• 1. 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). Stay away from Pledge and other dust polish, as they contain silicones that can soak into the grain of the wood and damage it for good. Instead, lightly dampen a cloth with water or use a microfiber cloth that will cling to dust particles on its own.
• 2. Open the mayonnaise. If you have watermark rings in your tabletop from wet glasses, chances are it's in the wax, not the wood. Rubbing with mayonnaise should get the marks right out.
• 3. Placement matters. Don't place a wood dining table over a radiator or right next to a heat register. The temperature swings could damage the wood with warping or splitting. Also, store any extra leaves near the table itself (our table has a nifty place to store the extra leaf under the tabletop). 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.
• 4. 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. For most of us, this means running a humidifier in the winter and an a/c or de-humidifier in the summer.
• 5. Make it shine. Like we pointed out above, not with a silicone product. Rather, polish with a hard, carnauba wax. Use two of those soft, lint-free cloths again: one to apply the wax and another to polish. It will take some real elbow grease, but thankfully this task only needs to be done about twice a year.