If you want that wood furniture or lamp to always look its best, here are a few tips to keep it in tip-top shape:
Location, Location, Location
Watch heat sources. Don't place a wood piece near a radiator or right next to a heat register. The temperature swings could damage the wood with warping or splitting. If you have a wood table with leaves, store the leaves near the table itself. This ensures that the leaf will not warp or swell/contract differently from the table. If you store the leaf in a basement or attic, the moisture and temperature differential could take its toll. Also be aware of placing in in direct sunlight, the UV rays can damage and discolor your wood.
Use Protection. Never place a hot or wet item directly on a wood surface. Use coasters, trivets or placemats to protect your surface.
Watch humidity levels. As with all woodwork, from flooring to trim, from dining tables to other furnishings, try to keep humidity levels in your home between 40 and 45%. Any lower could crack the wood and any higher could cause swelling. Depending on where you are located, this means running a humidifier in the winter or an a/c or de-humidifier in the summer.
Dust often. Small particles of dust may seem harmless, but enough buildup can scratch the wood's finish. Dust at least weekly with a soft, lint-free cloth (cheesecloth, a cotton diaper, or a cut-up old t-shirt all work wonderfully). Lightly dampen a cloth with water or use a microfiber cloth that will cling to dust particles on its own.
Oil vs Wax. Oil polishes, cleaners, and furniture oils protect wood by making the surface more slippery; they do not offer a hard protective layer. It is recommended if you live in a dry environment, to keep your wood from drying out and cracking.
Products that contain a high percentage of oil make the surface smear, showing fingerprints. Avoid polishing with pure olive oil, which smears and attracts dust.
Most commercial spray and liquid furniture polishes contain silicone oil, which provides some protection. If you have used sprays and polishes in the past or suspect that furniture has been polished with them, be aware that residues can interfere with refinishing and may need professional attention.
Typically during manufacture, varnish, polyurethane, or shellac is applied to wood to protect the surface. Applying wax or polish protects the manufacturer's finish and helps to reduce surface scratches.
Wax provides a hard finish and long-lasting protection, doesn't smear, and is more durable than sprays or polishes.
Use paste wax or liquid wax made specifically for furniture. Depending on use, paste wax finishes may last as long as two years. Liquid wax is easier to apply but leaves a thinner coating; it may need to be applied more frequently than paste wax.
Learn how to properly apply waxes to eliminate streaks or a cloudy appearance. Always apply wax in light coats, rubbing into the surface with the grain. Allow to dry and buff to a clear shine with a soft cloth.
Homemade recipe for cleaning wood: Some experts recommend reviving grimy wood furniture with a mixture of equal parts olive oil, denatured alcohol, gum turpentine, and strained lemon juice. Apply with a soft cloth and buff with a clean cloth.