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How To Clean Wood Furniture: A Beginner’s Guide

how to clean wood furniture

Did you know that the wrong cleaning technique can actually ruin your wood furniture?

Classic wood furniture never goes out of style, but those shiny streaks certainly do. And the dust. And the spots where you accidentally damaged the wood with the wrong cleaner.

Here’s a look at how to clean wood furniture—the right way.

How to Clean Wood Furniture

Figuring out how to clean grime off wood furniture? Let’s start with the basics. Like what to clean with.

While you might think that skipping the chemicals in favor of water is your safest option. It will actually do more harm than good. Remember, wood is porous, and if it stores too much water over time, the wood will swell and warp. Similarly, stay away from harsh chemicals like vinegar—it strips the varnish right off. So do alcohol- or ammonia-based cleaners. However, you can use vinegar to clean wood if it’s diluted with olive oil.

If you’re not sure whether a cleaner works, start by testing it on an inconspicuous area, like the underside of a chair. If the wood begins to scar or bubble, toss the cleaner.

Once you have the right cleaner, there are four wood cleaning tasks on your docket:

  1. Dusting
  2. Cleaning
  3. Waxing
  4. Polishing

For the cleaning side, dust off your furniture with a lightly dampened microfiber cloth. Then, dry off the wood, break out your cleaner, and give it a gentle scrub. Keep in mind that oil-based cleaners protect wood, but the higher the oil content, the more it will show fingerprints.

How to Clean Unpainted Wood Furniture

Once you’ve got the basics down, you can clean more complicated wood furniture. Like unfinished wood furniture that’s waiting for a stain or varnish.

With unfinished wood furniture, you’re trying to avoid raising the grain, which simply means causing the wood fibers to swell. Unfinished furniture doesn’t have a protective coat of paint or varnish, so you have to be extra careful.

Start by sanding off any scuff marks you can’t wipe away. Use 120-grit or 150-grit sandpaper. Be gentle, and always go with the wood grain rather than against it. Once you’ve sanded the spot, dip a cloth in solvent and wipe it over the stain. Once that settles, sand the residue away with your sandpaper.

How to Clean Painted Wood Furniture

If you have painted wood furniture, you have to be careful of both the paint coat and the wood underneath it. Your best bet is to gently dust the furniture, checking for any scratched or warped paint.

Then, rather than using a solvent that might damage the wood, you should reach for polishing wax. This will give the paint and wood an extra layer of protection.

How to Clean Outdoor Wood Furniture

Your outdoor wooden furniture might survive a lot of abuse from the elements, but you don’t want it to look like it.

With outdoor furniture, which accumulates more grime than its indoor cousins, you’ll have to clear away the grime first. A microfiber cloth or treated lint-free cloth will do the job. After that, give it a coat of oil for protection against the elements. Make sure to check what type of wood you have (softwood or hardwood) as this will change how the wood weathers and stains over time.

Cleaning Wooden Furniture Like a Pro

With a bit of practice and the right supplies, figuring out how to clean wood furniture is pretty straightforward. The next thing you know, your wood furniture will be sparkling.

And if you’re looking to update your wood furniture, we’ve got your back, with beautifully crafted wood furniture perfect for any style. Check out our collections, like American Heartland, to find the wood furniture you’ve been dreaming of.

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