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I purchased some furniture that has wooden elements to it that ended up being unfinished. Should I be concerned about this? During the more humid months, will these elements grow mold on them? For reference, I live in Massachusetts.

I would prefer to not have to finish these products, and am just trying to determine from individuals with more experience than myself if this is an issue.

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    If you have mold growing on furniture indoors you have bigger problems. A finish isn't going to make much of a difference in that case, or you won't care because your walls and floors will be moldy. Outdoor furniture is a different story; though almost any outdoor finish will have to be reapplied regularly in many case to keep the wood in good shape -- and not just from mold and fungus. – jdv Oct 10 '19 at 19:49
  • Hi, welcome to Woodworking. I was going to say we have numerous previous Answers that cover this so a search will find your answer. But checking myself I was surprised that in all this time we have no Q&A on this topic specifically. So this can be the canonical one and I'll add an Answer shortly. – Graphus Oct 11 '19 at 7:05
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I purchased some furniture that has wooden elements to it that ended up being unfinished. Should I be concerned about this?

No.

It's extremely common for certain parts of furniture, even fine furniture, to have no finish on them. Drawer boxes, the inside surfaces of cabinets and chests of drawers, the backs of pieces intended to go against a wall, seat supports in chairs and the undersides of tabletops have all been — and continue to be — left as bare wood. If you check the relevant parts of furniture that you already owned I'm sure you'll discover examples, in solid wood as well as in plywood.

Leaving wood unfinished can actually be a perfectly acceptable option even in high-humidity parts of the house like kitchens and bathrooms.

During the more humid months, will these elements grow mold on them?

While mould spores are omnipresent in most environments bare wood isn't a great food supply for many fungi, and indoors in a typical domestic interior* the conditions aren't favourable for the growth of moulds in general and certainly not those that can digest wood. One good way for the non-woodworker (and some woodworkers!) to look at this is that bare wood is no more prone to mould growth than the exposed edges of paper in books, and nobody gives them a second thought.


*Certain levels of cleaning/dusting, heating during the colder months and good airflow being presumed.

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  • Thanks for the great answer! – SeeDerekEngineer Oct 11 '19 at 14:46
  • De nada. Oh darn Comments can't be that short.... – Graphus Oct 11 '19 at 15:16
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    As a good example of this, the wife & I knocked together a little "cabinet" out of white-wood (the cheapest we could find on a college budget) and stained it, but gave it no other protection. It's lived in a heavily used bathroom for around 30 years and has shown absolutely no signs of mold, rot, or other decay. Shockingly, even the stained finish shows minimal signs of wear. – FreeMan Oct 11 '19 at 18:55
  • @FreeMan, good example. People angst about this (and to be fair, some of it is justified) but there's tons of inexpensive softwood shelving units and such like sold without finish on them which were specifically intended for use in kitchens and bathrooms. Once you get to hardwoods it gets even better. – Graphus Oct 12 '19 at 6:49
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You won't have mold, but you'll probably ruin any surface which is not finished and is used. A finish protects the surface. The first time someone puts ANY cup or glass on it, and you're going to have a ring that you won't be able to get out without sanding it out, because any moisture will wick into the wood fibers.

A finish prevents that from happening. At least hit the thing with 2 or 3 coats some tung oil finish. Easy to apply and hard to screw up.

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  • Any bare wood surface will eventually pickup dirt, especially where it is touched . "Dirt" includes skin oils. – blacksmith37 Oct 11 '19 at 19:30

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