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Cleaning Wood Furniture

Category Furniture
Hands polishing a wood table
Some cleaners can ruin the finish on your wood furniture making it look dull or uneven. Knowing the proper methods for cleaning wood, you can keep your furniture looking new for years to come. This is a guide on cleaning wood furniture.


Share on ThriftyFunThis guide contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

By 1 found this helpful
October 28, 2010

Clean all surfaces using only a damp cloth followed by a dry cloth. Use a mild soap as required.

Avoid using wax or harsh detergent. They may damage the finish.


In order to prevent fading, do not expose any furniture to extreme sources of heat or direct sunlight.

Never place pots on surfaces or electrical appliances.

Refrain from writing without a desk pad.

Avoid contact with rubber protectors or plastic place mats on items such as lamps, radios, computers, or telephones.

Keep even humidity conditions in your home to prevent splitting.

Remove spills or liquid from furniture right away.

By Mpr3ssive from New York, NY

Comment Was this helpful? 1

September 22, 20061 found this helpful

I have a cleaning service and if I am dusting particularly dusty furniture, I like to spray orange oil on my rag, run hot water over it and wring it out. The dust clings to the damp rag and leaves a beautiful shine on the wood or plastic, like a television. I like this better than using straight oil as it tends to go on a little heavy. I also use this technique on wood floors. Instead of a rag, I use a roll-a-matic mop and spray the oil in my mop water along with a capful of Murphy's Oil Soap.


By Sally from Sherwood, OR

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July 18, 20050 found this helpful

The best way I've found to clean chair and table leg or staircase spindles is to use wet dental floss. It gets into all the grooves and you can get to the dust quicker and more efficiently than by using just a cloth.

By Bobbie

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October 30, 20040 found this helpful

Dip an old soft toothbrush into furniture polish and brush lightly. Then buff with a clean cloth.

By Peggy

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

September 2, 2010

We have some chairs with wooden arms and these have become dirty from use (dirty hands?). Does anyone know how to clean this black off the arms without removing all of the varnish and stain stain?


By cybergrannie from Ocala, FL

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
September 4, 20100 found this helpful

Please be careful using any type of oil in a homemade recipe. I made up a recipe using oil (besides other stuff) and it too me weeks and weeks to get the gunk off my furniture! oil seems to attract more dirt than it removes.

Reply Was this helpful? Yes
September 5, 20100 found this helpful

If it was my chair, I would just use a regular cleaner like Mr. Clean. A cleaner such as that will not damage the varnish with occasional use. I take it you are simply trying to remove grubby fingerprints and skin oils and such that has built up over time. Don't be putting any sort of oil on it, that will just add to the gunky buildup.

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January 4, 20170 found this helpful

I was told to use TSP but haven't tried it yet

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By 0 found this helpful
June 20, 2014

I would like to give my dining room furniture a good cleaning, what is the best cleaning method and product?

By Joan

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June 20, 20140 found this helpful

Depends. Is it wood? Are you also talking upholstery chairs as well?

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January 22, 20150 found this helpful

Use Lemon Oil once a month to protect and condition wood furniture. Lemon Oil keeps your furniture from drying out and cracking.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 28, 2012

What is the very best furniture polish? I don't care about the price. I just bought a new real wood table and chairs and I want to use the very best. On hand, I have Pledge and Old English oil. The pamphlet that came with table said not to mix different brands/types or the wood may appear cloudy.

By Judy from Riverside, CA

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April 28, 20120 found this helpful

I personally like using Orange Glo for my wood furniture.

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April 28, 20120 found this helpful

Fiddes. It is from the UK and available on eBay.

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By 0 found this helpful
November 2, 2011

My dining room chairs seem to have caked on dirt, and I do not know how to clean them. It is probably there from people's hands. I had them cleaned once, but the dirt seemed to come back.

By Barbara W.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
November 2, 20111 found this helpful

I have redone house (wood work included) it does get build up. The dresser I have in my bedroom is way over 100yrs old, maybe I can help. If it's just build up from every day living like you said I would try plain vinegar (if you want to put lemon you can) maybe the citrus would help out, some don't like vinegar smell if its strong.The strength depends on how built up they are? So first go with 1/2 vinegar 1/2 water; if you add lemon just squirt the juice 2-4 times or 1 whole lemon. That is for quart size spay bottle. If that doesn't easily remove it add more vinegar. After you get them clean,you can make your own Murphy's type oil with either baby oil or mineral oil.If you are wanting to use a more soapy cleaner like Murphy's soap you add a squirt of dish soap to the oil. I hope this works for you. The only other thing I could suggest without seeing them is take straight half lemon with salt rubbing in a circular motion (how I clean my cutting boards or really dirty wood). Without a picture one of these will work.

Reply Was this helpful? 1
November 3, 20110 found this helpful

goop, or any "waterless hand cleaner". Not the one with "grit." Use a paint brush and brush it on the top rail, let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes, and then wipe it off with paper towels. When nothing more comes off on the paper towel, wipe it with cheesecloth or some fabric that will absorb any leftover moisture and gunk. Then buff if you feel like it.

Needs be, do it again. Does not affect the wood unless you leave it on too long so that it dries. Not caustic. Might want to cover the seat because it will drip. If you're cleaning a table, do a section at a time so it doesn't dry. Can also be used on "desk" leather. Amazing stuff.

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By 0 found this helpful
September 3, 2015

I would like to clean up the dust which accumulated over the years in the cracks of my big wooden table. I was thinking of using a Q-tip and a small hand vacuum, but I am wondering if there is any other way to do this?
Thank you.

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
September 4, 20150 found this helpful

I would try an old, dry toothbrush (one that's too worn to use for tooth brushing any longer). I've had good success cleaning small items and things with crevices with an old toothbrush. Just don't brush so hard that you create scratches.

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By 0 found this helpful
October 20, 2015

I just purchased a used cherry table with a matte finish. Down the center of the table there is a high-gloss sheen. I think it may be from the previous owner using a high gloss spray oil and then realizing they should not have. Any clue what I can use to safely remove the high gloss oil from the table, without hurting the original matte finish? The image is dark, but you can see the high gloss down the center. Ignore the fan, still looking for the right chandelier :)

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By 0 found this helpful
April 5, 2015

I am trying to clean a filthy curio cabinet. It is just the wood. What can I use that I have around the house to clean the wood?

By Kim

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March 31, 20150 found this helpful

We accidentally sprayed air freshener close to my great aunt's dark cherry piano and now there are sticky spots left. I tried using Pledge and they are still there; it looks bubbled. I'm afraid any rubbing will make it all worse. Help please!:(

By Michelle C. from Mansfield, OH

Answer Was this helpful? Yes

October 28, 20140 found this helpful

I just bought a used large desk (very shiny, nice cherry veneer) which has what looks like many oily fingerprints. I tried to use just a soft, dry rag but it didn't help a lot. I was afraid of using a wet rag or any chemicals to avoid causing damage. Any tried and safe method to clean the cherry veneer furniture without harming it? Thanks.

By Sue F. from Portland, OR

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August 28, 20140 found this helpful

I use felt pads on lamps to keep lamp movement from scratching. I notice though that when I change objects or lamps there are sometimes circular rings from the tabs. They will not wax or buff out. How do you remove them?

By Terry O. from Nashville, TN

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August 22, 20140 found this helpful

Our cat vomited on our oak end table while we were on vacation. We returned to find the mess thoroughly dried out. We removed all the loose bits, but now the stuck on bits remain. What is the best way to remove the rest without damaging the wood?


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By 0 found this helpful
January 2, 2010

How can I get dried fragrance oil off of my wooden dresser?

By Shawntae from Hagerstown, MD

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By 0 found this helpful
June 29, 2007

I have a dark wood table, that has what looks like oil spots on it but it will not come off. I have used mild soap and water and furniture polish. Any suggestions?

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

September 2, 20100 found this helpful

To clean wood furniture, etc., pour two tablespoons vegetable oil, add 4 tablespoons white vinegar and 1 quart warm water into a container. Wash with soft cloth and dry with clean dry cloth. It cleans just like Murphy's oil.

By Betty from Fond du Lac, Wi.


Cleaning Wood Furniture

I'll have to try this. I've been looking for a homemade version of Murphy's! Have you washed your car with this recipe? (03/30/2006)

By camo_angels

Cleaning Wood Furniture

No, we haven't tried to wash our vehicle yet. Our weather is just starting to get better. We only have a truck as I never drove. I'll let my husband take care of trying that. If you try it, I hope it works for you. (04/02/2006)

By magnolia

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December 12, 20090 found this helpful

Help. I made up some homemade wood cabinet polish with olive oil and lemon juice and applied to my oak and teak furniture. It looked great, but I've done something wrong because now there is a sticky film on them that everything adheres to and they look dirty and yukky.

How do I get them nice and clean again? Some of the furniture is varnished, some not. The varnished furniture seems to be less sticky. Any suggestions would be appreciated. The furniture is new and I'm really upset that I've ruined them.

Since I don't live in the U.S., please could anyone suggest something that is easily procured anywhere. Some American brand names cannot be found in Europe or else I have no idea what the European substitute would be. Many thanks.

Cettina from Malta, Europe


Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

Murphy's Oil soap comes to mind. You might consider calling a cabinet maker for a professional suggestion. (08/06/2007)

By ficklephonebug

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

Look for Hints from Heloise online. She has a solution for everything. (08/08/2007)

By Linda

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

Use white vinegar straight from the bottle. It will take several applications, but eventually you'll get down to the wood or varnish. Leave the lemon juice out of the cleaner next time. (08/08/2007)

By Sandy in Los Angeles

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

I use a paste of white vinegar and baking soda to remove sticky film. It'll take any dirt in the wood out as well. Always test a spot that you can't notice with the paste first to be safe. (08/08/2007)

By Pattie

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

Hi Cettina, I suspect that your furniture is now covered with a film of oil and dirt. You want to remove this without damaging the wood underneath. I have several pieces of wood furniture, oak, mainly, and I do not use anything on them. I dust with a dry cloth or feather duster, and if they get anything sticky, I wipe with a damp cloth, and dry afterward. I don't think that you need any sort of polish or anything on most wood furniture. I have read that a coat of paste wax once a year, paste wax made for wood, is good, but I have never bothered.

Anyway, back to your problem. I think that you should just wash the furniture with your usual household cleaner. I would use Mr. Clean, about a capful in 2 litres of warm water. Since you are wanting to dissolve a layer of dirt and oil, I think you need a detergent type cleaner. Or, I would use a capful, like 20ml in 2 litres of water, of ammonia. Ammonia cleans up oil by combining with it to make soap.

I don't really think that vinegar would be very effective. Acids, which vinegar is, don't combine or dissolve with oil. Think of oil and vinegar dressing. Of course, they do have some effect, but I think you would be better off with the household cleaner. Just don't soak the wood with the cleaner. Murphy's Oil Soap is an oily product that we have here in Canada. I don't know what is used for really; I have used it to coat the inside of things when I was making plaster molds for crafts. I don't think that I would use it on my furniture. I think you would get an oily residue with it, which is what you already have.

As for the other suggestions; lemon juice and vinegar are both acids, so have a similar effect on things; one just smells better. Baking soda is a slight abrasive and sometimes scratches delicate things; it is also a base, as is ammonia, so you can use a solution of ammonia to do a similar job without abrasion or fear of scratching. Mixing baking soda with vinegar will neutralize them, as one is as acid and one is a base. I suspect that a paste of vinegar and baking soda as suggested on other posts slightly neutralizes the baking soda, but that there is not enough to thoroughly do it, so you would get virtually the same effect by mixing water with the baking soda to make a paste. Good luck with your cleaning.

Louise, Nipawin, Saskatchewan, Canada (08/09/2007)

By louel53

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

After a recent move, I washed all my furniture with a strong solution of Pine-Gel and warm water. Dry well and polish with the correct polish for the wood. I was amazed to see all the dirt and oil vanish without damage to the furniture. (08/09/2007)

By gurth

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

In Italy the closest equivalent to Murphys Soap would be "sapone di marsiglia" and borax is probably "perborato". (08/12/2007)

By Nancy

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

I tried most of the suggestions and nothing much worked, so in the end I just put some warm water and hand dishwashing detergent in the kitchen sink, swooshed it around till it got foamy and applied the solution to the furniture with my dishcloth. I rinsed out the cloth and wiped the furniture again, and it doesn't seem so bad now. A few more times and I think I've sorted it. I use Fairy washing up liquid, but I suppose anything you use will do. Hope that helps. (06/26/2008)

By cett

Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

Vinegar and baking soda with a green scrub pad did the job. (09/24/2008)

Editor's Note: Green scrubbing pads are rather abrasive, so be sure to test on an inconspicuous area first.

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