Back Button

How to Clean Shellac

April Dowling

Shellac, known for its nontoxic qualities and color varieties, requires routine cleaning to inhibit grime buildup from penetrating it. It is a quick-drying finish used to seal wood furniture and protects wood from moisture loss, splitting, warping and cracking.

Although shellac enhances hues, this hard-drying finish eventually becomes soiled. Shellac finish accumulates oily smudges and loose dust fragments, which detract from the finish.

  1. Wipe a dry terry cloth rag over the shellac finish to remove dust particles. Always wipe the finish with a clean portion of the terry cloth rag.

  2. Immerse a clean cotton swab in mineral spirits. Rub the cotton swab onto an inconspicuous portion of the shellac finish to test the shellac’s solubility. If the mineral spirits damage or soften the shellac finish, do not clean any further.

  3. Moisten a fresh terry cloth rag with mineral spirits if the shellac was unharmed by the mineral spirits in the previous step. Wipe the terry cloth rag over the finished wood to remove additional soil and buildup. Let the shellac air-dry overnight.

  4. Examine the shellac finish for stubborn dirt. If any soil remains on the shellac, mix 1/4 tsp. of detergent-free, mild soap with 1 qt. of warm water.

  5. Dampen a fresh terry cloth rag in the mild solution. Wring out the dampened rag, and wipe down the shellac. Clean all stubborn buildup off the shellac.

  6. Moisten another fresh terry cloth rag with fresh water. Wring out the moistened rag, and wipe down the shellac to rinse off the soapy residue.

  7. Dry the shellac finish thoroughly with a clean towel.

  8. Warning

    Do not clean cracked, flaking or other damaged shellac.

    Do not clean shellac with detergent.

    Do not apply excess water to shellac.