How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture

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How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture - marking pen use in other areasWood is lovely, but at times it does not age well, or exposure makes the veneer or varnish suffer needlessly.

This guide can help you revive that nice dresser or nightstand, not so that it regains its monetary value as much as that it still looks attractive in your home.


Total Time: 30 minutes to one hour


How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture - small chest of drawers with bottle of oil soap, furniture pen, and rag on top

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  1. It is always a good idea to clean your furniture thoroughly with Murphy's Oil Soap before you begin. You can either buy the spray version, or dilute it one part to 3 parts water on a rag, then rub it on the wood.
  2. How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture - pouring on oil soap

  3. Look for the marker that most complements your piece of furniture. Then, after your furniture has dried from the washing, simply draw on your wood! This can be a fun step for children to finish. It can also be helpful during this step to rub in the ink with a rag each time you draw on your piece of wood. It can also be helpful to draw over the same area multiple times.
  4. How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture - covering damaged spots with marking pen
    How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture - rubbing furniture marking pen color into wood
  5. Let it dry for a while. I would say, wait at least 5 minutes, because you don't want the ink to rub off in your next step.
  6. After the marker is all dry, then take equal parts olive oil and vinegar, shake them up really well in a jar, and rub it on the wood with a terry robe or other porous cloth.
  7. How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture
    How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture - cleaning surface with oil soap and cloth

  8. As you can see, it looks great! As good as new, when viewed in a certain light. As you can see in my photos, this really nice and pricey nightstand was worthless before the treatment. But now, unless you look at it up close, it looks as good as new. I also tried this treatment with 3 other nightstands and a rolling cart on this particular day, and the results were impressive each time.
  9. How to Fix Damaged Surfaces of Wood Furniture

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March 26, 20179 found this helpful

thanks for this tutorial! i have some of those markers but was uncertain how they were used. it certainly looks like they make the furniture look MUCH better!

November 10, 20220 found this helpful

I did exactly what you did with the exception of the vinegar solution, this was many years ago when we had kids staying with us and they spilled liquid, I was unaware until I removed the dresser scarf that was on the top. It still looks great. Glad you can pass on your tips to someone else.

January 25, 20232 found this helpful

I have the markers as well. Don't use them unless you have a tiny scratch . The colors do not match well and looks crappy.

August 30, 20200 found this helpful

How long does it last b4 you have to do it again?

September 20, 20210 found this helpful

awesome! you can use varish as well to have the wood last longer. its like coating!

September 20, 20210 found this helpful

awesome! you can add varnish like a coating for extra wood strength!

December 14, 20210 found this helpful

I recently purchased a lovely antique wood dining table and used the oil and vinegar on it. I was pleasantly surprised to see how nice it turned out!


I won't be refinishing it for awhile now.

December 16, 20211 found this helpful

Is there a vinegar smell and does it last long?

March 14, 20230 found this helpful

Its not going on Antiques Roadshow. Give them a break, they were trying to help. I like it because I sell used furniture. This will definitely help me make them look better.

January 16, 202224 found this helpful

This is yet another example of someone giving out wrong information about "restoring" furniture. Used motor oil has a beautiful golden brown color, it does not mean you should rub it all over your furniture, either.OLIVE OIL, COCONUT OIL, SAFFLOWER OIL,MINERAL OIL, ANY NON DRYING OILS, DO NOT BELONG ON FURNITURE. If you rub oil into wood you are CONTAMINATING IT and rendering it unsuitable for actual, proven, proper restoration techniques developed over hundreds of years by people who actually know what they're doing!


Sure it'll probably look better for a little while, but it will not last and provides ZERO protection for the wood. Olive oil has fat in it, that can go rancid, grow mold, get sticky and attract dust, dirt, and even mice, rats and other vermin.Vinegar is Acetic acid, and will attack many finishes, softening them and causing more damage than it can "repair" I am a furniture restorer of 40+ years, and am so tired of fighting this misinformation all around the web

February 2, 20226 found this helpful

So can you tell us what you do use? That would be helpful. Ive used beeswax before on a Victorian dressing table. Ive used a Matt Varnish on a beautiful walnut desktop. Super pleased with both projects. Would love you to edify us.

March 24, 20221 found this helpful

That is quite true being in restoration for 50+ years there are natural products that work and do not have excess oil that continue to weep from wood. Letting it dry in warm temps and sun is helpful too.

April 10, 20221 found this helpful

Maybe you shouldnt fight the misinformation then and people will do what they do and in time they will hopefully learn by trial and error.

May 29, 20223 found this helpful

If this were mine, I would just sand down the top finishing with 220 girt. Then minwax wood conditioner and then stain it with a stain color close to original. Then 2 coats poly.

June 5, 20220 found this helpful

It's Cherry, which responds to refinishing very well, but it should be stripped, not sanded. Stripping this top would take less than 10 minutes, then after drying it should be sanded lightly with 120-220 grit paper..


Also, there is no reason to use Minwax wood conditioner, and in fact it will prevent the stain from absorbing properly...Cherry is not a "problem wood" and stains and refinishes beautifully.

November 6, 20224 found this helpful

The top need to be stripped and refinished with a stain that closely matches the rest of the piece, then finished with 2 coats of polyurethane. There are no shortcuts to fixing problems like this.

February 15, 20230 found this helpful

Please, please, please share your expertise about the proper way to restore damaged wood surfaces. I have an entire upstairs full of my Grandparents and Great-Grandparents absolutely gorgeous furniture, all with small to nearly catastrophic damage. I am completely unwilling to just let it go, but I cannot afford to pay someone to restore it. I know the near catastrophic damage will likely need to be stripped to bare wood and refinished, but what can I do to repair the smaller damages? Please help! I want so much to learn the correct methods so that this gorgeous furniture will last another 100+ years! (Especially the amazing Art Deco bedroom set with inlaid designs of different woods!! I have loved it since I was a child and am still completely enamored!) Most of the small damage is scratching. Most of the bad damage is water damage from a hole in the roof (now repaired) that was there several years while my Grandparents were far too elderly to climb the stairs and check on everything. They were so vigilant for so many years, but the ravages of time attacked my Grandparents, their house, and the upstairs furniture. I want to reverse that damage before the ravages of time catch up with me any further! Thank you for your time!

March 23, 20230 found this helpful

Murphy's OIL soap!!!!!!!

April 23, 20232 found this helpful

Id just like to say to the furniture restorer (who, incidentally shared no knowledge whatsoever) that there are ways of conveying your opinion without being demeaning and rude.

June 18, 20230 found this helpful

I fully agree! First of all, Id strip the top,at least. Stain to match, let dry a day. Use sanding sealer, let dry, lightly sand with 220, dust, apply two finish coats of varnish, or compatible polyurethane. Light sanding and dust between.

September 5, 20231 found this helpful

Hire a professional with at least 4 years training and necessary qualifications.

September 8, 20230 found this helpful

WOW.I think you could been a little less aggressive in your post. Not everyone can afford a professional refinisher.
But, heythanks for the info.

September 13, 20230 found this helpful

Is it possible to find a furniture restorer who will only refinish the top of a dresser. I have an Ethan Allen dresser (maple with walnut finish) that is worn the on only one corner. The rest of the dresser is fine.

October 19, 20230 found this helpful

Shellac is also very useful sometimes

November 10, 20230 found this helpful

Oh my --There is nothing worse than ruining a beautiful antique with polyurethane!! PLEASE don't use this -it looks cheap and plastic-like and is as un-authentic as it gets. Please use either: Varnish. Paste wax (like Johnson's paste wax) Shellac, or Mohawk's Spray Lacquer. Tung oil is another choice if that is a look you prefer. Any of these will give a beautiful sophisticated proper-looking finish

November 22, 20230 found this helpful

I just wanted to thank you for sharing this information. I have often used lemon juice or vinegar with olive oil, unaware that it could cause so many issues! Never again!

November 23, 20230 found this helpful

I might skip the minwax but definitely sand and refinish I do it everyday

December 25, 20230 found this helpful

I found a hand carved sofa and chair at a garage sale. The sofa had been used by a man who worked on cars in the garage and was crusted with black stuff. I planned to reupholster but before that I wanted to get the crud off and didn't want to strip the finish because it had a nice patina. I tried all kinds of kind and gentle cleaning products for wood to no avail and finally used the hand cleaner Gojo in the orange bottle thinking it wouldn't be too drying and it gets crud off of men's hands right? It worked beautifully and didn't hurt the natural coloring of the wood! I used a marker for some damage that was there on a small spot like you did. I followed with tung oil which completely restored a nice satin antique finish! Tung oil is my preferred to go to - I hate polyurethane - tung oil is more forgiving to work with, you can work on a section at a time and it goes quickly because you coat brief wait then buff off excess, it is easier for work on carved surfaces like the sofa and chair. The sofa and chair are in my living room and look great after more than 20 years since I rescued them! After having a cat jump onto the last coat of polyurethane on an antique piece that went deep into the prior coats requiring me to start over - never again!

January 5, 20240 found this helpful

There are (shortcuts) in todays world (where many people cant AFFORD to do it right!)

January 30, 20220 found this helpful

AMAZING! Gonna try it!!!

August 16, 20221 found this helpful

Thanks for this information. I have purchased the pens about 4 months ago, they are still standing in a box in my living room, awaiting me to repair my coffee table. I also purchased Scratch cover for medium wood, which is purchased from Wilko in UK, instead of olive oil and vinegar.
I am now ready to go.
Will they work on vinyl kitchen flooring which has become due to unfortunate bangs over the years?
I guess there is no harm in trying, it can only improve, not do further damage?

October 8, 20220 found this helpful

Thank you for sharing this with us. I'm going to try it on my coffee table!

June 19, 20230 found this helpful

For the love of Bob. Use oil that is meant to go on furniture, not a salad.


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