The Right Care for each Material
Treatment that may be a blessing for one type of hard surface may also be the fastest way to damage another. Hence, it is always a good idea to read the manufacturer’s care instructions very carefully before cleaning your hard surfaces. Laminates and lacquers require a special degree of care. Strong cleaning agents can, in the worst case scenario, damage sensitive materials. Always try gentle cleaning methods first. Remove stains with warm water and a soft cloth. If this does not work, fall back on mild detergent. Only use stronger chemical cleaners after a repeated failure to otherwise remove stains.
Apart from specialised cleaning products available at most hardware stores and some pharmacies, there are some fantastic household remedies that can restore the shine to your office furniture. Of course, the type of product you use depends on the material you are trying to clean. Hence, let us take a look at some of the more common materials that you are likely to find in your office.
Plastics, particularly polypropylene, are generally quite sturdy. If you do not expose plastic to any raw violence, it will rarely break and will reliably hold its shape. Only its looks can be compromised under certain circumstances. Exposure to sunlight or the use of heavy chemical cleaning agents can cause plastic to bleach or become rough. If the seat of your desk chair has visible signs of wear due to everyday use, spray oil is an effective domestic remedy. First clean your plastic surface thoroughly using a wet towel or paper towel and some window cleaner. Then let it dry. Afterwards, spray some spray oil onto a damp cloth and rub it gently onto the plastic surface.
You do not need chrome cleaner to remind your dull or rusty chrome parts how to sparkle. Of course, you can use conventional chrome cleaner from a hardware store to treat desk legs, office chair bases and filing cabinets. However, it is significantly more environmentally friendly to use common household products. Indeed, Vaseline, lemon and ash are perfect for the job. Although the use of such products may appear odd at first, they are commonly used cleaning agents in the automobile industry—and car lovers know chrome best.
To prevent your chrome parts from rusting in the first place, rub some Vaseline onto your chrome surfaces. This creates a thin protective layer that prevents chrome from oxidising (i.e. rusting). If your chrome surfaces have accumulated some rust, a slice of lemon can work wonders. Simply rub it onto the rusty areas, then rinse the chrome with water and rub it dry with a cloth or towel. If you have a fireplace or wood-fired oven at home, you can even use ashes to clean your chrome surfaces. Take a handful of cold ash and put it into a yogurt container. Pour a dash of water onto the ash and then dip a cloth into it. Rub the dull or rusty areas with the cloth and then rinse and rub them dry.
Bicarbonate or baking soda is a tried and tested stainless steel cleaner. This domestic remedy has typically been used to clean the kitchen sink, but it is equally useful in cleaning office furniture. Pour a dash of baking soda onto a wet cloth and thoroughly rub the stainless steel surface. Give the baking soda time to react with the stainless steel and then rinse with warm water. If needed, repeat this method and extend the time you let the baking soda react until you achieve the desired result. Always make sure to rinse the stainless steel with warm water and then to rub it dry.
Useful substitutes for baking soda include alcohol and vinegar. Less demanding cleaning jobs can also be achieved with a microfiber cloth and some detergent. When rubbing or polishing brushed stainless steel, it is important never to go against the grain. This will help to preserve the unique look of your brushed stainless steel products for as long as possible. Whilst household remedies can be useful in cleaning stainless steel, in this instance professional cleaning products do have the upper hand. The industry has developed professional stainless steel cleaning products that leave a protective coating to guard stainless steel surfaces against fingerprints and grease stains.
Cleaning hardwood products is a little bit more difficult. If you have genuine hardwood office furniture, you should first find out about its care requirements before cleaning it. Most manufacturers seal their hardwood products to avoid grease, water and other stains from leaving marks on the wood or eating into it. To maintain your hardwood, you should use the method of sealing originally used by the manufacturer. For example, if the hardwood was oil sealed by the manufacturer, you should treat it with an appropriate oil product at regular intervals. How regularly your hardwood products require treatment depends on the way they have been sealed.
As stated, the sealing method used by the manufacturer is very important. There is little point in using wood oil products if your hardwood has been wax sealed. If you have a second-hand desk or cabinet and are not sure how the previous owner or the manufacturer sealed the product, it is a good idea to get the opinion of a carpenter. If you are in doubt, it may be a good idea to sand down your wooden furniture and to reseal it anew in order to keep it free of scratches, stains and particularly moisture. Once wood has swelled up due to moisture, it is impossible to reseal it.
Regardless of which hardwood products you have, all hardwoods need to be treated regularly so that they do not dry out. Wax coatings are more effective at preventing hardwoods from drying out than oil, but oil provides better protection against moisture. So-called ‘hard oil’ has the strengths of both wax and oil.
All types of hardwood—regardless of how they have been sealed—can be cleaned using a natural soap and a soft cloth.
Unlike hardwoods, laminates are quite easy to clean. Laminate surfaces should be vacuum cleaned regularly to avoid scratches from crumbs and pebbles. If your laminates are dirty, clean them with a floor cleaning cloth (available at all good hardware stores). These cloths contain oils and waxes that protect your laminates.
Laminated Chipboard, Wood Veneer and MDF
Modular furniture, which is made of laminated chipboard, wood veneer or MDF boards, prefers daily care with mild soap and water to occasional cleaning with a strong cleaning agent. Let these materials dry thoroughly to avoid watermarks.
Glass and Plexiglass
As light and airy as they may seem, glass desks and table tops are very care intensive. Fingerprints and handprints, calcium stains, dust and lint seem to cover these surfaces faster than others. Glass appears to become dirty much easier than wood or MDF boards because everything on its surface is so highly visible. This applies especially to glass surfaces in the office, which frequently experience contact.
Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean glass. The hard plastic suction head and plastic brushes of cleaning attachments can scratch glass surfaces. The same applies to synthetic fibre cloths also avoid cleaning products that use alkali cleaning agents as these can damage the glass. To clean glass, the office worker would do well to remember the procedure their grandmother used. Polish your glass surfaces with soft cotton towels, some spirits in a bucket of water. You can use lemon to clean your glass surfaces just as effectively. Rub the glass down with half a lemon. Let the citric acid in the lemon juice react with the glass surface and then rise the glass with water. Afterwards, polish the glass with a soft towel or newspaper.
If your glass has somehow sustained damage thorough scratches, experts recommend the use of toothpaste. Squeeze some onto the scratched area, rub it into the surface firmly in a circular motion and then wash it off with water. The cleaning particles in the toothpaste, which would otherwise clean teeth, also do the job on glass surfaces. They mitigate the effect of large scratches and may even grind them out altogether.
Part two of our series on taking care of your office surfaces will show you how to maintain your soft office materials, such as natural and synthetic fabrics and leather.