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How to Clean Wood Furniture

Do you love wooden furniture but are unsure about cleaning and upkeep? This handy guide breaks down the easy process.


Nearly every home has wood furniture or a piece accented with wood. This natural material is as durable as it is attractive. If properly cared for, wooden furniture can last a lifetime. That brings us to the question of the best way to care for said items. Wood furniture does call for careful cleaning but think of this as a return on investment. Not to mention that careful does not mean complicated cleaning. The process is relatively easy; you just need to familiarize yourself with it! Here are some tips on how to clean wood furniture to ensure you provide the care it needs.


Related: Looking to Spruce Up Your Kitchen? Choosing the Right Solid Wood Table Can Have a Big Impact


kitchen with wooden island and table
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How Often You Should Clean Wooden Furniture


The simplest form of cleaning is dusting which can take as little as five minutes. Dust is abrasive and, therefore, can scratch the surface of your wooden furniture. It can also contain dust mites that can make people with allergies and asthma ill. Dusting your furniture weekly, preferably every few days, is recommended. For those with dust allergies, use a moistened cloth to keep particles out of the air.


Furniture polish can be used monthly to shine wood while buffing out nicks or scratches. For those with valuable antique furniture, keep cleaning at no more than a weekly dusting! When it comes to food and drink spills, be sure to clean these up at once. Any spilled liquid must be tended to immediately as it can cause wood to darken and warp or give the finish a cloudy appearance.


Wood Cleaning Supplies


The other bright news about cleaning wood furniture is supplies are generally inexpensive and easy to find. You will need basics like microfiber cloths, a feather or electrostatic duster, a dust mask for those with conditions triggered by dust, and perhaps a bucket, sponge, and cleaning gloves. If your polish your furniture, it will eventually need a deep cleaning as the finish can become dull, dark, or cloudy. This can be remedied with a tea solution that consists of tea bags and water. If the tannins in the tea do not cut through the waxy build-up, it’s time to break out the mineral spirits. Always wear protective gloves and other necessary gear when handling these petroleum distillates.


Related: How to Care for a Solid Wood Dining Table


Is Your Wood Finished or Unfinished?


Unfinished wooden furniture has been completely assembled and is ready to use. The only thing missing is a finish such as paint, stain, or varnish. Purchasing unfinished furniture means a person can genuinely personalize a piece, and countless options are available. Other benefits include a lower price tag and faster changes to the piece if you decide to make any. Customers can see exactly what they are getting as the wood grain and construction are fully displayed.


Finished wooden furniture has received its protective final coat. This brings out the grain and offers an attractive luster while defending against elements. The finish needs to meet the requirements of the specific piece. Varnish is versatile and durable as it is heat, water, and UV resistant. Lacquer is considered the optimal finish for wood furniture as it is easy to care for and resists damage from water and abrasion. Shellac is an excellent choice for dining tables as it is non-toxic and food safe. It is, however, highly susceptible to heat and alcohol-based based liquids.


Is it time for new furniture? Here are some reasons you should consider solid wood pieces.


unfinished wood table & stool with heart shapes
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Steps for Cleaning Wood Furniture


Let’s dive deeper into how to clean your wooden furniture properly. Routine cleaning should be performed regularly, and accidents involving food or liquid will always occur. Just keep fundamental cleaning supplies on hand to make primary or as-needed care quick and easy. Remember that overzealous cleaning can do more harm than good, so keep the process simple.


Take Care of Spills Immediately

As discussed above, different finishes have different weaknesses. If food or liquids, especially those containing alcohol, are spilled, clean them up immediately! This is particularly important for antique wood furniture as the finish can be utterly ruined. Use a dry soft cloth or paper towel to blot away liquids. For anything sticky, wipe the mess away with a slightly dampened cloth, then buff the surface with a dry microfiber cloth.


Dust Regularly

Frequent dusting is as simple as it is necessary. Dust is abrasive and can scratch wooden surfaces. At the bare minimum, dust every few days with a cloth, feather duster, or electrostatic duster like a Swiffer. If you or someone in your home have dust allergies, step this task up to every few days. Remember, dust mites are very real and equally problematic. If you are the one with allergies, make things easier on yourself by dusting with a damp cloth and wearing a mask. Be vigilant in getting to smaller areas like arms and legs, then give your furniture a post-dust buffing to eliminate smudges and dial up the shine.


Related: What Wood Should You Choose for Your Furniture?



Tips for Deep Cleaning Wood Furniture

At some time or another, wood furniture will need a deep clean to remove grime and build-up. In between basic and deep cleaning is the dish soap option. If pieces have been in storage or neglected, they will need a little more attention. Mix one teaspoon of dish soap with two quarts of water and moisten a soft cloth or sponge with the solution. Damp dust your furniture, then go over it with a dry cloth.


Believe it or not, old-fashioned black tea can deep clean wood! Tea has naturally occurring tannins (tannic acid) that can cut through the waxy build-up. Use two tea bags per two cups of water and allow to cool after brewing. Start at the top of your furniture piece and wipe in the direction of the grain with a barely dampened cloth, cotton ball, or cotton swab. If you are using a cloth, wring it out and rewet with the tea as needed until you are happy with the results. Be sure to dry each cleaned area with a soft cloth, and don’t forget to buff. Now, enjoy your own teatime!


For the most stubborn build-up, it’s time to break out the mineral spirits. These petroleum distillates thin out oil-based paints plus clear varnishes and stains. They are also toxic and give off potent fumes. Always use them in a well-ventilated area, and protective gloves are a must. You do not want to inhale this liquid or get any on your skin. Place a small amount of the solvent on a rag and wipe in the direction of the grain. You will have to move the rag to clean areas as you do this because grime and build-up will be coming off onto that fabric. Like the other methods, be sure the last step is to buff the wood with a dry cloth.


Does your entertainment room need an upgrade? Make it look as great as it sounds.


wooden dining room table
Photo by handstone.ca

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Wooden furniture is beautiful, timeless, and durable. It is easy to clean, and you will extend your furniture’s formidable lifespan by giving it a little TLC. Even if you aren’t the world’s tidiest person, a five-minute dusting is all it takes to clean and protect wood pieces. No special equipment or skill is needed; it just takes a touch of effort. For those with valuable antique pieces, your cleaning duties are even simpler as less is more when it comes to their fragile finishes! By properly cleaning your wooden furniture, you will appreciate it all the more for the beauty, functionality, and versatility it brings to a home.