Cleaning Antique Oak Furniture?

I have an old piece of Tiger oak (probably from the 1920s) that was made into a coffee table. The oak is due for a refurbishing. I don't want to get into anything more than a good cleaning and polishing. I had heard to try using a detergent and water to remove the dirt and grease, let dry, and then apply polish works well. I want to use dark Old English polish, as it is made to hide scratches, which there are a few, but nothing major.


Are using soap and water for cleaning safe on the wood, or would Murphy's Oil soap be a better choice? I never thought Murphy's soap actually cleaned very well. Any and all tips are much appreciated. Thank you all.

By Luann DeLuca from Corning, NY

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March 6, 20102 found this helpful

I wouldn't use soap and water on wood. I always use Murphy's on my wood. Recently I found a product called Feed-N-Wax. It's by Howard (never heard of it.) and the instructions are to apply with a cloth, wait 20 minutes, then buff off.


I garnered quite a bit of dark dirt from my clean furniture doing this. It's made of beeswax and orange oil.


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March 7, 20100 found this helpful

I'd recommend going to an antique store or an antique mall because they usually have the very best wood cleaners for sale & they also could answer your questions. But I've heard the orange-oil wood cleaner is some of the best & have seen one brand of the orange-oil wood cleaner sold at my local antique mall. Also, you can't beat that wonderful orange smell!

As far as the Old English scratch remover goes, it does work wonders, but be sure to buy the one made for light-colored wood! I once stripped a bunch of old & gunky furniture polish mixed with lots of nicotine (from years of cigarette smoke) by using straight Ammonia (not the sudsy kind) but straight ammonia is only for those rare cases where the furniture wax &/or oils have built up over many years & have turned really sticky & yucky. You MAY be able to use a tiny bit of ammonia mixed with water if you have a huge build-up of wax & furniture polish, but use care, Ammonia is strong stuff & water isn't good for wood!


After I used the straight ammonia & the piece was rinsed & dry, I followed it with the dark Old-English scratch remover & this old furniture cabinet from the 1950's looked so wonderful & new, my mother-in-law thought it WAS brand new! She couldn't believe it was her original piece of furniture!

---> But for your nice antique oak coffee table, I would use a cleaner made to clean & polish wood... Not something from the grocery store. Buy a good wood cleaner from an Antique store near you.

* I agree with the previous post, if it were up to me, I wouldn't use the Murphy's Soap to clean your table! Her product sounds good, but once you use wax, oil will not penetrate. But furniture wax can REALLY protect a table & it's especially nice when you eat & drink on the table!


* If the Old English doesn't work, you can hide your scratches by taking a set of thin-tip $1 store, kids water-color markers & match the colors in the wood with the markers, then simply fill-in the scratch with a blend of the colors that look best, if you make a mistake, you can remove with a little alcohol & a Q-tip. The same goes for the permanent markers, they also can be blended or removed with alcohol.
* For deeper scratches use melted brown crayons.

Another hint: For super dry wood, a tiny bit of Mineral Oil can be applied to the wood then left to sit for 10 minutes or so then buffed off (really well!) with a soft cotton cloth. Never use vegetable oils because they eventually turn rancid.

November 13, 20180 found this helpful

I used olive oil on my new antique dresser just the other day. I wiped it down really good after. What is rancid??

May 12, 20190 found this helpful

Rancid is basically rot. When something turns rancid it starts to have bad odors.

September 10, 20190 found this helpful

Clean your furniture with a little White spirit-(turps) to remove the vegetable oil. Follow with a good wax polish. Let it dry Preferably over night then Buff with a soft cloth . Do not clean good furniture with water, soap or oils.


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March 11, 20100 found this helpful

I would NOT use Murphy's Oil soap on antique furniture. My mom has an antique mahogany hutch she was going to use it on & her brother-in-law( who spent his entire career as a cabinet maker) told her to never use that stuff on wood that you value!

March 30, 20100 found this helpful

Last Year I've revamped our main bedroom and I really like the warmth look oak furniture brings into a room. But at the same time oak furniture takes high maintenance. Stains that set into your oak furniture may be hard to get rid off. You must clean them as soon as they happen, or it will soak into the oak. Below is an examples of where you can get some quality oak furniture at really good price and how to keep this looking new.


April 18, 20100 found this helpful

I don't like Murphy's much either. I prefer the orange oil, but I also seen somewhere to give wood furniture a face lift you can use very thick instant coffee! Just make a sort of paste out of it put it on with a clean soft cloth then wipe it in like you would a stain. Then afterward treat with mineral oil. The piece that they did this to looked amazing afterward!


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