How to Make Old Wood Furniture Look Great Without Refinishing
If you have a piece of old wood furniture that looks bad, don't be in a big hurry to strip it and refinish, or worse yet, throw it away. Many pieces can be touched up to look great with a minimal amount of work or expense.
Use a dust rag first to get rid of the cobwebs and surface grime. The wipe the wood with a clean rag just damp with a mild detergent and water. Be sure not to over-wet the wood, and dry with another rag as you go along. If the piece still looks dirty, clean it with a cleaner special designed for wood.
If there are paint drips or thick dirt still remaining on the furniture, rub it down with 0000 steel wool. Wipe again with a dust cloth.
If the hardware is in good shape, leave it on. If it is really dirty, remove it and scrub with detergent and water or a metal cleaner. Be careful not to use strong chemicals that may remove the metal finish.
Replace with new hardware if the old hardware is broken, unattractive or looks cheap. Try to find hardware that goes with the style of the furniture. New hardware can make a remarkable difference.
Replace any larger pieces of wood that are missing, such as corners or pieces of molding. Use a putty stick to fill holes and gaps.
Use wood finish touch-up pens to touch up any areas where the finish is gone. Follow the instructions on the pen, but they usually call for you to wipe immediately with a soft rag to even the finish.
Use a combination stain and varnish for all-in-one touch-up of any wood replacements. Blend the new area to the old with 0000 steel wool, and repeat until you have the match you need, allowing it to dry after each coat.
Rub the entire piece with a good-quality furniture polish. You can use lemon oil or, for darker woods such as mahogany, a scratch-cover type of polish. Allow to dry and wipe with a soft cloth.