How To Clean Antique Wood Furniture? 16 Methods You Should Try

It’s not uncommon to hear some assume that old wood furniture is of higher quality and lasts much longer than modern styles.

In addition, the aesthetic of these furnishings is distinctive, bringing more style into your home. For this reason, be cautious with your priceless antique and avoid damaging the tarnish that offers the items their aged look.

How to clean antique wood furniture? Unless your piece is precious or in terrible condition, there’s no need to hire an expert.

This post will recommend some tips to restore the beauty of your old wooden furnishings with simple cleaning methods. Let’s check it out!

How To Clean Antique Wood Furniture? 

Old wood furnishings may have many distinct finishes. Each type may require a different approach to cleaning and maintaining it.

Therefore, you should consider the best way for your furniture. Here are some effective methods to get your cleaning done effortlessly!


Finding out what kind of finish your ancient wood has is the first thing you must do before you clean it.

The kind of finish that covers your antique furniture will influence the cleaning method you choose.

For instance, because shellac responds to chemicals and water, it is imperative to handle it cautiously.

Even cleaning chemicals explicitly made for old wood might be too abrasive and harm the finish permanently.

Regardless of your decision, you must apply the product on a small area in less visible spots.

It is generally acceptable if the product shows no harm during the spot test.

However, if the finish has any fading or has changed in texture, this product won’t go well with the finish of the old wood furniture.

Below is an easy test to determine the type of finish your old wood furniture has:

  • Take a Q-tip or cotton swab and dip it in denatured alcohol. 
  • Lightly dab the solution on small and less noticeable spots on your wood furnishings. 
  • Shellac is present if the finish peels off with each application of alcohol.
  • If not, repeat the steps using lacquer thinner. If the finish won’t come off, it’s a varnish. 

If the finish of your wood furnishings is shellac, you should contact a professional. For the rest of the situation, you can follow the cleaning techniques below. 

Different Methods For Cleaning Antique Wood Furniture

You can apply various ways to clean your antique wood furniture. Here are the most easy-to-follow and practical to consider:

1. Duster

Using a duster to eliminate dust and dirt from your antique wood furniture is always advisable before applying other cleaning methods. This way, you can clean your furnishings faster without causing harm to metal parts. 


2. Vacuum Cleaner

It is beneficial to use a vacuum to get rid of dust from furnishings, relief carvings, nooks, and other challenging-to-reach areas.

According to experts, a standard vacuum cleaner will clear 70 percent or more of the dirt and dust from furniture.

3. Denatured Alcohol

Start cleaning by wiping the dirty area with a cotton swab dipped in denatured alcohol.

The polyurethane, lacquer, and varnish finishes will not change. However, be aware that the shellac finish may peel off if you use this chemical mixture.

If you own such an item of antique furniture, you should discover another cleaning technique.

4. Oil Soap

To apply this method, ensure you prepare these things in advance:

  • Oil soap: 1 ounce
  • Warm water: 6 ounces
  • Cotton cloths
  • Measuring cup
  • Small bowl
  • Fork 
  • Rubber gloves

Pour the warm water into the oil soap. Use a fork to mix this cleaning solution. After that, take a cloth to soak in this mixture. 

Be careful while cleaning antique wood, and dry it well afterward.

Oil soap
Oil soap

5. Diluted Dish Soap

The things necessary for this method will include the following:

  • Dish soap: 1 teaspoon
  • Water: 1 pint
  • Cotton ball (soft cloth)

This solution works effectively to get rid of greasy fingerprint spots on old furniture. It is also helpful to remove stains and dirt on teak furnishings. 

You only need to gently rub the furniture surface using this cleaning mixture and a cotton ball or soft cloth. 

Cleaning nooks and crannies that are difficult to reach often benefit from using a toothbrush soaked in this solution.

To stop the wood from absorbing water, never soak it; always finish by completely drying it.

6. Distilled White Vinegar

If you opt for this way, here are the essential things you must prepare:

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Olive, vegetable, linseed oil
  • Dish detergent
  • Warm water
  • Soft cloth
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Fork
  • Small bowl
  • Goggles
  • Rubber gloves
  • Air mask

Mix distilled white vinegar, warm water, and dish detergent at equal ratios in a bowl. Due to its power to eliminate impurities without harming the wood, this mixture is generally an excellent choice.

Use a soft cloth to remove dust on your wood before applying the solution. Wash the item thoroughly. 

Carefully clean the surface of any dirt and mildew before wiping it dry, including corners and difficult-to-reach areas.

Use distilled white vinegar.
Use distilled white vinegar.

7. White Spirit

You can use white spirit to clean up antique furniture’s finish if you want it to look brand-new.

Yet, this product is relatively harsh. It won’t be suitable for all types of wood. 

Hence, it’s best to perform the wood test before using it to prevent the surface from damage.

8. Mineral Spirits

Prepare these things if you select this cleaning technique:

  • Mineral spirits
  • Cotton cloths
  • Gloves
  • Steel wool of a finer quality (grade #0000)

You should handle mineral spirits carefully to avoid damaging furniture. While it’s gentle and won’t cause shellac or poly to peel off, it’s better to do the wood test before application. 

If your wood finish can withstand this chemical, you can start cleaning it. If not, it’s advisable to apply another method. 

Always work to complete the task immediately because this product evaporates relatively fast.

Moreover, it would be best if you cleaned your furniture outside due to the strong smell of this alcohol.

9. Dry Cleaning/Extraction Foam Cleaning

Below are the materials to perform this technique:

  • Steam cleaner (extraction foam cleaning)
  • Soft cloth

It is the most suitable manner to clean your antique wood furniture with red wine stains.

While this cleaning method is relatively effective, it may shrink and weaken your antiquated fabric. 

For this reason, extraction foam cleaning is a go-to option if you don’t have experience cleaning this furniture. 

Select any extraction foam cleaner and apply it to your antique furnishing fabric. Allow time for the foam to set. 

After the period specified for the utilized product, carefully wipe the cleaner using a soft cloth.

If you are unsure whether you can perform this task, it’s better to contact professionals. They will finish this job effectively and quickly.

Dry cleaning
Dry cleaning

11. Furniture Spray

You need to prepare the following ingredients before cleaning your wood furniture:

  • Castile soap: 1 teaspoon
  • Distilled white vinegar: 1 cup
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: 1 cup 
  • Essential oil: about 15 drops
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft cloth

Mix olive oil, essential oil, and white vinegar together. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and shake it. 

Apply this solution to the wood furniture surface. After distributing the mixture uniformly with a soft towel, thoroughly dry the antique wood item.

It works perfectly with leather and wood furniture. Be cautious when using this mixture on painted wood because it might destroy it after vigorous rubbing.

12. Volcanic Rocks

If you own old wood furniture that hasn’t been used for a while, you should deodorize it with volcanic rocks.

Additionally, it works well to eliminate the irritating smell that comes from old trunks and furnishings featuring drawers. Place some rocks into the stinky furniture piece and wait for the magic.

If you want to learn more about volcanic rocks, you can watch this video:

Use volcanic rocks
Use volcanic rocks

13. Bleach

This product is an excellent solution for cleaning water and mold marks from wood surfaces. Prepare these things below before starting the steps:

  • Bleach: 25 cups
  • Laundry detergent: 1 tablespoon
  • Warm water: 1 gallon
  • Linseed oil
  • Soft cloths

Pour laundry detergent into the mixture after carefully stirring warm water and bleach. Use a soft cloth to clean corners and difficult-to-reach areas from mold. Apply linseed oil to the spots and let them dry.

14. Wood Cleaner

This technique is relatively simple. You only have to apply this product to your wood furniture and use a soft cloth to clean it carefully. After that, allow enough time for it to dry.

Although this solution is practical, you should always examine it to see if a specific variety would stain the wood.

Apply the solution on the wood surface. Wait until it gets stainless. However, the finish won’t be as shiny as you expect. Use a soft cloth and clean it to get a natural matte coat. 

15. Naphtha

Naphtha is an excellent product for cleaning wax or greasy dirt from antique wood furniture.

However, remember that Naphtha removes the wax surface and leaves yellowish marks behind the existing finish.

For this reason, you should do a wood test on a less visible spot to prevent potential damage before application. 

Furthermore, be careful when using this product because it will release a strong unpleasant odor. 

Although cleaning furnishings in the basement with the door open is an option, using it outside is better.

Because Naphtha is a combustible product, keeping it away from exposed flames is advisable.

Use Naphtha
Use Naphtha

16. Waxing

It is up to you whether you repair your furnishings and keep them that way or go an extra step and wax the surface.

If you choose the latter option, you’ll use a soft cloth to polish the wood in gentle circular motions.

An inexpensive replacement for factory chemical furniture polish is annual waxing. You can protect your antique wood furniture from moisture and dust. 

If you want to create a glossy glow for your furniture finish, it’s best to opt for bee waxes. Also, this material is easy to remove using mineral spirits.

17. Furniture Polish

Prepare the following ingredients: 

  • Distilled white vinegar: 4 tablespoons
  • Lemon juice: 2 teaspoons
  • Coconut oil: 25 cups
  • Spray bottle
  • Soft clothes

After you clean your antique furnishings, using this product is a good idea to make them shiny.

However, before applying this method, you must repair all potential damage to the antique wood finish. 

Melt the coconut oil over low heat, combine it with white vinegar and lemon juice, and pour the final mixture into a spray bottle.

Spray this solution on the furniture you need to clean. Rub the areas using a soft towel until it’s dirt-free. 

Finally, use a soft clean, dry cloth to wipe the wood surface.

Furniture polish
Furniture polish

How To Clean Water Stains And Mold On Antique Wood Furniture? 

It’s irritating to see water stains and mold every day. Luckily, you can make them disappear with the following tips. Let’s see!

For Water Stains

  • Prepare mayonnaise.
  • Rub this paste on the areas with water stains. 
  • Allow at least an hour to sit there. If possible, leave it overnight.
  • Use a damp towel to wipe this condiment away. 
  • Dry the wooden surface thoroughly. 

For Mold

  • Transfer the wood furniture outside to an area with good ventilation. 
  • Wear a protective mask and gloves.
  • Vacuum the particles away.
  • Mix bleach (¼ cup), warm water (1 gallon), and laundry detergent (1 tablespoon). 
  • Soak a cloth into this solution.
  • Wipe the mold away. 
  • Dry your furniture thoroughly.
  • Use linseed oil to coat the surface using a soft clean cloth. 
Clean water stains and mold
Clean water stains and mold

In A Nutshell

It’s not too challenging to clean antique wood furniture, as you assume. You can apply various methods using different materials and equipment. 

It’s best to try all the ways mentioned above to get the best results. However, some chemicals are harsh on specific wood surfaces. Thus, perform a wood test before application. 

Hopefully, our guides are helpful for your task. If you know other techniques, please comment below to share them with us. 

Thanks for reading, and see you in the next post!

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