Over time, wood furniture accumulates grime that can’t be removed with regular dusting. When this happens, some serious cleaning is in order. Try these methods for spiffing up your wood furniture safely and effectively.
Homeowners have long relished the beauty, versatility, and toughness of wood furniture—and above all, they’ve appreciated its low maintenance. Like the ideal houseplant for brown thumbs, wood furniture survives on its own, requiring little intervention. Every now and again, though, whether due to an accident or normal wear and tear, it becomes necessary to clean wood furniture to renew its appearance and ensure its longevity. When that inevitable day comes, follow these steps to restore a wood finish to impeccable condition without inadvertently causing damage.
1. Determine the finish used on your furniture. If you’re unsure, the correct procedure is beginning with mild cleaner, then moving successively toward stronger cleaning methods depending on the furniture’s reaction (or lack of one). If you know that your furniture is stained, painted, etc., then you should employ a method appropriate to that finish.
- As a general rule for cleaning wood furniture: don’t use much water, and when you do, don’t leave it on the table for long. Water can cause the wood to warp and crack.
2. Wipe dust and loose dirt from the wood. Use a clean cloth to go over the piece of furniture, loosening and removing any dust and dirt on the surface. Avoid feather dusters for wood furniture, as their quills can scratch wood. Instead, use cloth.
3. Rub the wood with mineral spirits. Mineral spirits, e.g., paint thinner, are excellent at wearing away accumulated grime. Pour the spirits into a rag, and gently rub your furniture. Work in a well-ventilated space when using mineral spirits. Wipe up any residual cleaner with a damp cloth.
- Though safe for most wooden furniture, you should test an inconspicuous area (like an underside, or chair leg) to make sure your furniture doesn’t react poorly to the cleaner.
4. Make a turpentine mixture for use on finished wood. Mix three-quarters of a cup of boiled linseed oil and one-quarter of a cup of turpentine in a jar, and shake well. Both of these ingredients are readily available at hardware stores.
- As an alternative, commercial furniture oil is available for this same purpose.
5. Work the turpentine mixture into the wood. Pour some on top of the table, then some onto a steel wool pad. Rub the mixture in along the grain. Once finished, polish with a soft rag. This mixture works very well on both finished and unfinished wood. It will increase the gloss and durability of finished wood, and it will prevent drying and cracking in unfinished wood. Rub the oil in thoroughly and allow the furniture to air dry.
- Using steel wool might sound severe, but the finish on most wooden furniture is thick enough to protect the wood itself from damage.
6. Buff waxed or varnished surfaces with lemon oil. Moisten a cloth, add a little oil, and wipe the piece down. Then, buff the surface, leaving little residue.
7. Apply furniture wax to protect unwaxed furniture. Apply it generously with a cheesecloth, in the direction of the grain. Buff with a separate cloth afterward. scr