Noname Antiques ยป 18 Ways to Clean Antique Wood Furniture

18 Ways to Clean Antique Wood Furniture

If you have antique family furniture, you can consider yourself lucky. However, sometimes you really need to clean it without damaging the precious patina layer. The best option is to hire an expert, mainly when the piece is particularly old and valuable.

In most cases, you probably have an old wooden cabinet or chair you can clean yourself. Still, you should do it in the right way so as not to damage the fragile antiquity. So, let’s see how to clean antique wood.

Ways to Clean Antique Wood Furniture

Cleaning antique furniture

Cleaning antique furniture

It is beautiful to inherit an antique piece of furniture, but it often needs a thorough cleaning. Unlike everyday items, it will require specific maintenance and cleaning products, whether you choose the DIY option or prefer applying chemicals.

Be aware that some furniture parts, like wood, glass, metal, upholstery, and stone, require a unique approach. Your goal is to back them to their full glory without damage.

One of the crucial things is to look for signs of pests, including furniture beetles and termites. Then, use a cloth to remove dust before starting with cleaning. Don’t forget to use a toothbrush to scrub the grime from corners, recesses, carvings, and hard-to-reach places.

The process of antique furniture cleaning includes:

  • Choosing a mild cleaner
  • Rubbing the surface with a chosen cleaner and soft cloth
  • Removing old stains with steel wool
  • Using a toothbrush for cleaning hard-to-reach corners
  • Wiping down and drying washed antique furniture
  • Polishing the surface

Maintaining antique furniture

Maintaining antique furniture

There are a few tips you should follow to keep cleaned antique furniture in excellent condition for years:

  • Use a humidifier in dry regions
  • Dust antique furniture regularly
  • Keep antique furniture out of sunlight
  • Remove antique furniture when suspecting a pest infestation


The Best Options for an Antique Wood Furniture Cleaning

You can use numerous cleaning solutions to clean an antique piece of furniture. It is on you to make one or buy a finished product in the local shop. Your alternatives include:

1. Duster



  • Duster or old towel


It is always better to use a duster or old towel to remove dust from an antique piece of furniture before cleaning it. That way, you will make washing quicker without the possibility of metal parts rusting.


2. Vacuum cleaner

Vacuum cleaner


  • Vacuum cleaner


Using the vacuum to remove dust from upholstery, relief carvings, recesses, and other hard-to-reach places is helpful. Experts estimate that a regular vacuum cleaner can remove approximately 70% of the dust from the furniture.


3. Denatured alcohol

Denatured alcohol


  • Denatured (wood or methylated) spirit
  • Cotton swab


Start cleaning by dipping a cotton swap into denatured alcohol and rubbing it on the dirty spot. The varnish, lacquer, and polyurethane finishes will stay the same but be prepared that this chemical compound dissolves a shellac finish. If you have such an antique piece of furniture, you should find another way to remove dirt from it.


4. Diluted dish soap

Diluted dish soap


  • One teaspoon of dish soap
  • 1 pint (0.5 l) of water
  • Soft cloth or cotton ball
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This solution is excellent for removing oily fingerprint stains from antique furniture. You can also use diluted dish soap for stained and dirty teak furniture.

It will be enough to gently rub the wood surface with this cleaning solution and a soft cloth or cotton ball. Using a toothbrush dipped in a mixture is helpful when cleaning hard-to-reached areas and corners.

Never soak the wood to prevent water absorption, and always dry the wood thoroughly in the end.


5. Oil soap

Oil soap


  • 1 ounce (28.5 g) oil soap
  • 6 ounces (1.8 dl) of warm water
  • Small bowl
  • Measuring cup
  • Cotton cloths
  • Fork for mixing oil soap with water
  • Rubber gloves


Pour oil soap into the water, mix a solution with a fork, and then soak a cloth into it. Be gentle while cleaning fragile old wood and take care to dry it in the end.


6. Distilled white vinegar

Distilled white vinegar


  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Dish detergent
  • Linseed, olive, or vegetable oil
  • Warm water
  • Soft cotton cloths
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Small bowl
  • Fork
  • Goggles
  • Air mask
  • Rubber gloves


Mix white vinegar, dish detergent, and warm water in equal parts and pour the mix into a bowl. In most cases, using a half cup of each ingredient will be enough. Dust the furniture before applying this mixture with a soft cloth, and then start washing it thoroughly.

Remove all dirt and mold from the surface, including corners and hard-to-reach parts, and then dry it with a cloth. Typically, this solution is an excellent option for the job because it removes impurities without damaging the wood.


7. White spirit

White spirit


  • White spirit
  • Soft cloth


If you like to have antique furniture with a sparkling clean finish, you should treat it with white spirit. Unfortunately, this compound is pretty harsh, making it an inadequate solution for every wood type.

Therefore, you should check the wood’s suitability before applying it over the entire surface. Only that way can you protect the finish from damage.


8. Mineral spirits

Mineral spirits


  • Mineral spirits
  • Cotton cloths
  • Fine-grade steel wool with grade #0000
  • Gloves


Be careful with mineral spirit and use it sparingly to prevent furniture damage. Even though it is gentle enough and won’t remove poly and shellac, the best option is to test this chemical before use to see possible adverse effects on wood.

If the wood can stand it, you should start cleaning but be prepared to reapply a new finish layer after cleaning if the old one is severely damaged.

Always try to finish the job fast since mineral spirit quickly evaporates. It is recommended to do the cleaning outsides because of the harsh smell this alcohol has.


9. Mayonnaise



  • Mayonnaise
  • Cotton cloths


Believe it or not, mayonnaise is a magical solution for removing water stain rings from antique wooden furniture. Rub it onto the area and let it sit overnight. Then, wipe it away with a damp cotton cloth and dry the surface thoroughly.


10. Dry cleaning (extraction foam cleaning and steam cleaning)

Dry cleaning (extraction foam cleaning and steam cleaning)


  • Extraction foam cleaning or steam cleaner
  • Soft cloth


Dry cleaning is the best way to remove red wine stains. Even though steam cleaning is highly effective, it can cause the antiquated fabric to weaken or even shrink.

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Therefore, extraction foam cleaning is probably a better DIY option, mainly if you are inexperienced. Apply an extraction foam cleaner, like Bissell or Hoover, to antique furniture’s fabric and let the foam set.

Use a soft cloth to gently remove the cleaner after the recommended time for the used product. Another option is to hire a professional to finish the job.


11. Natural furniture spray

Natural furniture spray


  • One teaspoon of Castile soap
  • One cup of distilled white vinegar
  • One cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 15 drops of citrus essential oil
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft cloth


Shake white vinegar, olive oil, and citrus essential oil in a spray bottle and apply it to the antique furniture surface. Use a soft cloth to distribute the mixture evenly and finally dry the wood well.

The best thing is that it excellently works on furniture made of wood and leather. Be careful with painted wood since this solution can remove it after thorough rubbing.


12. Volcanic rocks

Volcanic rocks


  • Volcanic rocks


You should use odor-eliminating volcanic rocks to deodorize antique wood furniture, particular pieces you haven’t used for long. It is an efficient method to eliminate the unpleasant smell from antique trunks and furniture with drawers. Put a few rocks inside the stinky piece of furniture and let it do the magic.


13. Bleach



  • 25 cup of bleach
  • One tablespoon of laundry detergent
  • 1 gallon (4.5 l) of warm water
  • Linseed oil
  • Soft cloths


This compound is a top-notch solution for removing mold and water stains from the wood surface. Carefully stir bleach with warm water and add laundry detergent into the solution. Use a soft cloth to remove the mold from furniture corners and hard-to-reach places. After letting it dry, coat the surface with linseed oil.


14. Wood cleaner

Wood cleaner


  • Cleaner
  • Microfiber clothes


You only need one microfiber cloth to apply a wood cleaner to your antique furniture and the second to dry it thoroughly in the end. This product is convenient, but you always need to check whether a particular type discolors the wood.

Apply the cleaner over the surface until it becomes entirely stainless, but don’t expect the wood surface to shine. After cleaning, your piece of furniture will stay matte-like natural wood.


15. Trisodium phosphate

Trisodium phosphate


  • Liquid TSP Substitute or Phosphate-free TSP
  • Soft clothes


TSP (trisodium phosphate) used to be one of the best solutions for cleaning silverware. Unfortunately, phosphates are outlawed in most states because of their adverse effect on the environment.

Nowadays, you can find two heavy-duty cleaners, liquid TSP substitute and phosphate-free TSP, as an excellent equivalent to TSP but without harmful chemicals.


16. Naphtha



  • Naphtha
  • Soft clothes
  • Rubber gloves
  • Goggles
  • Air mask


Naphtha is an excellent option to remove wax or oily grime from your antique furniture. However, you should remember that this product causes whitish traces on the old finish and eliminates the wax finish. Therefore, you should test it on a hidden spot before starting working.

Be careful while using naphtha because of its strong odor. The best option is to use it outdoors, but you can also clean furniture in the garage while the door is open. Also, keep this product away from the open flame since it is flammable.

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17. Natural furniture polish

Natural furniture polish


  • 4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 25 cup of coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Soft clothes
  • Spray bottle


Furniture polish is an excellent way to make your cleaned antique furniture shiny. However, this step is possible only after repairing potential damage to the wood finish.

After melting the coconut oil on low heat, mix it with lemon juice and white vinegar, and add a solution to a spray bottle. Then, spray it onto the piece of furniture you want to clean and rub it with a soft cloth until removing dirt. Finally, wipe the surface with a soft dry cloth.


18. Waxing



  • Wax
  • Cotton clothes


It is on you to clean your piece of furniture and leave it as it is or make one more step and apply wax over the surface. If you pick out the second option, you will need a soft cotton cloth to buff wood by small circular motions.

Waxing once a year is a convenient alternative to a factory liquid furniture polish. Both can efficiently protect wooden furniture against dust and moisture.

You should use bees wax whenever possible since it provides a beautiful glossy glow. Plus, you can quickly remove this layer with mineral spirit when needed.


Cleaning Antique Furniture Requiring Special Handling

Besides regular antique furniture cleaning, you should pay attention to damaged antique pieces of furniture you should treat uniquely. Keep in mind that they often require more than washing, including:

  • Wood, metal, and upholstery repairing
  • Treating antique furniture with woodworm
  • Restoring possible cracks and holes in the wood
  • Rust removing
  • Steaming out dents on the wood surface
  • Repairing damaged lacquer
  • Disguising scratches
  • Fittings and metal handle cleaning
  • Shining and polishing silver parts
  • Cleaning metal parts made of gold, aluminum, and copper
  • Cleaning marble parts
  • Cleaning leather parts

Sometimes, you will need to do additional cleaning when atypical stains or residues occur on the furniture surface. The most common include:

  • Removing ink stains
  • Getting rid of paint marks
  • Removing candle wax residues
  • Removing water ring marks
  • Removing oil and grease residues
  • Solving traces of sun-bleached areas
  • Removing old wood’s odor and mothball smell

In most cases, you can solve these issues on your own, but some persistent stains or significant furniture damage require professional treatments.



Cleaning antique furniture is not as difficult as it seems at first glance, but it is not an easy task either. Unless you have a particularly valuable antique piece of furniture, you can clean it yourself.

It will be enough to follow the given tips. The goal is to refresh the antiquity, not destroy the patina and beauty that reminds you of your ancestors.

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