How to protect (but not refinish) old table top
I'm new to this forum and know very little about woodworking. I have a harvest table that mom my thinks is from about 1920. I don't know what kind of wood it is, but it is solid. It was my family's everyday dinner table for my entire childhood and was handed down to me several years ago. Now my own family uses it every day.
I would like to be able to use the table without having to either use a plastic tablecloth/pad or scold my kids every time they put a glass down and miss the plastic placemat. I'd also like to be able to just wipe up after meals. Any liquid on the table leaves white marks that fade as they dry. Heat also seems to sort of melt the finish (like if I don't use a thick enough trivet under a hot serving dish). I do not want to refinish the table, but I would like to do something to the table top to protect it and toughen it up a bit. My first thought was polyurethane, but I keep reading that it really isn't the best choice for a dining/kitchen table.
I know that I need to thoroughly clean it and then put something on it. What's the best way to clean it without removing the finish, and what should I use as a protectant? I'm not trying to keep a "patina" or anything like that. I love this table but I don't have any pretensions about it being valuable. I just want to be able to use and enjoy it. And I don't want to do anything to the legs of the table. With 12 leaves, I'll be busy enough just getting the table top done.
I generally use Murphy Oil Soap (the concentrate, diluted) and a soft cloth to clean it, and occasionally put Old English furniture oil on it to help even out the look of the finish.
Thanks for any advice you can offer!
The table: From 2011-09-07