Cleaning old wood furniture

HappyladiFebruary 2, 2008

I have an old dining set and the chairs need a good cleaning. The wood is mahogany. I don't want to refinish them, just clean them well and do a little touch up with stain on the bottom of the legs.

Any suggestions on what to use?


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Hi Happyladi:

I've always loved Old English to clean and polish wood. The nice thing about it is, it actually removes the appearance of minor scratches due to the stain like quality it possesses.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 2:36PM
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If they're scratched or marred or dull, then try some Restor A Finish put on with 4 aught (0000) steel wool, after you clean them. I did this in my bathroom on 20yo cabinets and they look almost brand new + their color didn't change. It even took out some pretty major scratches (like the groves my ds made when he took off the handles).

It costs about $6 and comes in many different wood tones, including mahogany - and it's permanent, unlike the oil in in Old English (which I do like for cleaning, but I used Minwas Wood Cleaner).

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 3:28PM
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I'm going to agree with Lady above. I love RAF. I got mine at a building supply store, maybe even Lowes or something like that. You can get it in Walnut or other wood tones, or even in neutral. You can wipe it on with a rag or use 0000 steel wool to get off blackened finish on antiques or white rings on furniture. Try it in an out of the way place first, but I think you'll like it.


    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 4:08PM
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Thanks! I notice it comes in mahogany which is what the furniture is. I'm going to try it.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2008 at 4:54PM
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The very very first thing to do is just go over the wood with a soft rag that's just dampened with tepid water and a very mild soap. (If it hasn't been finished with polyurethane, this IS one of the good uses of Murphy's oil soap.) Wipe gently. Use a baby toothbrush or q-tip for carved areas. Repeat with clear water and wipe dry. This will likely remove a surprising amount of dirt. If it's something that has been waxed and has developed a build-up, the wax may cause products like Howard's or Old English to cover unevenly. (Found this out the hard way.) Liberon Wax and Polish Remover is fantastic for getting a thick build-up of wax and dirt off. Then you can go at it with one of your other products.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 3:32PM
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I have lots of antique mahogany furniture - I posted this process several years ago on HGTV Decorating forum and lots of people have tried it and had wonderful results - there was a recent thread with pictures.

1. Wash piece with Murphy's Oil Soap, thoroughly dry

2. Use finest grit steel wool and rub in the direction
of the grain of the wood - you will be removing
old wax not the finish. Go over every inch of the
wood with fine steel wool until you feel you have
gotten the old dirty wax off.

3. Wash again with Murphy's Oil Soap & let dry.

4. This is the most amazing of the steps - Use
Howard's Restor-a-Finish in Mahogany stain on
your piece - it will transform the wood.
Follow directions on the can. It will fill in
water stains and other imperfections - the patina
of the old wood will be intact, and your piece
will just glow.

5. Use Howards Feed N' Wax as a final step following
directions on the bottle.

I guarantee you will be amazed by who well this regimen works. Make sure you don't wax your furniture more than a couple times a year - otherwise, you end up building up wax and dirt. Just dust and buff lightly with a soft, dry cloth.

Here is a picture of a really horrible old chest I bought years ago - the wood was completely dead and dull looking - it was filthy and my husband could not understand why I bought it....after following the process listed above, here is how it turned out.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 4:32PM
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Cattknap, your piece is beautiful! Thanks everyone.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2008 at 7:46PM
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This is very good information since I have the same type of project. I am doing old carved dining chairs that have major black in all the intricate places along with scratches.

Okay, I'm armed with 0000 steel wool, RAF, Murphys Soap.

Here is my questions:

I just tried removing the black stuff using the steel wool, It would take me forever to get it all out. Would it be advantageous to use mineral spirits or would restorafinish applied with steel wool remove it?

I also tried a tooth brush with Murphys. Do you recommend the spray Murphys or the concentrate you mix? If you recommend the concentrate you mix, what is the dilution?

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 7:09PM
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I used the steel wool with some RAF poured on it, rubbing with the grain of the wood for my blackened areas on the antique sideboard I bought through Ebay last year. It takes some elbow grease and a little time, but it came out so very nice.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2008 at 9:24PM
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Oh my goodness....I just have to thank you for these instructions!!

I have had Restore a Finish for a LONG time - tried it on my kitchen table a few times with not very good results. I think the Murphys oil soap is the ticket - removing the build-up.

I just followed your directions on my DR table and then kit table!! DR had several big white marks - GONE!! Kit table looks remarkably better -
You just saved me from calling my refinisher to redo table tops!!!!!!!!

Thank you, thank you!!

PS. I even took pics but shutterfly is down. I uploaded them on Tinypic but I don't know where they are!! :)

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 3:05PM
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Maybe this will work...

I am very happy, thank you again Cattknap!
Redbazel, your piece is beautiful.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 4:09PM
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Wow that table looks beautiful!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2008 at 4:35PM
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We need to clean a laquer-finished cherry bedroom set. What should be the procedure in order not to harm the finish?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2011 at 6:51PM
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