How to Clean Wood Furniture to Make It Look New
All of the steps and supplies you need to know for how to clean wood furniture and why non-painted furniture is making a comeback in design trends.
I found a dark walnut wood dresser and nightstand on Facebook Marketplace earlier this week, and I actually did not paint it! Gasp! (Who the heck am I anymore?)
Regan’s old laminate dresser, while I loved the color, just wasn’t giving me the rich nostalgic warmth I really wanted in her bedroom. So by cleaning the wood furniture, it’s added so much depth while giving me peace of mind that its safe for our 3 year-old.
Why Wood Furniture is Making a Trend Comeback
Traditional furniture styles are big time trending on the interior design scene lately, and with the nod to cottagecore style in Regan’s room, it felt like the perfect opportunity to get back to the bare wood furniture roots to give that old wood a lustrous shine.
Over the past decade, farmhouse style was all about distressed chalk painted pieces or worn, weathered reclaimed wood.
Every action has an equal but opposite reaction, even in interior design. So of course, as time always tells with the ebb and flow of what’s “in style”, the answer to the farmhouse craze is the rich, lustrous furniture in the traditional aesthetic.
How to Clean Wood Furniture
I love scoring furniture on Facebook Marketplace, but since they usually have decades of grime built up on them with scratches a-plenty, I used this method to make ours look new again.
Wood Furniture Cleaner Supplies
- Murphy Oil Soap
- 1.5 gallon bucket
- 2 clean rags
- Vaseline (mayonnaise works too)
- Old English Wood Furniture Polish or *Howard Restore-A-Finish (*preferred)
- Bar Keepers Friend
- Old toothbrush
Clean with Oil Soap
Mix 1/2 Cup Murphy’s Oil Soap into a gallon of warm water. Using a clean rag, wipe down the furniture with the soapy mixture. Then, wipe away any soapy residue with clean water. Immediately dry off any excess water.
Remove Water Spots
To rehydrate the wood from any water spots or water damage such as wood rings, rub a moderate layer of Vaseline or mayonnaise on top. Let it sit overnight up to 24 hours. Wipe clean to reveal a more even wood tone on the furniture’s surface. Repeat if necessary.
Clean Vaseline residue
Use the Murphy’s Oil Soap again to clean off any Vaseline residue so the polish can penetrate in the next step.
Using a new clean rag, wipe down the wood furniture with Old English Wood Furniture Polish or Howard Restore-A-Finish. (Howard is preferred, but since my hardware store was out, Old English was a good alternative.)
Concentrate on any scratches or dings to ensure they’re covered. Wipe away any excess polish.
If you have any hardware on your furniture that looks a little grimey, you can scrub it with Barkeepers Friend and an old toothbrush with a little warm water. Rinse and let dry. Then reattach to your wood furniture.
The Finished Wood Furniture
It looks like a brand new dresser, doesn’t it?! And it really wasn’t too strenuous to clean and polish. (I’d say the strenuous part was really Robert and me hauling this hefty chest of drawers up our staircase.)
Doesn’t Regan’s room look so charming with these two pieces? I can’t get over how much better it looks after all of that TLC.
Long live the wood furniture! Maybe I’ll even get up the nerve to strip painted furniture again… though I think I’m still recovering from a few bad incidents all these years later.
Are you all for traditional and wood furniture again? Or still Team Painted Furniture? Neither is wrong really. Do what your soul loves and decorate with what makes you happy. That’s what really matters.
The me 5 years ago would have slapped distressed chalk paint on these two wood furniture beauties in a heartbeat. But that wood grain deserves the spotlight for sure.
Frequently Asked Questions
These charcoal bags work wonders for all kinds of icky furniture smells. Place one in a drawer for a few days and let it do the work for you. You can also try sprinkling baking soda in a drawer along with a few dryer sheets.
Mix 4 parts water with 1 part vinegar and one part olive oil in a spray bottle and spritz all over your wood furniture. Dry with a clean cloth.
- How to Restore Worn Cane Furniture
- The Trick to Paint Laminate IKEA Furniture
- Beginner’s Guide to Painting Furniture