By Clytie Bunyan
    Staff Writer

If you want to keep your wood cabinets, countertops and wooden furniture looking like new, avoid touching them.

Experts say oils and acids from the skin particularly from people taking medicine or prescription drugs can break down the finish on wood.

That's why cabinets and drawers have knobs and handles, said Tom Russell, a refinisher with Kitchen Tune-Up.

"We (Metro Wood Care) recommend back plates behind the pull on the cabinet so you won't touch wood but metal," Russell said.

Russell's specialty is repairing woodwork to make it look like new instead of replacing the product.

He cleans the wood to remove dust, smoke, grease or grime; then uses a sealant that covers scratch marks or damaged spots. The product is buffed and a special oil that goes into the grain of the wood is used to get the like-new look.

The process is less time-consuming and not as noisy as remodeling.

"People - appreciate it because they (don't have their kitchen torn down and have to listen to scratching or sanding for days at a time," Russell said.

Russell warns that the appearance of a product after a tune-up depends on the care it received over time. A homeowner who pays attention to caring for woodwork around the house, especially those exposed to sunlight or regular human contact, would have a better looking tune-up than one whose woodwork was neglected.

He offered the following wood-care tips that are easy to accomplish with products available at local grocery stores.

Never apply polish over dirty wood.

Clean all food from wood surfaces immediately after spills. Some foods, particularly those high in acid such as orange juice, coffee, tea or mustard, can eventually damage wood finish.

Use mild soap and water with a clean, lint-free rag to clean spills. Use water sparingly and towel dry any excess. Water could permanently raise the grain of the wood if allowed to penetrate the finish.

Dirt and dust should be removed from wood regularly, using a soft cloth.

Polish rather than wax wood. Furniture cream polish should be applied monthly rather than a wax build-up product. Wax attracts dust, dirt and grease that build up under multiple layers of wax.

Open your home often to fresh air. Natural humidity is good for wood. A controlled environment can dry out wood quickly causing premature cracking and splitting if not cared for on a regular basis.

If wood feels especially dry or rough to touch, apply a deep penetrating oil to restore moisture and nutrients.

Use a ventilating fan, when cooking. It removes the majority of airborne smoke and grease which otherwise would be absorbed by wood cabinetry.

Whenever possible, do not expose wood furniture to direct sunlight. The sun not only accelerates drying, it also tends to bleach wood. Stain pigments become discolored, and new pigments are prevented from penetrating the wood yielding a washed-out effect.

Cover and protect nicks, gouges and scratches in the wood with stains or sealants so that the wood is not exposed.

Real Estate Magazine   January 16, 1993