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How To: Clean Wood Furniture

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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, you’ll need to know how 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.

MATERIALS AND TOOLS Available on Amazon:
– Cotton balls
– Dishwashing detergent
– Sponge
– Bucket
– Clean cloth
– Mineral spirits
– Cheesecloth
– Wood wax
– Denatured alcohol

If you are certain of your wood furniture finish—paint, stain, or some other treatment—then use a cleaning method appropriate for that specific wood finish. Otherwise, it’s best to clean the furniture in stages, starting with a mild cleanser that poses no risk to the integrity of the finish, then graduating to a stronger solution only if the gentler one fails. Proceeding in this way means that you can safely clean wood furniture without knowing precisely what you’re dealing with.

Photo: .com

STEP 1: Dish soap

Start out with perhaps the humblest of household cleaners: liquid dish soap. Add a drop to a water-moistened cotton ball, then wipe it on an inconspicuous part of the furniture, such as the inside of a chair leg. If the detergent mars the finish in your test area, then continue without the detergent. If the test area shows no evidence of damage, it’s safe to proceed. Mix water and detergent in a bucket and use this solution to sponge down the entire piece. You might think you know how to clean wood furniture, but soaking the wood is a common mistake. Instead, brush the sponge lightly over the surface and don’t let the liquid linger for long. Dry thoroughly.

STEP 2: Mineral spirits

If you want to see if you can get your furniture a little cleaner, the next thing to try is mineral spirits, which you can buy at the local hardware store or home center. One-quart containers typically sell for $10 or $15 (view example on Amazon). Be sure to follow the printed instructions for safe use. For one thing, working in a well-ventilated area is a must.

Though mineral spirits should be harmless to wood finishes, you should still test the treatment on an inconspicuous part of the furniture to make absolutely sure. If you see no discoloration, proceed to wipe the furniture down with a the a clean cloth soaked in (but not dripping with) mineral spirits. Finish by wiping away any residual cleaner with a water-moistened cloth, inspecting the wood for blemishes as you go.

In many cases, mineral spirits can remove years of grime.

STEP 3: Consider refinishing

If the finish reacted negatively when you tested the mineral spirits on your furniture, don’t push your luck—move on. You’ll likely need to refinish the piece to truly restore it.

Note: To determine the type of finish that is on your furniture currently, dab some denatured alcohol onto a cotton swab and test it in a small, inconspicuous area. If the finish dissolves, that means it’s probably shellac. If the finish stands up to the alcohol, it’s probably oil, lacquer, varnish, or polyurethane.

STEP 4: Prevent future damage

If on the other hand you are satisfied with the results of your cleaning efforts (or you don’t want to refinish), you may wish to protect your furniture from future damage. To do so, reach for a furniture wax product, such as Howard Feed-N-Wax (view on Amazon) or Daddy Van’s (view on Amazon). Apply the wax liberally with a cheesecloth, always being sure to rub in the direction of the wood grain. Afterward, buff with a clean cloth.

Note: Always dust wood furniture with soft, lint-free cloths. Avoid feather dusters, because they aren’t as effective and sometimes have sharp quills that may scratch the wood surface.

How to Clean Wood Furniture


It’s pretty rare to walk into a house and not find a stick of wood furniture inside. Wooden pieces add a cozy touch to a home, with their rich grains and sturdy designs. However, you won’t be doing your décor any favors if your wood surfaces are coated with sticky residue or a fine layer of dust.
Learn how to clean wood furniture to better maintain its sheen and to prolong its lifespan.

First: An Important FYI

Wooden furniture is still readily available in stores or online, and many pieces of antique furniture are made from wood, too. However, a lot of the more modern (and affordable) furniture you’ll find today is made from laminate or veneer, rather than actual wood.
Some of the newer pieces of furniture may have come with a manufacturer’s cleaning guide, or you might be able to find furniture treatment recommendations online. However, it’s important that you never assume that the care instructions for your laminate desk are the same as those for the mahogany sideboard you inherited from your great-grandmother.

The Basics of Cleaning Wood Furniture

Many people are quick to reach for commercial cleaners or polish when they’re preparing to care for their wood furniture. Unfortunately, these products could do more harm than good, especially if your furniture is made from actual wood. Why?
Well, each type of cleaner and polish has a different chemical makeup. Over time, these chemical interactions can make the finish sticky. Additionally, lacquer finishes can absorb chemicals and water in such a way that the finish is eventually stripped, which exposes the bare wood to the chemicals in cleaning products. Because of this, you want to keep your cleaning materials to a minimum.
While you do want to avoid chemical-based cleaners unless they’re recommended by the manufacturer, there are some steps you can take to keep your wooden furniture — be it cherry, balsa, particle board or veneer — looking warm and sleek.

You’ll need:

  • Microfiber cloths
  • A little water
  1. For routine cleaning to get rid of dust, smears or fingerprints, simply wipe down your wooden pieces with a dry microfiber cloth.
  2. If you find sticky spots, dampen a microfiber cloth and apply light pressure until the reside has been removed. Note: It’s key here to make sure your cloth is damp and not wet so that you don’t ruin the finish or damage the wood.

Preventative Maintenance

As you can see, there’s not much to keeping wood clean on a regular basis. But to properly maintain your wood furniture, you need to take a few preventative measures:<<br/>

  • Always place coasters under drinks, whether they’re hot or cold.
  • Use placemats and trivets when serving hot meals.
  • Wipe up spills or condensation rings immediately.
  • Learn how to clean water stains from wooden furniture.

Knowing how to care for your wooden furniture can help preserve its look and integrity for years to come. Don’t have the time for routine housework and worried your wood will suffer? Call in the cavalry, and let the housekeeping professionals of Merry Maids help you out.

How to Remove Dirt Buildup from Wooden Furniture

Table of Contents:

  1. Removing Dirt Buildup
  2. Removing Dirt Buildup Without Chemicals
  3. Additional Tips and Ideas


Warisha asked: “How do I remove sticky dirt from my wooden chairs? Our dining chairs have dark wooden polish on them, but they also have a thick layer of dirt. How can i get rid of that dirt without damaging the original polish and get the shine back on them? Please kindly recommend some home remedy for this problem.”

Dirt and grime can build up on wood furniture over time masking its true beauty. While frequent cleanings will help to avoid this situation, when the buildup is no longer removable with normal cleaning, it will require more powerful solutions to break it loose. Three simple ingredients can break through the dirt and help your pieces return to their original shine.

Removing Dirt Buildup

*This method is only for wood furniture that is not painted as it will damage and/or remove the paint.

  • Boiled linseed oil (do NOT use raw linseed oil)
  • Turpentine
  • White vinegar
  • Soft cloths
  • Old toothbrush
  • Drop cloth, cardboard or other ground covering
  • Rubber gloves
  • Small disposable container
  • Paint stir stick
  • Face mask (optional)
  • Paper towels
  • Vacuum with attachments

Steps to Remove the Dirt Buildup:

  1. Start by selecting a work area that is very well ventilated. Working outdoors is best as this solution produces a strong smell that you don’t want lingering in your home.
  2. Prepare the work area by covering the ground with a protective covering such as a drop cloth, large sheets of cardboard, etc. Gather rubber gloves and a mask for yourself.
  3. Bring the wooden piece outdoors and begin by wiping it down with the paper towels to remove as much of the grime as possible. After you have wiped it off, use the vacuum with the brush attachment to gently brush dirt from the crevices and corners.
  4. Next, mix together equal parts of the boiled linseed oil, turpentine and white vinegar. (Boiled linseed oil is available at most major hardware stores; you do not have to boil it yourself.)
  5. Moisten the soft cloths lightly with the solution and gently wipe the dirt and grime off of the wood surface. As you are cleaning, wipe the liquid with the grain of the wood and take caution not to soak the wood.
  6. Continue cleaning with the cloths just until the dirt is gone, do not scrub too much or it may damage the finish.
  7. For corners, designs, etc., dip the old toothbrush into the solution and gently work it into the grooves. Follow the grain as much as possible just as before. Wipe away with a clean cloth.
  8. When no more dirt is showing on the cloths, discontinue any further applications. There is no need to rinse the wood.
  9. Allow the piece to dry completely.
  10. When the piece is completely dry, buff with a clean cloth to restore the shine.
  11. Dispose of any remaining cleaner as well as any cloths with cleaner on them using appropriate methods. They can automatically combust and start a fire, so be sure to dispose of them promptly and properly.

Removing Dirt Buildup Without Chemicals

  • Lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Soft cloths
  • Old toothbrush
  • Drop cloth, cardboard or other ground covering
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Small container
  • Paper towels
  • Vacuum with attachments

Steps to Remove the Dirt Buildup:

  1. Start by selecting a work area that has plenty of room to easily maneuver around your piece. Working outdoors or in the garage is often best.
  2. Prepare the work area by covering the ground with a protective covering such as a drop cloth, large sheets of cardboard, etc.
  3. Bring the wooden piece outdoors and begin by wiping the entire piece down with the paper cloths to remove as much of the grime as possible. After you have wiped it off, use the vacuum with the brush attachment to gently brush dirt from the crevices and corners.
  4. Next, mix together two parts olive oil with one part lemon juice.
  5. Moisten the soft cloths lightly with the solution and gently wipe the dirt and grime off of the wood surface. As you are cleaning, wipe the liquid with the grain of the wood and take caution not to soak the wood.
  6. Continue cleaning with the cloths just until the dirt is gone, do not scrub too much or it may damage the finish.
  7. For corners, designs, etc., dip the old toothbrush into the solution and gently work it into the grooves. Follow the grain as much as possible just as before. Wipe away with a clean cloth.
  8. When all dirt is removed, wipe down the entire piece with a clean, lint-free cloth.
  9. Allow the piece to dry completely.
  10. When the piece is completely dry, buff with a clean cloth to restore the shine.


Additional Tips and Ideas

  • As with any cleaning solution, it is best to apply it to a small hidden area first to test for any affects on the finish.
  • If the piece you are cleaning is an antique or a collectible, check with a professional prior to cleaning to ensure that the cleaning method does not affect the value of the piece.
  • A popular cleaning product for wood furniture is Murphy’s Oil Soap and is safe to use on all non-wax finished wood pieces. It is readily available at most department stores and home improvement stores. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.

Guardsman Leather Cleaner Wipes

Make sure your beautiful home furnishings truly last with the help of Guardsman furniture care, repair and protection products. With expertise in Furniture Care for over a hundred years, Guardsman offer a series of products that cater for every home’s unique needs. Thanks to our partnership with Guardsman, you can also have fabric protection applied to your pieces prior to delivery to your home!

  • Guardsman Leather Cleaner Wipes

Rejuvenates leather’s appearance and leaves a renewed feel.

  • Gentle cleansing action keeps your leather looking it’s best by efficiently removing soil and surface grime.
  • Maintains the original appearance, handle, and durability.
  • Unlike many leather cleaning products, leaves no harmful residue.
  • Contains no dulling waxes, oils or additives often present in “all-in-one” cleaner/conditioners that can interfere with cleaning action and cause dirt to become trapped in the leather.
  • Made exclusively for Guardsman in Italy by a world leader in leather finishing products.
  • 20 wipes, 20cm x 30cm each, in aresealable package.
  • Merchandisable 6-pack shelf-tray.
  • Recommended to be used before the Leather Protector Wipes.

How to Clean Wooden Dining Tables

Table of Contents:

  1. You Will Need
  2. Steps to Clean the Table
  3. Additional Tips and Advice


Lisa asked: Are regular counter cleaners okay to use on a wooden kitchen table after daily use? I use a warm wash cloth with a little soap, but there always seems to be smears, food and prints left on the table. I feel like it never gets really clean. I’m afraid using a countertop cleaner will harm the table?

Most countertop cleaners contain some type of harsh chemical. While some may be safe to use on wooden furniture, others will damage the protective coating and leave the surface looking dull. Read the labels carefully to learn which surfaces the product will safely clean. A cleaning product designed specifically for wood is your safest choice. There are a variety of wood cleaning products available in the cleaning aisle. Choose a cleaning product that will clean and disinfect without waxing or providing a protective coating (as some dusting/cleaning sprays will have). These waxes will build up over time and need additional cleaning to remove and replace. Here are safe and effective cleaning instructions for the daily maintenance of your wooden table.

You Will Need:

  • Water
  • Dish detergent
  • Vinegar
  • Soft cloths

Steps to Clean the Table:

  1. Fill a bowl with warm water.
  2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and/or a small amount of dish soap.
  3. Agitate the water to mix it well.
  4. Moisten the soft cloth with the sudsy water or vinegar mixture.
  5. Use the cloth to wipe the table. Pay special attention to edges and any designs that may hold dirt. The vinegar and/or soap will disinfect as it removes the daily grime from meals and children.
  6. Rinse the cloth with clean water.
  7. Wipe the table again with a clean cloth.
  8. Dry the surface with a dry, soft cloth. It is important to dry the table to prevent any moisture from soaking into the wood, which can cause it to warp or crack.


Additional Tips and Advice

  • To remove grease build up, see our guide How to Clean Kitchen Cabinets.
  • Never use harsh or abrasive cleaning products or scrubbing pads on a wooden surface. It will damage the finish. If the finish becomes damaged, the table will have to be stripped and refinished.
  • Holloway House makes a line of wood cleaning products. These products work well and are available at hardware stores or online.

Six ways you are ruining your wood tables

When your dining room table gets upgraded from a Craigslist score to a polished wood beauty, it’s time for a lesson in the care and feeding of fine furniture. A good-quality dining table, whether new, vintage or antique, can be a major investment, and its surface should be protected.

If you’ve never used coasters or do your dusting with commercial sprays filled with chemicals, you might want to consider changing your ways. Heat, moisture, silicone, candle wax and pets can damage or ding your table. Direct sunlight should be avoided. And forget doing your nails here; the acetone in nail polish remover can melt your fabulous finish right off.

Establish a relationship with your table, says Christophe Pourny, president and co-founder of Christophe Pourny Studio, a Brooklyn furniture restoration business and maker of a line of plant-derived furniture care products. “Don’t just throw a plate of food on your table, eat and then walk away,” Pourny says. “Take time to set down a place mat. When you are done, check to see if you’ve spilled anything and wipe it off immediately.”

Keith Fritz, whose firm, Keith Fritz Fine Furniture, is based in Indiana, has been making custom dining tables with hand-rubbed finishes for more than 20 years. Fritz, whose work is sold through designers, cautions his clients about four things that can damage wood finishes: temperatures above 120 degrees, abrasions, standing or trapped water and harsh chemicals.

For tiny nicks and scratches, Keith Fritz sometimes uses a special furniture stain marker. (Brad Urban)

Eventually, though, you must embrace the table’s patina, Fritz says. “People always freak out about the first scratch. But over the years, it will all blend in together. I would much rather see people enjoying their table and having fun with it than being afraid to use it.” For tiny nicks and scratches, he sometimes uses a furniture stain marker (Touch-Up Pen by Touch-Up Solutions).

When you buy any wood table, whether it’s a dining table, coffee table or end table, ask questions about caring for it. Here is a list of basic mistakes to avoid to keep your table looking good:

Putting hot things directly on the table. A casserole dish right out of the oven or a stew pot right off the stove should not be placed on your table without heat protection. Pourny has a simple and modern solution: natural cork trivets. (Bed Bath & Beyond has a set of three round ones for $10.) When used under serving pieces, these can protect your table from scorching and scratches.

Passing on place mats or tablecloths. When having a meal, it’s best to use something to protect your table from spills. Place mats are great for daily dining, but a tablecloth will be your best choice for a large group. Fritz prefers cloth over synthetic. “Plastic place mats can trap water, and some have off-gassing chemicals that might cause a chemical reaction to the finish on a new table,” he says. Fritz advises clients not to make place mats or cloths a permanent fixture. “When you’re not using your table, you should enjoy the beautiful wood,” Fritz says.

Forgetting about condensation. Cold or warm drinks, flower vases and bottles of chilled wine can transfer water and humidity onto a table, leaving white rings if moisture gets trapped under them. Always use coasters, trivets or other pads. If you get a water ring, Fritz says, be patient. “Three things get rid of water rings: time, heat and oil,” he says. First, wait a day or two and see whether the ring will evaporate on its own. Second, put your hair dryer on low (blow it on your hand first; if it doesn’t feel uncomfortable, it should be okay), then lightly blow air over the ring and hope it will disappear. Third, rub with an oil-based product that can remove water spots. Fritz has had luck with Howard Feed-N-Wax, a blend of beeswax, carnauba wax and orange oil.

Taking a knife to wax spills. If at the end of a dreamy candlelit evening you find some wax drippings on your table, don’t grab a paring knife and go at it. Avoid using anything metal, whether scissors or a knife, as you’ll probably damage the wood. Pourny’s trick: Use a credit card to scrape off wax clumps. If there is still residue left, Pourny suggests covering the wax with a cloth and running a slightly warm iron over it. Any leftover wax should cling to the cloth.

Christophe Pourny, shown working on a table, is an expert furniture restorer based in Brooklyn. He also has a line of plant-derived furniture care products. (James Wade Photography)

Using commercial dusting sprays and silicone polishes. Consumers get hooked on dusting sprays, something fine-furniture experts are not too keen on. Says Pourny: “You should avoid them. They are just giving your pieces instant gratification, a temporary shine, and then they attract more dirt and dust that will eventually build up.” Fritz says, “These products are engineered so that every time you go to the store, you feel like you need to buy a can of it. You don’t need them.”

Experts’ advice on the best way to clean: Use a fresh, slightly damp (not wet) cotton cloth to wipe daily spills off your table after a meal. Then buff with a dry cloth.

Wearing chunky jewelry or oversize watches. It’s not just women with large bangles, jangling charm bracelets or spiky rings that can gouge a table. “These days every guy is wearing this huge metal watch, the bigger the better,” Pourny says. “That can heavily scratch your table.” If you’re having a fancy dinner party where guests might get blinged out, it might be best to use a tablecloth (with a felt liner or table pad underneath) to protect the wood.

How to Clean Wood Table

Give your wood dining table extra TLC and it will love you back. Wood tables are unlike other tables. You can’t use just any kind of detergent cleaner or countertop cleaner because this may affect the lovely warm stain. You can’t use brushes or just any kind of cleaning tool because this can scratch the sleek surface. So how do you clean a wood table then? Here is a guide to show you how.

Wood table cleaning basics

Cleaning a well-preserved wooden table is not so difficult as long as you have all the right kind of cleaning materials with you. It all begins with choosing the right cleaning aids.

Things you will need

  • Warm water
  • White vinegar or dish soap
  • #000 grit steel wool
  • Talcum powder (optional)
  • Charcoal
  • Baking soda
  • Cotton fabric
  • Wax (optional)
  • Wood varnish (optional)

Choose the right wooden table cleaning aids

Countertop cleaners may contain harsh chemicals that can affect the outer finish of your wooden table. There are cleaners that are specially made for wooden tables or is safe for wooden furniture so be sure to read the labels closely. Choose a cleaning product which will not just clean but will disinfect without waxing or providing a protective coating. Usually, waxes will build up over time and therefore will need additional cleaning to thoroughly remove. Sometimes it is also best to just use plain water and a soft cloth to clean a wooden table. You may also use natural products like vinegar or dish soap to clean the table and to remove stubborn stains and marks.

Basic steps to clean a wooden table:

1) Loosen dirt and grime


Place warm water in a large bowl and add 1 or 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and/or a small amount of dish soap. Mix this completely to agitate the dish soap or vinegar and water. Moisten the cloth with the soapy water or vinegar mixture.

Wipe the table with the cloth. Locate the surface or edges with stubborn dirt and grime. This is usually found at the edges of the table where people usually sit and eat. Use a firm circular motion to remove these marks. Rinse the cloth with clean water. Repeat the process until you have completely removed all the dirt. You may add waxes or wood finish if you want to

2) Applying waxes and finishes


Wax provides a hard finish and long-lasting protection. It is more preferred to use compared to sprays or polishes. Use wax or liquid wax made for wooden furniture. Wax finishes may last up to two years but may be less if you frequently use your table.

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Put a spoonful of wax on a 100-percent-cotton fabric. Wrap the fabric around the wax and knead it until it becomes soft. Rub the wax in a circular motion on one small area at a time until the entire surface of the table has been covered by wax. If the surface dulls, remove excess wax. Use a clean, soft cotton cloth to wipe away excess way.

Repeat waxing and wiping until the entire piece is waxed. If you notice a streak, wipe the excess wax away. Polish the wood using a soft cloth or lambs-wool pad attached to an electric drill or power buffer. For a deep shine, apply a second coat of wax in the same manner.

3) Deep cleaning a wooden table


Deep cleaning is needed if the wooden table has years and layers of deep grime. Use an oil soap and water. Use a sponge to remove deep-seated dirt and grime. Rinse afterwards. Clean lightly with #0000 steel wool dipped in a cleaning product. To remove ugly smells place the table outside on a warm, dry day but don’t place it directly under the sun. Place talcum powder or baking soda over the surface of the table to remove odor.

4) Dusting your wooden table


Dust your wooden table frequently to prevent airborne particles that can build up on the surface of the table. Use a clean, dry, soft cloth or a feather duster to remove dust. Dampen a cloth slightly to prevent scattering dust particles to the air. Use a soft, nonscratching cloth to pick up and hold dirt and dust. Use a clean cotton T-shirt or diapers to trap and remove dust.


There are a lot of ways to clean a wooden table. You must dust it, wipe it and wax it so that it will last a long time. Never use just any cleaning solution, make sure to use a solution made especially for cleaning wooden furniture.