Cleaning Antiques

An aged appearance can give a piece personality, but too many scratches can detract from the furniture's appearance. Follow these simple tips to clean antique finishes.

The old philosophy in furniture restoration was to strip the antique down to the bare wood. Today we want to preserve as much of the original finish and color as possible.

tung oil is one of oldest finishes

tung oil is one of oldest finishes

Often what people perceive to be an old, worn finish is just dirt and grime. In such cases, all a piece needs is a good cleaning. Wipe it with a rag loaded with a cleaner specifically made for use on wood. Under the grime there may be a perfectly good finish.

Never use water to clean wood: it will cause the joints to swell.

If the finish on a piece has gotten so dark that you can't see the beauty of the wood, give it the cotton-ball test. Moisten a cotton ball with acetone (nail-polish remover), and rub it on the finish. A clean cotton ball indicates that the piece has a polyurethane finish and needs paint and varnish remover to be refinished. A dark residue on the cotton ball indicates an old shellac finish, which can be easily removed with a product called furniture refinisher. Simply rub the refinisher on the piece to remove the old finish. Finish the stripped piece with a coat of tung oil.

Tung oil is one of the oldest finishes and one of the easiest to apply. Just rub it into the wood with a rag. When the wood begins to dry out after a few months, apply another coat.

An old piece with a spotty finish doesn't necessarily need a complete refinishing job.

Next Up

Cleaning Outdoor Furniture

Learn about the best ways to clean outdoor cushions, canvas seats and chair backs, and white and colored plastic.

Shopping for Antiques and Identifying Their Value

When going shopping for antiques, it's a good idea to bring along a notebook with room dimensions, pictures and fabric swatches.

Tips on Distinguishing a True Antique From a Reproduction

Follow these tips on how to determine if a piece of furniture is really an antique.

Tips for Cleaning Using Vodka

Think outside the martini glass with these practical tips for using vodka as a cleaning agent.

Vinegar: The Magic Cleaning Product

If you have any sense of smell, you know the pungent scent of vinegar. Think of it as the smell of clean.

Homemade Cleaning Products

Concocting your own cleaning products is economical and eco-friendly.

Tips for Recognizing Genuine Antiques

Follow this advice to learn how to distinguish between true antiques and reproductions.

Tips for Cleaning Leather

Find tips, techniques and recipes for keeping leather in top shape.

Tips for Cleaning Leather Upholstery

Leather is a popular choice in furniture, car interiors, clothes and accessories. Along with the cozy leather sofa and great shoes, comes the frustration of keeping them clean.

Cleaning With Lemon Juice

Find seven household uses for lemons. They are a natural disinfectant, stain remover and are wonderful for polishing metal. Also, lemons are inexpensive and eco-friendly.

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Discover Made + Remade

See the latest DIY projects, catch up on trends and meet more cool people who love to create.

Make It. Fix It. Learn It. Find It.