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How to Clean Heavy Dirt Buildup From Wood Furniture

Matt Smolsky

You can often restore the beauty of your wood furniture with a simple cleaning. However, it's important to know what kind of wood your furniture is made of, and what kind of finish you're dealing with. You can ruin some furniture, especially antique furniture, by using incorrect cleaning methods.

Use caution when cleaning wood furniture to avoid damaging the piece.

If you are uncertain, take a small item representative of what you're cleaning to a professional furniture restorer and ask for an assessment. If the furniture is too big to move, take photos to the professional.

Tip

Clean your furniture in a well-ventilated area. Protect your floor by placing the furniture to be cleaned on top of a waterproof or water-resistant drop cloth.

Warning

Dispose of the drop cloths or cardboard, rags, containers and any remaining cleaning liquid appropriately. The cleaning fluid is flammable, so use caution when disposing.

  1. Dust the furniture with soft rags. If necessary, vacuum crevices, using a brush attachment.

  2. Mix 1 pint of turpentine, 1 pint of boiled linseed oil, and 6 ounces of white vinegar in a disposable container for use on furniture with oil-based finishes. For lacquer finishes, use solvent-based furniture cleaner instead of the boiled linseed oil mixture. For polyurethane finishes, use mineral spirits.

  3. Dip a soft rag into the solution and begin wiping the grime off the furniture. Wipe with the grain of the wood. Keep your rag clean, but be careful not to soak the wood, which could raise the grain. Clean only until the grime is gone. Use a toothbrush for corners and crevices. If necessary, use a metal pick for deep crevices, but be careful not to scratch the wood. Wear rubber gloves while cleaning.

  4. Allow the furniture to dry, then buff with a clean rag.

The Drip Cap

  • You can often restore the beauty of your wood furniture with a simple cleaning.
  • For polyurethane finishes, use mineral spirits.
  • Clean only until the grime is gone.
  • If necessary, use a metal pick for deep crevices, but be careful not to scratch the wood.