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Cleaning Wood 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.



Read and rate the best solutions below by giving them a "thumbs up".

Tip: Cleaning Chair and Staircase Spindles

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

Tip: Orange Oil For Cleaning Furniture

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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Here are questions related to Cleaning Wood Furniture.

Question: Cleaning Wood Dining Chairs

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.

Most Recent Answer

By prematurely gray11/03/2011

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.

Question: Cleaning Wood Furniture

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

Most Recent Answer

By Louise B.09/05/2010

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.

Question: Polishing Wood Furniture

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

Most Recent Answer

By Miss Samantha04/28/2012

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


Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

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

RE: 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

RE: Cleaning Wood Furniture With A Sticky Film

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

By Linda

RE: 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

RE: 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

RE: 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

RE: 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

RE: 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

RE: 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

RE: 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.

Archive: Cleaning Wood Furniture

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.

RE: 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

RE: 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