How to Clean Wood Furniture

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man completing the process of how to clean wood furniture

When you have wood furniture in your home, there are times when it simply needs to be cleaned. If you need to know how to clean your wood furniture, follow these key steps to ensure that you maintain the quality of the wood furniture and its finish while still keeping it looking its best. Both indoor and outdoor furniture may need regular cleaning and repair efforts, especially if they’ve been stored away for a long time. Getting them completely clean may prove easier than you think with our simple eight-step guide to how to clean wood furniture.

  1. Dust the furniture
  2. Create a cleaning solution
  3. Barely dampen your rag
  4. Wipe down the furniture with the furniture cleaning solution and a rag
  5. Use a dry rag to wipe down the furniture again
  6. Leave the furniture to finish air-drying
  7. Cleaning wood furniture may mean refinishing the furniture
  8. Polish your furniture

Step One: Dust the furniture.

Before you start the process of how to clean wood furniture, take the time to dust your wood furniture. Since part of the cleaning process is removing polish buildup, you do not want to use furniture polish for this step. Furniture polish may also add another layer that you need to clean away.

Instead, use a microfiber cloth and dust your furniture normally. Make sure you get your rag in all the crannies and crevices, especially on a decorated or carved wood piece. Learning how to clean wood furniture starts with removing all the dust, which will prevent it from turning into dirt or a coating of grime when you add moisture.

Step Two: Create a cleaning solution.

Need to know how to clean wood furniture effectively without damaging the finish or the wood? Create your own cleaning solution. Many types of wood finishes, including paint, can be wiped down with a solution made of dish soap and water. You want to dilute the dishwashing solution thoroughly. A little goes a long way! Create enough solution that you can easily use it to clean the furniture, but don’t feel the need to overdo it. You won’t need much of the solution itself to take care of cleaning the furniture.

You may also want to look into a cleaner designed specifically for wood. This is a good idea if you have several pieces of furniture that you need to clean or if you know that you’ll need to take care of cleaning it often.

Want to know how to clean wood furniture with vinegar? Mix up a cleaning solution that consists of equal parts vinegar and water, rather than a harsher cleaner. The cleaning steps are the same, and you don’t have to worry about breathing in harsh chemicals.

Pro Tip: Before using your cleaning solution on the wood furniture, test the dish soap or wood cleaner to make sure it will not damage the furniture.

Place a small amount of dish detergent, wood cleaner, or vinegar on a cotton ball and use it on an inconspicuous part of the furniture. If it strips away the finish on your furniture, you should not use that type of solution, and you may want to proceed with water alone. This is an important part of establishing how to clean wood furniture without causing damage to the surface.

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Step Three: Barely dampen your rag.

Do not saturate the rag you plan to use to wipe down your wood furniture. Instead, barely dampen the rag. Wring it out thoroughly before beginning. You may also choose to use a barely dampened sponge, rather than using a rag to take care of your cleaning. A microfiber cloth is an excellent choice for your wood cleaning task. Microfiber cloths are highly absorbent, which means that they’ll be less likely to leave water on your wood furniture. As you consider how to clean your wood furniture, make sure you use as little liquid as possible.

Pro Tip: You do not want to saturate wood furniture or let the solution sit on the surface.

Leaving too much liquid on the furniture for too long can cause significant damage to the furniture itself. Instead, use as little water as possible to achieve your desired results. Saturating wood furniture can damage the finish and the structure of the wood. This can, in turn, cause your wood furniture to degrade or require further repairs. Cleaning wood furniture often means maintaining a delicate touch.

Step Four: Wipe down the furniture with the furniture cleaning solution and a rag.

someone lightly wiping down furniture with a rag

Lightly wipe down the piece of furniture, being careful to clean away any sticky or dirty spots that are clearly visible. Wipe gently. If you’re not sure how to clean wood furniture with deep stains, the answer is more time, not more force. You may need to go over particularly sticky or dirty spots several times before you see the results you need, but don’t increase the scrubbing force. If you have trouble getting a specific stain or mess off of the furniture, consider using a little cleaner, like dish soap, directly on that spot. You may also leave a little cleaning solution on a tough stain for a few minutes. Dish soap often cuts through sticky or grease-based messes, since it’s designed to clear food mess away.

Pro Tip: Pay attention to any designs or crevices in your furniture.

If you’ve over-saturated your rag, it’s easy for water to run into these areas. You may not notice it right now, but over time, that can cause damage to your wood furniture, including weakening the overall structure of the wood. As you consider how to clean wood furniture, don’t let extra water accumulate. Carefully wipe down crevices individually rather than allow water to trickle into them.

Step Five: Use a dry rag to wipe down the furniture again.

Your dry rag will wipe away most of the water on the furniture. The trick to knowing how to clean wood furniture is to keep it as dry as possible. Therefore, you want to take care of this step as quickly as possible. The longer you leave the water on the furniture, the higher the likelihood that the water will damage it. Make sure you take your dry rag into any cracks, crevices, or carvings on the furniture, too. Water can pool there and cause damage that’s difficult to repair.

If you notice that the furniture is still damp after you’ve wiped it down once, you may want to repeat this step to ensure that the furniture is thoroughly dried.

Step Six: Leave the furniture to finish air-drying.

Allow the wood furniture to dry completely before attempting to use it. Since you only used a little bit of water, it won’t be long before your furniture is ready for the next step! Outdoor furniture can easily be left to dry outside. For indoor furniture, make sure that you have plenty of airflow.

Alternatively, you could take the furniture outside on a sunny day to let it dry in the sun. If you live in a very humid climate or it’s a rainy day, you may want to keep your furniture indoors and let it sit for longer.

Step Seven: Cleaning wood furniture may mean refinishing the furniture.

In some cases, you may find that your furniture simply could not withstand the cleaning process. Part of knowing how to clean wood furniture effectively includes knowing how to strip and repair that furniture.

You may want to move your furniture to a well-ventilated area that you don’t mind getting a little messy. Start by stripping the paint off of your wood furniture. Remove all of the old finish, then clean it with mineral spirits. You’ll also need to sand your furniture as smooth as possible. Then remove all of the residue from sanding to ensure that your new finish will be as smooth and shiny as your old finish.

Finally, apply the stain. You’ll need to use a rag moving along the grain of the wood to remove any excess stain. It may take multiple coats of stain before you’re happy with the color of your furniture. Continue removing the excess with a dry rag between each coat, rather than allowing it to dry with the excess still in place. Once you’re happy with the color of your furniture, apply a clear coat. Then allow it to dry completely before using it.

Step Eight: Polish your furniture.

If you usually use furniture polish on your wood furniture, save it for the end. Once the furniture is fully clean and dry (and refinished, if needed), then you can add a layer of polish to get the gleam you love in your wood furniture. Apply a light layer of the spray on a dry rag, rather than directly on your furniture. Then wipe your furniture down. Avoid oversaturating the wood, and do not apply furniture polish before your furniture has a chance to dry.

Knowing how to clean your wood furniture can help keep it looking its best. Knowing how to clean old wood furniture follows many of the same steps, but with a greater attention to detail. With these simple steps, you can remove minor stains and accumulated dirt from your wood furniture. Then your furniture can enjoy a longer, more useful lifespan in your kitchen, bedroom, and backyard.

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