Tuesday

Effective Sales Copy Writing

Is your sales copy bringing you the results that you expect?

If not, it's because many small businessmen (and too many copywriters) forget that good sales copy isn't about what you want to say.  It's about what your prospect wants to hear.
If you want to hire a copywriter who can effectively deliver your message, you need to know what separates effective copywriting from poor copywriting.

Here's how effective sales copy works:

Imagine you're having a casual conversation with a friend at the kitchen table.  She's just told you about a problem she has, and you offer her advice.
Before you offer advice, you must:
  • understand her problem
  • have rapport with her
  • have a solution
  • be able to clearly communicate your solution
  • motivate her to act


Before she takes your advice she will need to:
  • know you
  • like you
  • trust you

Surely, you wouldn't try to help your friend by doing this:

  • give her a list of your qualifications
  • tell her how long you've been in business
  • tell her about your experience that isn't relative to her problem
  • speak to her as if you're speaking to a room full of people
You see, good sales copy is user-oriented, not provider-oriented.  Your prospects don't give a fig about you: they just want their problem solved in the least painful way possible.

How Does Your Sales Copy Measure Up?

Which sales copy do you think your prospects would read: one that addresses their concerns, or one that doesn't?  What are the chances that a prospect will hire you if they didn't even read your copy?  

Monday

How To Stop Content Thieves



How wonderful it is to watch one’s browser home page open and discover that the RSS feed is displaying one of your blog article titles. How disappointing it is to click on the title and find that it leads not to your blog, but to someone else’s blog: a blog belonging to content thieves who have ripped off your article and re-published it without giving you credit for your work.

How can bloggers stop content thieves? 

It is the responsibility of the copyright owner to enforce their copyright. Article directories and blog hosting companies rarely enforce their “terms and conditions” on matters of plagiarism. Directories will insist that the author contact the offending party and/or their hosting company to resolve the problem. Content thieves rarely have contact information on their sites. Finding the thief through a “whois” search is time consuming. If you are lucky enough to find the thief, their compliance is voluntary.    

Website owners and bloggers know that prosecuting someone in a foreign country for plagiarism is prohibitively expensive for an independent blogger. So, they steal content, put up as many pages as they can assemble, and hope to profit from Google Adsense ads.

Google to the Rescue

Fortunately, where the legal system fails, Google has come to the rescue.  Google will not allow content thieves to make Adsense commissions from stolen content. Google can insist that the offending content be removed, or that attribution or other suitable arrangement be made with the author. If the content thief does not comply, the thieves’ Adsense account can be cancelled for life. Since the content thieves’ intent is to generate Adsense income from the stolen content, the threat of having that income source cut off for life is serious indeed. Few content thieves want to “take on” Google.

How to File a Complaint with Google

If the following instructions seem lengthy, don’t be discouraged; this process takes only about five minutes to perform. What’s five minutes to protect work you spent hours or days to create?

Go to the page which has the stolen content and locate the Adsense ads. Google Adsense ads are identified by a link above or below the ad block which says “Ads by Google”; which is a live link. From the offending page, click the link. You will be taken to a page entitled “What are Ads by Google”? After the first paragraph, you will find the sentence “if you'd like to report a policy violation regarding the site or ads you just saw, please let us know". Click the link, and you will be taken to the bottom of the same page, to a drop-down menu that says “Report a Policy Violation…”. Choose “the website” from the drop-down menu, and you will be taken to the complaint menu.  Choose  “The site is hosting or distributing my copyrighted content, without my permission” button. When you make this choice, another link will display which says “File a DMCA complaint”. Click the DMCA link.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act

The DMCA link will take you to Google’s DMCA/Adsense page. Look for the link to the “Infringement Notification Form”. This is the final step. When you arrive at the Notification Form, fill out all the required information and hit the Submit button. Google will send you a confirmation email, and your complaint will be processed in the order it was received. 

Plagiarism is an Ongoing Problem

Of course, reporting content thieves will not stop plagiarism; it may not even slow it down. But, the best weapon bloggers and writers have against such thieves is to hit them where it hurts: in the wallet. Maybe, eventually, they will begin to get the message.     


Saturday

How To Sell Your Home-Based Business

You’ve accomplished what many have sought but few have achieved: a profitable home-based business. Now, you want to turn your sweat equity into cash by selling your business. Maybe you intend to travel & play, start another business, or just sit by the pool and relax. Whatever your intention, you will need cash to do it.


There Are Plenty of Prospects for Your Business, but Few Are Buying
In 2010, the number of prospective buyers looking for home-based business opportunities is at an all-time high. Corporate layoffs and cutbacks have left many Americans short on cash and looking for ways to supplement their household income.

In spite of the abundance of prospective buyers, business brokers say that 4 out of 5 small businesses listed for sale will not sell. Those that do not sell are either taken off the market, sold at auction, or just closed down. Why, with so many willing sellers and willing buyers, are 4 out of 5 businesses not selling?

Financing is Difficult to Get
The current economy is defined by tight credit.  Banks rarely make small business loans, even to long established bricks-and-mortar companies with hard assets like machinery and real estate. Banks almost never loan money to purchase a home-based business. Buyers of home-based businesses generally don’t have the resources to pay cash for a business. Even though the seller is willing to sell and the buyer is willing to buy, there is no money available to complete the transaction.

In this post, I’ll hit on a few key points that will make your business more attractive to buyers. Then, I will tell you the one slam-dunk approach that is guaranteed to sell your business, in spite of the economy.

Make Your Business More Attractive to Buyers
Buyers are motivated primarily by income and opportunity. To prove income, you must have kept good books and have your tax returns in order. If you have kept your books yourself and done your own tax returns, have your records reviewed by a CPA. Have your CPA re-cast your financial statements to show your Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA).

EBITDA evaluation removes all discretionary expenditures from your financial statements and boosts your stated income. The higher your income, the more your business is worth. Use the re-cast income to value your business; you’ll get more money for your business.

The Business Reference Guide published by Business Brokers Press lists a Multiple-of-Income for businesses like yours. Multiply the “Multiple” by your annual income to arrive at a ballpark selling price for your business. The Reference guide is expensive, though, and you may do just as well to use the online valuation software provided by BizBuySell.com.

It must be easy for a new owner to take over your business; have your operating procedures, suppliers and contacts written down. Your business must also offer a buyer the opportunity to use their abilities to make the business their own. Entrepreneurs want to be their own boss, to do things their own way. If your customers buy from you because they really like doing business with you personally, the new buyer is at a disadvantage from the start. Make sure that your business is, indeed, transferable, and offers a genuine opportunity for the new owner to grow.

How to Guarantee the Sale of Your Business
The primary reason a home-based business does not sell is lack of financing. A seller who offers to finance the business purchase for the new buyer greatly increases the chance of selling the business. Done correctly, owner financing can be a low-risk and profitable undertaking. If you decide to offer financing for the business, be sure to have the note drawn up by an attorney and have your interests filed at the county courthouse.

What Are the Advantages of Owner Financing?
The biggest advantage of owner financing is that your business will actually be sold, and sold for the asking price. Buyers don’t argue price with sellers who are providing financing. Also, the seller collects interest on the selling price, which increases the net gain from the sale. There is advantage, also, to the buyer: the loan is repaid from the profits of the business.

How Can I Be Sure I Will be Paid?
There are four keys to insuring repayment of an owner-financed loan: 1. Get a substantial down payment 2. Secure the note with the business itself 3. Make sure the buyer has attachable assets outside of the business (real estate, CD’s, stocks) 4. Get a personal guarantee. If these four bases are covered and the buyer defaults on the loan, you can repossess the business and/or attach his personal assets for repayment. Again, discuss these details with an attorney.

What if I Don’t Want to Wait Years for My Money?
Most sellers who finance their own business do not wait years for repayment; they sell the note at a discount to a note broker. Usually, if the buyer has put a 25-30% down payment on the loan, the interest is sufficiently high and the term no longer than 60 months, the note is eligible to be sold to a note broker. In as little as 3 months, a seller can cash out the note they are holding and walk away without ever collecting another monthly payment. The note broker becomes the owner of the note, and collects all the payments. If your intention is to sell your note to a broker to cash out your sale, it is best to work out the details with the note broker prior to the sale.

For more information, Google the search term “secure your business note”.
If you manage to sell your home-based business, you are a remarkable entrepreneur, indeed. You have beaten the odds twice: you have created a successful home-based business, and then sold it for a profit.

Friday

Article Spinners: The Death of Originality

Imagine that you are a songwriter. You have a musical phrase running through your head, so you pick up your guitar and start playing with the idea. You build upon each turn of the melody, instinctively drawn to chords that lend vibrancy and mood to your music. You have a nice hook, an interesting melody, and a catchy bridge. You are happy with the result, so you proudly publish your song to the internet.

Two weeks later you find that someone has taken your song, randomly changed your melody and chords, and credited you as the composer. The song that you so carefully crafted has been broken into random bits that bear little resemblance to your original work. Such poorly conceived and executed work harms your reputation as a songwriter.

Of course, one cannot randomly change the notes in a musical melody without altering the melody beyond recognition; the result would be so bad that no one would listen to it. Yet, would-be internet marketers destroy writers work every day with article spinners.

An article spinner is software which analyzes text, finds synonyms for selected words, and then re-writes the article using the synonyms. The goal of a spinner is to make each variation at least thirty percent different than all others. Where there are a lot of available synonyms, there can be many variations. The article marketer then posts these variations to directories, blogs, and websites in order to get more coverage. More coverage means more page views; more page views equals more ad revenue, and more money in the pocket of the marketer. As long as the articles are more than thirty percent different from each other, Google will not penalize them as duplicate content, and each spun article has the opportunity to achieve page rank on Google.

Here is an example of how an article spinner recently re-wrote an article review. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent:

Here is the original:

"Responses to xxx guest column published in last weeks issue are coming in fast and furious. It seems xxx, struck a nerve in both veteran and novice dealers alike with his comments on xxx.

Here is the spun version:

"Responses to xxx bedfellow cavalcade appear in aftermost week's affair are advancing in fast and furious. It seems xxx, addled a assumption in both adept and amateur dealers akin with his comments ..."

Wow. How many variations of the review had to be spun in order to turn "guest column" into "bedfellow cavalcade"? And what the devil is a bedfellow cavalcade? Would anyone find this variation informative? Who can even understand it?

Reputable article directories insist that the articles they accept be original and that they be distributed unchanged. Google and other search engines do their best to provide their users with up-to-date, original content. But, the open nature of the internet and the ease with which text can be copied leaves all online authors vulnerable to plagiarism. Aggressive marketers, who are eager to spread their message in order to make a few bucks, regularly steal content. Once they copy the content, they paste it into an article spinner to satisfy the originality requirement.

Originality does not reside in the words on the page; it resides in the thought process of the author. An author chooses words to evoke in the reader the same thought process experienced by the author when the piece was written. Like a musician choosing notes, an author will toss words around, say them out loud, and re-arrange them. He will find words that evoke a certain emotion; she will find a turn of phrase that excites the mind.

Change the words on the page, and you change their effect on the mind of the reader. Article spinners do not create originality; they destroy it.

Sunday

Putting A Value On Your Company

Which has more value: a glass of water, or a glass of diamonds? Most would say the glass of diamonds; but to a person three days in the desert with no water, the water is certainly more valuable. When placing a value on one's company, it is important to realize that value is not simply an accounting measure. The opportunity perceived by a potential buyer can dramatically increase or decrease the value of your company, regardless of your company's book value.

Highest and Best Use

When commercial real estate is valued, appraisers will suggest the highest value for a property based on its' highest and best use. Your company's value is also optimized when it is operating at its' maximum potential; its' highest and best use.

Seldom is a company's highest and best use reflected in the company's balance sheet and income statement. Business owners are often heard to say "my business has great potential if only I could...". Owners will then go on to speak of markets not explored and opportunities not taken.

It is the opportunities not taken that make your company attractive to potential buyers. A buyer can look at the book value and re-cast earnings of your company and recognize profits; but maximum value will be achieved when the right buyer perceives that his talents and resources can raise your company to its' highest and best use. Buyers want a good match for their skills; they want to contribute, not just own. Such a buyer is the one that will pay the most for your company. The value of your company is in direct proportion to the opportunity a buyer perceives.

Who Will Pay the Most for Your Company?

Imagine a bell curve. The top of the bell curve represents the strengths of your company. Let's say that you own a plumbing supply company, and your strengths are that you are a first-rate plumber with a good work crew and you hold the patent on a new framistan. The bottom ends of the bell curve represent your weaknesses: you are poorly capitalized and lack a first-rate management team. When someone buys your business, they acquire your strengths: the work crew and the patent. The buyer who will pay the most for your company is someone who has what you don't: lots of money and first-rate management skills. By supplying what you lack, they will be able to maximize the company's value by bringing it to its' highest and best use. Let's look at who that buyer might be.

Four Types of Buyers

Business brokers categorize buyers into four broad groups: Strategic Acquirers, Sophisticated Acquirers, Lifestyle Buyers, and Industry Buyers. Each group will see a different opportunity in your plumbing business, and therefore will pay a different price. Here are the opportunities each group might see in your business:

The Strategic Acquirer

Strategic Acquirers are usually large corporations, and your company has something they want. For our example, let's say that Moen Corporation wants your framistan patent. They have the money and management to mass produce your framistan and market and distribute it on a national level. How much money your plumbing business earned last year or what your equipment is worth has no impact whatsoever on what they will pay for your company.

The Sophisticated Acquirer

The Sophisticated Acquirer is usually one who comes from the upper management ranks of major corporations. These are high-net worth individuals and investment groups. This Acquirer is interested in your company's distribution channels. This Acquirer already has a line of plumbing products that they can introduce into your channels. They will add your assets and earnings to their own, plus synergize their own product sales by introducing their existing products into your market. The Sophisticated Acquirer is buying your company's distribution channels; your company's earnings are less important.

The Lifestyle Buyer

The Lifestyle buyer is essentially buying a job. He is most interested in the income of your business. He wants a return on his investment and a living wage. She/he sees the opportunity to use their management skills to expand your business. Typically, this buyer will pay less for your business than either the Strategic or Sophisticated Acquirers.

The Industry Buyer

An Industry buyer is most likely your competitor. All the Industry buyer is interested in is selected assets. He is not interested in your customer list, because he will get your customers anyway when you go out of business. He is not interested in your goodwill ("blue sky") because his company is already established. He will not pay you full price for any of your assets, because he already has duplicate equipment and his own suppliers. He will not keep all your employees, because he already has employees just like yours. He is looking for a "deal". When a business goes to auction, the bidders are almost exclusively Industry Buyers.

As you can see, the value of your company is relative to the opportunity perceived by the buyer. As buyers' perceptions change, so does the value of your business, regardless of what your financial statements say.

Friday

Documenting Your Possessions

Insurance companies love to accept premiums but hate to pay claims. Recently, CNN obtained the training manuals for Allstate Insurance. The training manuals procedures were based on the recommendations of the New York consulting firm McKinsey & Co... The manuals outline a plan for Allstate to increase profits by reducing claims payouts. According to reporter Anderson Cooper, the manuals train insurance adjusters to force “smaller walk-away settlements”, i.e., settle the claim quickly for less money than requested by the policyholder. Implementation of the McKinsey plan raised Allstate’s profits by 140% from $2.08 billion in 1996 to $4.99 billion in 2006. Apparently, shortchanging policyholders is good for the bottom line. With each claim submitted, the insurer’s first challenge to the insured is “prove it”!

A Policyholders Best Defense is Good Documentation

The challenge to prove the value of your household contents is well met with a detailed home inventory. A home inventory allows a policyholder to keep coverage amounts up-to-date and provides documentation in case a claim must be made.

A detailed home inventory is also useful when you relocate; with it, you will be able to calculate the value of your household goods shipment. Moving companies charge according to a shipments weight, value, distance travelled, and extra services provided. If you know your shipments value, you will be able to determine if the mover is charging you fairly.

How to Assemble Your Home Inventory

You will need a helper. One person sorts and counts while the other writes. Start inside the house, and work your way from the top of the house to the bottom. Go room to room with a consistent pattern so that you do not miss anything: always clockwise or counter-clockwise around the room.

Begin by taking a photograph or video of the room, and individual photos of any particularly valuable items. Write down what is on the walls as well as what is on the floor. For small goods, write down identifiable groups of items such as 200 hardcover books, 100 paperback books, 42 nick-knacks, etc... For any item over $75, write down the brand name, price paid, where you bought it, and the item’s age. If you can’t remember what you paid for an item, do an online search for the item and note the current price.

On your list, put a star next to any item that you think may be valuable. Get appraisals for antiques, art, and collectibles. If the nick-knacks are porcelain and the books are first editions, they are valuable items. When you are finished, follow the same procedure for the outbuildings: the garage, shed, workshop, or whatever. If there is a rented self-storage unit, vacation home, recreational vehicle or boat, they will need to be inventoried as well.

What to Do With the Inventory

A thorough inventory is useless if it burns along with your house, or if you can’t find it when you need it. The best way to ensure access to your inventory is to enter the information into an online inventory database. The Insurance Information Institute offers free online storage for your home inventory via their Know Your Stuff home inventory software. The software is easy to use and you can log in from any computer. Software video training is offered for free on the Institutes web site.

You’ll Also Get Peace of Mind

Your possessions are a reflection of your personality; we tend to accumulate the things that we love. A thorough home inventory won’t bring back things that are stolen or destroyed, but it will enable you to be treated fairly by your insurance company.

Tuesday

How To Cover Scratches In Leather Furniture

Often, the difference between an amateur repair and a professional repair is having access to professional supplies and knowing the tricks of the trade. This is especially true in leather repair, where having the wrong supplies can result in making an absolute mess of your leather upholstery. Home remedies like olive oil, milk, and shoe polish will eventually cause your leather to rot and smell. Attempting to “eyeball” a color match using the repair products available at the hardware store will make a scratch look worse, not better.

My intention in this article is to share with you where to find the right products to repair scuffs and scratches in your leather, and a few tips to ensure a successful repair.

First, Identify the Leather

Upholstery leather comes in many different types and finishes. If you are repairing furniture upholstery, lift up the seat cushions and locate the tag that lists the cleaning code. The code will be “A” for Aniline leather, “P” for Protected leather, and “N” for Nubuck leather. If you are repairing auto upholstery, the leather will always be “P”, Protected leather. The repair techniques will be different for each type of leather.

Second, Identify the Damage

Leather is finished in a manner similar to wooden furniture: the unfinished material is stained or colored and then a top coat is applied. A scuff is damage to the topcoat; no color is removed. A scratch goes through the topcoat and removes color. Cuts, burns, tears and rips are more serious damage and require more serious repair than scuffs and scratches; those repairs are beyond the scope of this article.

How to Repair Scuffs in Leather Upholstery

Soft, natural Aniline leathers are finished with wax. To repair a scuff in Aniline leather, all you need to do is redistribute the wax. This is done by warming the leather with a hair dryer and rubbing your hand over the scuffed area.

Most upholstery leather is “P”, or protected leather. Protected leather is essentially painted; sometimes it is dyed through and then painted, and then topped with a clear coat of water-based lacquer. Scuffs occur when the lacquer top coat is damaged. Sometimes, scuffs can be buffed out using a quality leather cream and a rag. If that doesn’t work, it will be necessary to re-apply lacquer to the topcoat. Re-apply lacquer by misting the damaged area with nitrocellulose or acrylic lacquer, which can be purchased in a spray can at your local hardware store. Test the spray in an inconspicuous area to make sure the sheen is correct. Spray in short bursts; do not soak the area. It’s best to apply the lacquer in thin layers. Be sure the leather surface is clean and allow the lacquer to dry thoroughly between applications.

How to Repair Scratches in Leather Upholstery

Scratches are marks that have gone through the leathers’ topcoat and removed color. If color is removed, chances are you have protected leather; Aniline and Nubuck leathers are through-dyed and a scratch would not remove color. To repair, it is necessary to replace the color. The key to successfully repairing protected leather is to have a color that matches your upholstery perfectly. The only way to assure a perfect color match is with a custom-formulated, computerized color match.

The primary manufacturer of leather and vinyl coloring products in the US is a company called SEM. SEM paints are flexible and will not split and crack when used on a flexible surface. Many leather repair professionals purchase SEM products online from Vinyl Pro of Western PA http://www.vinylpro.com . Vinyl Pro has a computer color matching service; simply send them a swatch of your leather and they will match the color. When you order your custom-matched color, get it in an aerosol sprayer.

Where to Find a Leather Swatch

To find a swatch, flip your furniture over and peel back the black dust cover from the bottom of the chair/sofa, or look under your car seat. With a razor knife, cut leather from behind the staple line. You will need a swatch about one inch square in order to match the color.

How to Make the Repair

Fortunately for leather repair technicians, cowhides are not perfect. Cows get scratched by barbed wire, stung by bees and bitten by mosquitoes. All of these will leave scars on a hide. It’s not necessary to match the grain on a simple scratch; re-coloring the damage will look natural enough.

If the edges of the scratch are rough, carefully trim the loose edges with a razor knife and sand slightly with 400 grit wet-or-dry sandpaper. Clean the area well with denatured alcohol. If the scratch is deep, use an artists’ brush or foam brush to dab some of the color into the scratch. Wipe any excess paint from the edges with a Q-tip; be sure to get all of the excess paint from the grain. Dry the paint with a hair dryer. When you are satisfied that the scratch is adequately filled and the dabbed paint is dry, spray the area using the aerosol sprayer filled with your custom color. Spray using short, quick, misting bursts, and feather the edges out slightly from the scratch.

With these “few tricks of the trade” and professional quality supplies, you will be able to make professional-looking repairs to your scratched and scuffed leather upholstery.

Monday

Caring For Leather Upholstery

When I told him the damage to his new leather sofa probably wasn’t covered by his warranty, I thought he was going to cry. Or hit me; I couldn’t tell which.

“But I used a leather cleaner” he pleaded. In fact, he did use leather cleaner; he bought it at an automotive supply store, and it said right on the bottle “Leather Cleaner”. Had he read the cleaning code tag on his sofa as closely as he read the label on the bottle he was holding, he would have known that his sofa was Nubuck leather, and couldn’t be cleaned with the same cleaner as auto upholstery.

Leather is a beautiful and durable upholstery fabric. It will last a long time if it is properly cared for. The keys to properly caring for your leather are to know what kind of leather you have, and what the appropriate cleaning and conditioning methods are. Those keys will be covered in this article.

Upholstered Furniture Has a Cleaning Code

The American Furniture Manufacturers Association recommends that upholstered furniture manufacturers place a tag on their products that contains the product’s cleaning code. The tag is most commonly found on the decking fabric under the chair/sofa cushion or underneath the chair/sofa attached to the dust cover. Although all types of fabrics will have a cleaning code, here I will focus only on leather products. The cleaning codes and characteristics for leather upholstery are:

“A” code for Aniline Leather; also known as Naked, Natural, and Unprotected leather

Analine leathers are colored with transparent aniline dyes. Because the dye is transparent, you are able to see the actual surface grain and markings in the leather. The identifying characteristics of Aniline leather are that it is very easy to scratch; water drops will darken the color and then will dry back to its’ natural color. These leathers have very little or no protective treatments applied to them. Aniline leather is especially sensitive to sunlight and should not be placed in front of windows or under skylights.

“P” code for Protected Leather; also known as Finished, Pigmented, or Painted leather.

Protected leathers are colored by the application of pigments to the surface of the leather. The leather then has a clear finish applied to the surface, making it more resistant to scratching. The identifying characteristics of Protected leather are that it has uniform color and grain patterns, it will not scratch easily, and water drops will not change its' color. Protected leathers are the most common leather; they are found on over 90% of upholstered furniture and all automotive upholstery.

“N” code for Nubuck Leather; also known as Bomber, Brushed, Buffed, Split Grain, or Suede.

Nubuck leathers are actually Aniline leathers whose surface has been brushed to create a texture similar to velvet. The identifying characteristics of Nubuck are similar to Aniline; it is very soft to the touch, it will scratch or scuff very easily, and water drops will darken the leather but return to its original color upon drying. Although Nubuck is usually very expensive leather, it is not as durable as “top grain” protected leather.

How to Properly Clean Leather Upholstery

This may be self-evident, but a reminder is in order: automotive leather cleaners are too harsh for upholstered furniture. Buy the cleaner that is recommended for the type of leather you are cleaning. Always pre-test in an inconspicuous area for colorfastness with a soft, clean, white lint-free cloth.

When it comes to cleaning any type of leather, liquid is the enemy. Turn your cleaner into foam before putting it on the leather. Foamers can be purchased at Bed, Bath, & Beyond or similar stores. Simply pour the cleaner into the foamer, and then pump the trigger; it will dispense foam similar to shaving cream. It you don’t have a foamer, pour the cleaner onto a sponge and rapidly squeeze the sponge until foam is produced.

Apply the foam to soiled area in a gentle circular motion. Wait a few minutes, then blot with a soft, clean white lint-free cloth and reapply if area is heavily soiled. If your leather extremely dry and the leather cleaner absorbs quickly, then add 20% distilled water to the leather cleaner to slow down absorption. When the leather has dried, rub a cream leather conditioner into the leather to keep it soft and supple. These instructions apply to both auto and furniture upholstery.

Special Instructions for Nubuck

Since Nubuck has a nap, the foam must be worked into the nap of the leather. After cleaning, use a hair dryer and rub a soft bristle brush or Nubuck Cloth against the grain to raise the nap. If the Leather is not very dirty, use the Nubuck Cleaning Cloth only.

With proper care, your leather upholstery will stay supple and durable for years.

Saturday

How to Clean Antique Furniture

Grandma goofed? Imagine that your great-grandmother owned a lovely mahogany buffet. She loved the piece; she waxed it twice a year and dusted it regularly, which was the highest standard of care in her day. Would great-grandmother be shocked to discover that her regular waxing and dusting created the dingy, dirty finish that is on the buffet in 2010?

Antiques Are Covered With Old Wax and Dirt

You see, once you put wax onto wooden furniture, the only way to get it off is with a chemical remover. Each time the furniture is waxed, you put new wax on top of dirty wax and just move it all around. Every time the piece is dusted, some of the dust is picked up by the dust cloth, and some of it is rubbed into the accumulated wax. Over time, the finish begins to lose its' shine and becomes dingy looking. The once-beautiful buffet becomes covered with a layer of dirt and wax.

The Wax and Dirt Must Be Removed

The key to cleaning antique furniture is to remove the old wax and accumulated dirt without damaging the underlying finish. This can be accomplished with a little patience and few supplies which can be purchased at any hardware store. Simply re-waxing the furniture or applying furniture polish will only add to the problem; if you want the antique to glow, you must remove the old wax and dirt. Of course, this cleaning technique assumes that the furniture's finish is still intact; a finish with significant chipping and peeling should be refinished.

Your Antique Furniture Cleaning Kit

The first item needed is a solvent that will remove the wax without removing the furniture finish. The solvent for wax is mineral spirits, and mineral spirits will not harm any of the finishes commonly found on antiques. Next, you will need 0000 ("four-ought") grade steel wool; other grades are too coarse. In the refinishing trade, 0000 steel wool is known as a polishing pad; the longer you rub a finish with it, the shinier the finish gets. You will need Q-tips, absorbent rags, and a bucket of water or a sink. For the final polishing, you will use a burnishing cream. Liberon makes a fine burnishing cream that can be purchased from several online distributors.

The Cleaning Technique

Begin by pouring about a half-cup of mineral spirits directly onto the furniture's top. Using the 0000 steel wool spread the solvent over about a two-foot square area. Always rub in a straight line in the direction of the wood grain; rubbing across the grain will create visible scratches. Apply a slight downward pressure to the steel wool; your objective is to loosen the wax. Continue this procedure over the entire piece of furniture, using as much mineral spirits as is needed to keep the surface wet.

The drying time for mineral spirits is about 45 minutes. As the solvent dries, you will notice a dirty grayish film forming over the furniture. This film is the loosened, dirty wax that you have lifted from the surface. When the solvent has thoroughly dried, use a damp rag to wipe up the dried wax. Clean the rag often. Use Q-tips to get into corners and grooves.

Repeat the above procedure with mineral spirits and clean steel wool until no more waxy dirt dries on the surface. When the furniture is free of wax and dirt, apply the burnishing cream with a soft cloth, and rub until you are satisfied with the shine.

Ongoing Maintenance

To keep your antique furniture beautiful, polish it once a year with a good quality cream polish. If the finish is significantly worn and you have a few bare spots, treat the bare spots with a light coat of paste wax to protect the wood. Dust regularly. Never use spray polishes, dusting sprays, treated dusting cloths, or any product that touts its ability to make your furniture shine. Chances are those products contain silicone, and polishing your furniture with silicone is like spraying it with WD-40 lubricant. Proper care will keep your antique furniture looking beautiful for future generations.

Friday

Removing Water Rings From Wooden Furniture

Most water rings on furniture can be removed by spraying the affected area with a product called No-Blush, available online or at most commercial refinishing supply stores. Sometimes, water rings can be removed by denatured alcohol. In rare cases, it is necessary to bleach the affected area. The technique used to repair water rings will vary with the type of finish and the type of water ring.

Repairing Water Rings Requires Little Skill

Professional refinishers state that water ring removal is a common and simple repair. Often, their customers remark that if they knew how easy the repair was, they would have done it themselves. In truth, water ring removal does not take a lot of skill. What it does require, though, is a basic knowledge of finish chemistry and the nature of water rings. With such knowledge, water ring repair can be easily accomplished.

First, Understand the Nature of Furniture Finishes

A successful water ring repair begins with knowledge of the type of finish that is damaged. There are more than fifteen types of furniture finishes currently in use, but to repair water rings you only need to know two things: evaporative finishes and reactive finishes. Evaporative finishes are easy to repair, and reactive finishes are difficult to repair.

Evaporative finishes are a mixture of solids and a solvent. Once applied to wood, the solvent evaporates, leaving the solids to form the furniture finish. A characteristic of an evaporative finish is that it can be re-melted by its original solvent. The most common evaporative furniture finishes are shellac, lacquer, and wax.

Reactive finishes dry by chemical reaction; as drying occurs, the molecules in the finish bind together to form a hard and durable finish. Reactive finishes cannot be re-melted by their original solvent. Common reactive finishes are polyurethane, varnish, epoxies, and common house paint.

How to Tell What Kind of Finish is on Your Furniture

A reactive finish that is in good condition is extremely resistant to water rings. If you have water rings, chances are you have either shellac or lacquer as a finish, too much wax on your furniture, or a finish that is thin and worn. You can test a finish by rubbing an inconspicuous spot with a rag moistened with either denatured alcohol or lacquer thinner. If finish can removed by the alcohol, the finish is shellac. If finish can be removed by the lacquer thinner, the finish is lacquer. If the finish cannot be removed by either of these solvents, you have a reactive finish.

The Nature of Water Rings

There are two types of water rings: blush rings and mineral rings. Blush rings are the most common and are caused by placing drinks or hot/moist items (like a pizza box) onto furniture. Blush rings are white, and appear as cloudiness in the finish.

Mineral rings are caused by leakage from houseplant pots. Water leaks through the pot and picks up minerals from the dirt, which is carried into the wood. Mineral rings are dark colored because minerals from the water have been absorbed by the cells of the wood. Such a ring is a permanent stain. The only way to repair mineral rings is to bleach them, which requires completely stripping and refinishing the furniture.

How to Repair Blush Water Rings

Blush rings are caused by moisture trapped in the finish. The repair can be made by softening the finish enough to allow the moisture to escape. Begin by making a smooth-surfaced ball out of linen or cotton. Moisten the ball with denatured alcohol and tamp it into the palm of your hand to be sure that it is simply moist, not wet. Carefully wipe the alcohol across the blushed area. Repeat as needed, but allow the alcohol to dry between swipes; drying will only take a minute or two. Ninety percent of the time, this repair technique will work. If it does not work, I suggest buying a can of No-Blush and spraying the damaged area lightly. No-Blush will chemically soften the finish, and contains a retarder to slow down the drying time enough to allow the moisture to escape.

Repairing water rings can be easily accomplished if one knows what kind of finish is damaged, how the ring occurred and what solvent will soften the finish.