  as it is a bit too hard for the casual user to rub out. It is a good wax but works best with a machine buffer.

 

Use Paste Wax is correct for the following applications:

  1. Any new Stickley lacquer finish but best for satin or medium sheens.
  2. Any Oil based finish. Specifically, Stickley #703 Central Valley and #708 Morris Plains.
 

DO NOT USE Paste Wax for the following applications:

  1. To provide protection on high gloss finishes unless you are very good at paste waxing techniques. Though it can be used, it can be a trick to rub out and obtain a high gloss. You need to do small areas at a time. White Cream Polish is a better recommendation simply because of it’s ease of application and superior scratch resistance needed for high gloss finishes.
  2. As a cleaner to remove old wax build up or dirt.
  3. In combination with any other products.

SUGGESTED METHOD OF APPLICATION:

  1. Use a new can of paste wax. If the wax is old and hard all the solvents have dissipated and it should be thrown away. If the wax is too soft due to heat you can try refrigerating it and then allowing it to adjust to room temperature before using it.
  2. Use unstarched cheesecloth and ball it up to the size of a softball. Using cheesecloth prevents the paste wax from building up as you rub it out. Cloth diapers or T-shirts are not the best choice.
  3. With wax on the cloth, apply it to the surface using long, slightly overlapping strokes always moving with the grain of the wood. If the surface is large, try doing small sections at a time to prevent the wax from drying too hard before you rub it out.
  4. Do not allow the wax to harden beyond a slight haze. Using a clean piece of cheesecloth wadded up to the size of a softball, wipe the surface using the same overlapping stroke technique. The degree of pressure will be determined by the length of time the wax has been drying on the surface. Rub thoroughly. Use overlapping strokes. Use the same pressure you might use if buffing your shoes. The trick is to take your time and buff as you stroke. Keep the ball of cheesecloth wadded fairly tight and keep refolding it to get a clean surface if it gets too filled with wax residue. You should not be leaving a thick coating of wax on the surface. The key to successful paste waxing is thin coats over time, not thick coats.
    Another rule is to NEVER use any other polish on top of paste wax. In between coats of wax you can wipe the furniture with a soft cloth and water, then dry the surface completely.

Why is Stickley Dressing and Paste Wax recommended as a care product for the same finishes?

When Stickley Furniture Dressing and quality Paste Wax are both recommended as a suggested care product the reason is simple. Stickley Furniture Dressing is much easier to use than Paste Wax. The idea is to use the Paste Wax for the top surfaces to quickly build up protection on more heavily used surfaces. Use the Furniture Dressing for the less used surfaces like, sides, drawer fronts, legs, doors, etc.

What to do in between coats of wax?

Simply keep the surface clean using a water dampened cloth and drying thoroughly. You can even use a mister to spray the water on the finish and then dry it. Water will not harm the finish when it is properly dried with a cloth. It’s only when water sits on a finish for a long time or if it is very hot or very cold that it will create a white spot. Eventually, depending on use, the top will look dull and then you can wax again. This water and wax combination is time honored.

Is it a wax build-up or wax mix-up that people complain about?

In most cases when a build-up of wax is being described as a problem, the problem lies not with a wax build-up but a wax mix-up. Paste wax used alone provides an excellent barrier of protection for a fine furniture finish. Used alone it will not become sticky because multiple applications have the inherent function of removing the old wax, accumulated dirt and grease off while laying a new layer of fresh wax down. The problem of stickiness occurs when any other furniture care product is applied over paste wax. Since paste wax was not formulated to blend with these products, they repel each other and cause the dreaded wax mix-up. A true wax build-up is desirable, a wax mix-up is to be avoided.

How often should I paste wax a finish?

The rule of thumb is to wax when the finish looks like it needs waxing.
As a finish gets older it will need less wax because you would have built up a nice patina over the years. This is true if the proper care is taken when the piece is new. Generally, in the first year 3-4 applications are sufficient. 2-3 applications after that and you’d find that years down the road little or no wax would be needed.

If I apply the paste wax using a thicker coat won’t that make it build up better and provide more protection?

No! Paste wax does not protect any better with thick coats. It also has the adverse effect of being more difficult to rub out. The key is thin, uniform coats spaced out over time to allow for proper drying.

Why does a hand-rubbed lacquer finish look hazy or scratchy when I
look at it in bright sunlight?

Fine quality lacquer finishes are hand-rubbed using fine abrasives such as steel wool, pumice and rottenstone. These abrasives are responsible for creating the smooth lacquer surface. They are also responsible for the scratch pattern. The rubbing is always done with the direction of the grain. The scratch pattern is visible when looking along the grain but not when looking perpendicular to it. A haze or scratch pattern is evident in newly rubbed lacquer finishes because they have not yet developed a good coating of wax. The wax will fill the fine scratch pattern thus eliminating the visual evidence of the hand-rubbing.

White Cream Polishes

White cream polishes, such as © Guardsman, have the advantage of being easy to use but have the disadvantage of smearing and building up if applied too frequently. Once or twice a year is fine using water and a cloth for regular dusting (never use a sponge on furniture). White cream polish is easy to apply. The main concern with white cream polishes is that they not be combined with any other type of polish, wax or oil.  This is true with any type of furniture care product.  Once used, do not switch.

Use white cream polish for the following applications:

  1. To protect and maintain a Stickley lacquer finish with a high sheen. NOTE: white cream polish can be used on low or satin sheen finishes without damage to the finish but the user should expect the sheen to get progressively shinier with each use.

DO NOT USE white cream polish for the following applications:

  1. To protect and maintain low or satin sheen finishes and still retain the original sheen.
  2. To protect or maintain oil finishes (specifically Stickley #703 Central Valley and #708 Morris Plains)
  3. In combination with other care products.

SUGGESTED METHOD OF APPLICATION:

  1. Apply polish to a clean, soft cloth which has been wadded up to approximately the size of a softball. If using concentrated type polish be sure to dilute according to instructions. Applying undiluted concentrate can cause irreversible damage to a finish. Often these polishes will appear to have separated so be sure to shake them well before applying them.
  2. Wipe the polish onto the finish using overlapping strokes and always wiping with the grain of the wood.
  3. Using another clean cloth, wipe the polish until dry. You should dry the polish very soon after application. Leaving the polish on the finish too long causes it to begin to harden and makes wiping it off more difficult.

How often should I polish with White Cream Polish?

Apply White Cream Polishes on new Stickley furniture two to three times per year or as needed depending on usage. Between polishes simply clean the furniture with a slightly water dampened cloth and buff dry. Always work in the direction of the grain of the wood with a clean, non-abrasive cotton cloth.

 

Caring for Stickley Furniture

Purchasing fine furniture is not only a privilege but an opportunity. An opportunity to be the first owner of what may become a treasured heirloom.

We have seen Stickley pieces which have aged gracefully through the years become valued far beyond their original purchase price. Interestingly, it was not the craftspeople at Stickley who were responsible for the increase in value. The value increases because of the care given by its owners. It is important to understand that small scratches and nicks as a result of normal use do not devalue furniture. A fine antique is expected to bear the characteristic evidence of time and use.  Furniture loses its value because of neglect and misuse.  We trust that the care you give your furniture will result in generations of use. Stickley furniture may cost more than one can afford but it is not overpriced. It becomes overpriced if it is not cared for.

The precautions listed here are typical of high-end, fine quality furniture manufacturers. View them as an aid to ownership, not a burden. Ultimately the value of a fine piece of quality made furniture will increase with the care you give it as the first owner.

Rubber, cork, vinyl, plastic or leather and fabrics with synthetic finishes can damage fine lacquer finishes by making the finish appear as if it has bubbled or leaving a black impression. Use caution when placing computers, telephones, clocks and radios on a finished surface, as most have rubber or plastic pads. Recently, “felt” backed items such as blotters or decorative objects made of synthetic materials, have been appearing on the market and are doing the same type of damage. In addition, many book covers have plastic coatings that can degrade a lacquer finish. To prevent damage, a protective layer between the object and the finish should be any type of cotton or linen cloth or woolen (not acrylic) felt cloth (not dots with glue or adhesive). Fabrics made of synthetic or polyester material should never be placed against a finished surface such as pillows leaning on headboards of bed.

When using a glass top over a finished surface do not place felt with glue, cork, or plastic dots between the glass and the finished surface since these items can react with a finish. A plain piece of woolen (not acrylic) felt with no glue is recommended but is not necessary.

When placing a glass top on an extension dining table expect to see a gap on the ends. Dining extension tables with legs are designed and engineered to have a slight upwards bow in the center. Dining tables with pedestals and equalizing slides have a lift on the ends when extended.

Nail polish remover, hair spray, perfume, potpourri, dyed candles, aromatic diffusers, and plug-in room fresheners are products that contain solvents which can dissolve or stain wood finishes. Do not use these products around fine furniture.

Store table leaves flat, apron side up, in a controlled environment to prevent warping or cracking. Invest in table leaf storage bags.

Avoid exposure to strong sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can discolor wood, furniture finishes, fabrics, leather and carpet. Be aware that Low-E glass does not filter out ALL damaging sunlight.

Relative humidity is important to the long-term life of fine wood furniture, leather and upholstery. But expect evidence of wood movement to appear in solid wood furniture.

Avoid exposing your furniture to extreme temperature changes.

Objects should be lifted rather than dragged across a finished surface.

Expect surface scratches to appear on finely hand-rubbed finishes. Use of proper care products provides a layer of protection over the finish minimizing the effect.

Avoid exposing the furniture finish to extreme hot and cold or prolonged moisture. For hot and cold items, the rule of thumb is “if you can hold it comfortably in your hand, the finish should withstand it.”

A word about polishes:

It is helpful to know that fine furniture care is actually a lot easier than you think. There are many myths associated with furniture care that can be detrimental to fine new furniture. Most misinformation is a result of confusing furniture restoration with furniture care. Your responsibility is to care for new furniture finishes. Restoration of old finishes is another matter.

Using the correct polish is important but it is not as important as learning and using the correct polishing techniques. In reality there is no bad furniture care product.  Just bad application techniques. Misuse of furniture care products accounts for far more deterioration of finishes than the content of the products themselves.

There are 3 simple rules:

Rule #1 Whatever product you choose has to be used exclusively without combining with any other product.  This is probably the most frequent cause of deteriorated finishes.

Rule #2 Whatever care product you choose should not be used too often.  Two to four times a year is max.  This is probably the most frequent cause of sticky finishes.

Rule #3 Furniture polishes, oils or waxes should not be used for dusting. Frequent dusting should be accomplished by means of water and a cloth to dry.  At our Museum we put distilled water into a spray mister.  Mist the water directly on the furniture and wipe it dry with a cloth (never a sponge). Always in the direction of the wood grain not a circular motion.  Water will not harm wood finishes when used like this.  You would have to leave the water in place for a long time for any deterioration of the finish to occur.

Paste waxing is still one of finest ways to protect a finish. Do not over-wax. Do not combine with other products. Stickley Dressing is a suitable alternative to paste wax, as its main ingredient is wax. The formula is simply thinned out making application easier.

Cream based polishes are fine for some finishes but must be used correctly. Follow the instructions of the maker exactly. Do not over-polish. Do not combine with other polishes.

Silicone based polishes can be used successfully but they may not the best choice for fine furniture finishes. Over polishing, combining it with other polishes and future restoration problems are the most frequent problems associated with silicone polishes.

Pour polishes onto a clean cloth and never pour liquid polish directly on a furniture finish.

Always wax, polish or dust WITH the grain.

Allow polishes to dry completely before replacing objects.

Furniture care products should never be used in combination. In general, a care product such a wax or dressing should only be applied sparingly a few times a year. General dusting can be accomplished with water on a soft cloth followed by thorough drying.

“Lemon oil” or “orange oil” type polishes are not needed for the care of fine, new furniture.

The slow accumulation of natural oils, acids, body lotions and moisture produced by the skin can build up and eventually strip a fine finish right off wood chair arms and backs, headboards, tables and desk edges.

Never use oil soaps for frequent cleaning. Cared for correctly, your new furniture should never accumulate much grease and dirt.

Wood is a natural material. Solid wood furniture bears natural characteristics, marks and grain patterns that are consistent with the overall appearance of the wood.

Wood changes color over time. Uniform aging is quite pleasant and desirable. An owner must be responsible for being sure a piece of furniture ages uniformly.

Furniture makers understand these characteristics and their standards will be exhibited in samples from the maker on a showroom floor. Consumers should examine showroom pieces before buying to determine the standards set by the furniture makers.
If a consumer has personal standards above those of the manufacturer it is best to address those issues before purchase rather than afterward.

Do not expect more from the wood than what nature has given.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my new furniture have a strong odor?

It is normal for new furniture to have an odor. The lacquers, oils and waxes all have distinctive odors which remain with the furniture until they dissipate. This is the same thing that happens when new cars are built. The “new car” smell is well known and expected when taking delivery of a new car.

Most mass-produced furniture lacks the lacquer odor because it usually has more time in storage before being delivered. Items which have been on showroom floors or in warehouses lose their odor before entering a customer’s home. Furniture coming into a home directly from a factory has less time for the finishing solvents to dissipate.

The best method to speed along the dissipation of the odor is to place the furniture in a well-ventilated room and open any doors and drawers. The use of baking soda to absorb odors can also be used. Place the baking soda in small bowls and place them inside drawers and open compartments. The odor should dissipate in 3-4 days. It is important not to place clothing in the furniture until the odor has dissipated.

Leather Care

Leather is a natural material and will maintain its beauty and usefulness for many years with proper care.  Direct exposure to strong light can cause any leather color to fade, so always protect leather from direct sunlight and other intense light sources.  It is also advised that leather be kept away from radiators or other heat sources.  Periodic dusting with a clean white cloth and vacuuming is recommended for normal maintenance of leather.

CODE – RESISTANCE EXPLANATION

4 – Minimal Expensive and luxurious, typically a nubuck or suede, designed for fashion and style application. Clean carefully with © K2R powder and a soft brush. This leather may fade under direct or indirect sun light.

3 – Natural The most expensive and elegant of all leather, typically pure or naked, will gain a patina over time. Carefully clean with distilled water on a sponge; feather the moistened area. Remove excess moisture by patting dry with a clean white towel. Do not rub or scrub. Let dry naturally. This leather will fade under or direct or indirect sunlight.

2 – Standard Deal with most spills and stains quickly and gently. Clean with water. Do not rub or scrub. Let dry naturally.

1 – Maximum Handles spills and stains well. It is easy to clean with water. Do not scrub or rub. Let dry naturally.

Please use the following guide when choosing a grade and type of leather for your Stickley leather purchase. Depending on your lifestyle and where the furniture will be used, some leather may work better than others. For example, a family with many children purchasing a leather piece for their great room, may choose a leather with more protection and clean ability than a couple with no children purchasing a piece for their living area. This is the beauty of leather. Each Stickley piece is crafted to your needs. SPECIFICATION EXPLANATION Protected Measures how much surface protection the leather possesses. Surface protection can be a form of © Teflon coating, wax, or additional pigments in the dye process. Typically, the more coating applied to the leather, the less natural the feel will be. A higher level of coating will afford you a greater degree of stain resistance. Softness Measures how soft and supple the leather is to the touch. Softness is achieved through hours of milling in drums, a thinner cut of leather, or less pigments and top coating on the product. Lightfastness Measures how susceptible the leather is to fading when exposed to sunlight. As we know, in time enough direct sunlight can, and will, fade anything. Cleanability Measures how well the leather reacts to a food or drink accident. Based on the amount of time allowed to clean the affected area. The Cleanability rating will help determine which leathers are more suited for heavy use with an active family. Darker leathers are easier to clean than a bone or linen color. Periodic overall cleaning is recommended to maintain the beauty of all leather. Natural Markings Measures the degree of natural markings found on the finished leather hide. Natural markings consist of a variety of scars, insect bites, stretch marks and neck wrinkles acquired in the animal’s habitat. The origin of the leather assists in determining how many scars are on the hide. Corrected grain leather will have no natural markings since it has been altered or sanded to make it more acceptable for use. A corrected grain will reduce the softness and natural feel of a full grain leather hide. Full top grain leather has not been altered or sanded. Most leather found today is corrected grain due to price and availability. The fewer scars, the costlier the leather. Ratings: Stickley Fine Leather has rated the overall quality of each leather based on the above categories. Ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best rating. A rating from 8 to 7 in any category is considered very functional. A rating of 6 to 5 would be adequate and a rating of 4 to 3 would be marginal for that function.

Disinfecting your leather furniture: COVID-19 update

  • Avoid touching leather furniture immediately after applying hand sanitizer
  • Do not use disinfectant sprays or wipes containing alcohol as this may impact the topcoat of the leather. Once the topcoat is compromised, your leather is no longer protected
  • If you must clean your leather furniture, do so in a well-ventilated area and wipe the leather with a soft cloth and weak, non-acidic soap and water solution – allow leather to air dry


Please contact your nearest Stickley dealer with questions or concerns about disinfecting your leather furniture.

Fabric Care

FABRIC CLEANING CODES (as listed in the Stickley Fine Upholstery Price List)

Please refer to the information below before attempting to clean any fabric. The cleaning code for each Stickley fabric is shown on the fabric sample, and is included in your master fabric list. A Cleaning Label is also affixed to the rear deck on most Stickley pieces.

W – Spot clean only with water-based shampoo or foam upholstery cleaner. Pretest a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding. Do not over wet. Do not use solvents to spot clean. Pile fabrics may require brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush to restore appearance. Hot water extraction or steam cleaning is not a recommended cleaning method. Cushion covers should not be removed and laundered. To prevent overall soiling, frequent vacuuming or light brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush to remove dust and grime is recommended. When cleaning a spill, blot immediately to remove spilled material. Clean spots or stains from the outside to the middle of the affected area to prevent circling. Use a professional furniture cleaning service when an overall soiled condition has been reached.

S – Spot clean only with a water-free dry-cleaning solvent. Pretest a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding. Do not saturate. DO NOT USE WATER. Pile fabrics may require brushing with a nonmetallic, stiff bristle brush to restore appearance. Cushion covers should not be removed and dry cleaned. To prevent overall soiling, frequent vacuuming or light brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush to remove dust and grime is recommended. When cleaning a spill, bristle brush to restore appearance. Hot water extraction or steam cleaning is not a recommended cleaning method. Cushion covers should not be removed and laundered. To prevent overall soiling, frequent vacuuming or light brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush to remove dust and grime is recommended. When cleaning a spill, blot immediately to remove spilled material. Clean spots or stains from the outside to the middle of the affected area to prevent circling. Use a professional furniture cleaning service when an overall soiled condition has been reached.

S-W – Spot clean with upholstery shampoo, foam from a mild detergent, or mild dry-cleaning solvent. Pretest a small, inconspicuous area before proceeding. Do not saturate. Pile fabrics may require brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush to restore appearance. Hot water extraction or steam cleaning is not a recommended cleaning method. Cushion casings should not be removed and laundered or dry-cleaned. To prevent overall soiling, frequent vacuuming or light brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush to remove dust and grime is recommended. When cleaning a spill, blot immediately to remove spilled material. Clean spots or stains from the outside to the middle of affected area to prevent circling. Use a professional furniture cleaning service when an overall soiled condition has been reached.

X – Clean only by vacuuming or light brushing with a non-metallic, stiff bristle brush. DO NOT USE ANY WATER OR SOLVENT BASED CLEANER.