You may believe you take care of your baby furniture, but are you secretly setting it up for destruction?
As an analogy, would you purchase a widescreen LED TV with the intention of letting the kids use it as a monster truck track? No, of course not. When you spend money on a major purchase, you expect to keep it safe. Whether you are investing in a baby crib that you made yourself or a highchair off the discount store shelves, you rightfully expect to get as much use out of the object as the money, time, and effort you put into it.
Keep reading to learn about the seven little-known factors that destroy wooden baby furniture and how you can protect your investment.
Top Enemies of Wooden Baby Furniture
The best way to take care of wooden baby furniture is to understand the conditions that deteriorate the structure and look of the wood. Then you can take action to prevent those conditions from occurring, or at least minimize the effects.
You are probably already aware of a common enemy to wood furniture that happens in every household and can be easily fixed. Think back to the faded rug in your grandmother’s house, and you have discovered that the sun’s UV rays can bleach out the color of natural fibers. The same concept is true for wood baby furniture. Over time, light exposure will dull the wood’s sheen and even fade it to a different color than what was originally manufactured. Painted wood can even yellow with age. The longer the furniture is exposed to light and the brighter the light, the quicker the destruction will occur.
Baby furniture care tips: Move furniture away from direct sunlight and/or use window treatments to filter the amount of light entering the room. If your nursery will be brightly lit for long periods, either from the sun or from fluorescent lights, consider covering the wooden baby furniture with blankets or pads.
The most devastating condition for wood furniture is having too much moisture or too little moisture. A simple concept like humidity can have disastrous consequences. Rapid changes in temperature and humidity can expand or contract the fibers, thereby loosening joints, cracking finishes, and weakening the safe structure that you have spent so much time building.
Baby furniture care tips: Try to keep rooms near 70 degrees Fahrenheit with about 25% to 50% relative humidity. You can accurately measure humidity with a hygrometer and then use a humidifier or dehumidifier to adjust your needs accordingly. Avoid wide swings in house temperature, which also affects relative humidity.
Wooden baby furniture can last for years at many different temperatures, so humidity is a more important factor for preserving your furniture. Still, temperature has its impact on humidity. Warmer rooms can hold more moisture, which means that humidity levels have more of an opportunity to swing from high to low. In addition, direct heat sources can remove some of the moisture content from wood, leaving it cracked and stressed along the grain patterns.
Baby furniture care tips: Move baby cribs, changers, high chairs, and other furniture away from radiators, air ducts, and fireplaces. Close or redirect vents so that air flows into the room instead of directly at the baby furniture. Most furniture will last longer in a cooler, darker room than in a hotter, brighter room.
Wear and Tear
That baby crib or changing table you build may indeed be a work of art, but something tells me that it is meant to be used and enjoyed, not viewed from afar. With that statement in mind, all of our baby furniture is subject to wear and tear, even if all of the other conditions are optimal. Here are a few of the worst culprits for furniture damage and what can be done to stop them:
Hot and Cold
Just like changes in humidity, bringing your baby bedroom furniture into contact with hot or cold objects can damage the finish and even the underlying wood layers.
Baby furniture care tips: If you are about to sip your morning coffee and the baby begins to cry, place your mug on a coaster instead of on the changing table. Dry off from a shower before laying damp arms on a baby crib. Make sure that lamps, clocks, and other objects have rubber or felt feet before scraping them across wood furniture. (Even better, lift the objects instead.)
Dust is not only unattractive and allergy-inducing but also can be the microscopic equivalent of sandpaper. Think of all that abrasive dirt, pollen, pet hair, lint, and skin cells flying through the air, landing on your nursery furniture, and chipping away at the finish at a cellular level. While the damage may not be visible, it does exist and is weakening the wood.
Baby furniture care tips: Dust your wooden baby furniture regularly with a soft, lint-free cloth, such as a Swiffer, an old t-shirt, or even a diaper. Avoid grinding accumulated dirt into the furniture by folding over or disposing of the cloth as soon as dirt is visible. Give attention to surfaces that are frequently missed, such as the crib rails and legs, behind changing tables, and the tops of high dressers or armoires. Don’t forget the mobiles and the mini blinds!
Even on items with a heavy finish, prolonged exposure to chemicals, water, and spills can discolor, degrade, or destroy your wooden furniture.
Baby furniture care tips: Avoid placing liquids, lotions, or creams where they may come into contact with the baby furniture. Use mats or cloths to keep these solutions away from the wood surfaces. When spills occur, clean them up quickly with a soft, lint-free cloth that has been lightly moistened (not wet!). Blot the stain first, and then gently wipe away the excess.
To Care (for Your Furniture) or Not to Care
Most of the people who sign up for our free woodworking plans are looking to make baby furniture that can be used for over a decade, such as a convertible baby crib, or can be passed down from generation to generation as a unique, heartfelt gift. In those cases, the more care that goes into protecting a piece of wooden furniture, the longer it will last. The tips above address the basic ways to take care of wooden baby furniture, but you can go even further and take steps to ensure pristine, museum-quality conditions.
On the other hand, your circumstances may be different. Maybe you bought a changing table online and you plan to use it only for a year or so. Maybe you are building a cradle and understand that the baby will quickly outgrow the gift. In those cases, you may feel that the effort required to keep your baby furniture in perfect condition is too much for the life and use you will get out of it. While we at Best Baby Furniture Plans would love for all the furniture that passes through your home to grow into antiques, we accept that that will not happen. Do what you need to do to keep your household safe and happy. These baby furniture care tips are intended to help you celebrate a momentous and wonderful event, not add more stress and chores to your life.