Wood furniture has a classic look that pairs well with a wide variety of decorating styles. But good quality wood furniture can cost quite a bit, so caring for it properly is key. Dusting it regularly is important, but sometimes, dirt and grime may build up. You can make an effective cleaning solution that works on most finishes with dishwashing liquid and water, but if your furniture is particularly grimy, you may need to use mineral spirits. Once your wood pieces are clean, waxing them can help restore their shine and provide a protective film that keeps the furniture looking as good as possible.
EditDusting the Furniture
- Dampen a lint-free cloth slightly. A dry cloth can help rid the surface of wood furniture of dust, but you often wind up sending the dust airborne. To avoid spreading it to the rest of your home, wet a soft, lint-free cloth lightly with water and wring it out well so it’s not overly damp.
- Old, clean cotton T-shirts make ideal dust rags.
- Use a feather or lamb’s wool duster dry, alternatively. If you prefer, you can use a feather duster or lamb’s wool duster to dust the wood. It’s not necessary to dampen these tools, though, because static electricity with the feathers and lanolin in the lamb’s wool attracts and hangs onto to the dust.
- To clean a feather duster so you don’t spread dust around, take it outside and shake it out well. You can also vacuum it with a HEPA filter vacuum. If the duster is particularly dirty, swirl it in a solution of warm water and mild dishwashing soap. Rinse it thoroughly and allow it to air dry.
- To clean a lamb’s wool duster, vacuum it with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter. Next, hand wash it with a solution of warm water and mild dishwashing soap. Rinse it with warm water, and let it air dry.
- Wipe the cloth over the surface. When the cloth is lightly dampened, gently smooth it over the surface of the furniture to pick up any loose dust or dirt. Make sure to pay attention to any nooks and crannies, such as carved details, to ensure that you remove all of the dust.
- Dry the furniture with a clean cloth. If you dampened the dusting cloth too much, some moisture may be left on the furniture’s surface, which you don’t want to sit on the wood. Use a clean, dry lint-free cloth to wipe down the furniture and dry it thoroughly.
- Dust your wood furniture weekly. To avoid dirt buildup that requires more thorough cleaning, it’s good to get in the habit of dusting the wood at least once a week. However, you may want to dust more often if your home experiences an excessive amount of airborne dirt and dander.
EditUsing Dishwashing Liquid
- Moisten a cotton ball with water and dishwashing liquid. To make sure that the wood furniture’s finish won’t be affected by the cleaning solution, it’s important to test it. Wet a cotton ball with water, and then add a drop of your favorite dishwashing liquid soap.
- Test the mixture on a hidden spot of the furniture. Rub the dampened cotton ball over an inconspicuous spot where any damage won’t be seen. Wait a minute and then check to see if the finish is marred in anyway. If the finish looks undamaged, you can proceed with the dishwashing liquid solution.
- If the finish appears damaged when you test the dishwashing liquid, clean the furniture with water only.
- Combine the water and detergent in a bucket. Add 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of the dishwashing liquid and ½ gallon (1.9 l) of warm water to a large bucket. Mix the two together well to create a cleaning solution.
- Wipe down the surface down with the solution. Dip a sponge into the dishwashing liquid mixture to saturate it. Wring the sponge out to ensure that it’s not dripping or overly wet, and gently brush it over the furniture to clean the surface.
- You don’t want to oversaturate the wood with the solution, so don’t press the sponge against the furniture too hard. Instead, lightly move it over the surface to clean the wood.
- It’s not necessary to rinse the cleaning solution from the furniture because the soap has been diluted enough that it won’t leave much residue. When you dry the wood, you’ll remove any that’s been left behind.
- Dry the wood completely with a clean cloth. After you’ve sponged the entire surface of the furniture, it’s important to remove any excess moisture from the wood. Wipe it down with a clean, lint-free cloth to ensure that it’s thoroughly dried.
- Deep clean your wood furniture every 6 months. If you dust your furniture regularly, you usually only need to clean it more deeply once or twice a year. In the event of spills or other accidental messes, though, you should do a thorough deep cleaning to remove any sticky residue or film.
EditGetting a Deeper Clean with Mineral Spirits
- Moisten a cotton ball with the spirits and test them on the furniture. Mineral spirits usually don’t damage most wood finishes, but you should still play it safe. Dab some on a cotton ball, and rub it on a hidden spot of the furniture. If there’s no damage to the finish, you can clean the entire surface with the mineral spirits.
- If the finish reacts poorly to the mineral spirits, don’t clean the surface with them. You’ll likely have to refinish the furniture to fully remove all of the dirt and grime if that’s the case.
- Soak a cloth in the mineral spirits. Take a clean, lint-free cloth and wet it thoroughly with the mineral spirits. While you want the cloth saturated with the spirits, make sure that it’s not dripping.
- When you’re cleaning with mineral spirits, work in a well-ventilated area because the fumes can be dangerous. Open some windows and turn on a fan if possible.
- Wipe down the furniture with the cloth. When you’re sure that the cloth is not dripping, rub it over the wood surface to thoroughly clean it. Mineral spirits can often remove years of dirt, so work slowly and carefully to get rid of all the grime.
- Dampen a cloth with water and rinse the surface. After you’ve thoroughly cleaned the furniture with the mineral spirits, wet another clean, lint-free cloth with water. Wring it out so it’s not dripping, and gently wipe it over the furniture to rinse off the mineral spirits.
- Dry thoroughly with a cloth. To avoid having excess moisture sitting on the wood, it’s important to dry the furniture. Use another clean, lint-free cloth to wipe down the surface and remove any moisture.
EditWaxing the Furniture
- Wax wood furniture only after it’s been thoroughly cleaned. Furniture wax helps form a protective film on the surface of the wood. If the furniture is dirty when you apply it, you’ll only wind up trapping the grime beneath it, which can make it more difficult to get the furniture clean in the future.
- Place a spoonful of wax on a clean cloth and knead it. Use a cloth that’s made of 100 percent cotton and lint-free. The spoonful of wax should resemble the size of golf ball. Wrap the cloth around the wax, and gently knead it with your hand until the wax is softened.
- To protect your wood furniture, you should wax it after each time that you clean the furniture.
- Buff the wax into the furniture until you’ve covered the entire surface. Once the wax is softened, rub it over the wood with the cloth in circular motions. Work in one small area at a time until you’ve waxed the entire surface.
- Make sure to work in the direction of the wood grain as you buff in the wax.
- Wipe away the excess wax with a clean cloth. The wax will gradually dull the surface of the wood as you buff it into the furniture. Use a clean, lint-free cotton cloth to wipe away the wax film to restore the natural finish.
- You should turn your cloth over frequently as you rub to ensure that you remove all of the excess wax.
- Apply a second coat of wax for maximum shine. If your furniture’s finish isn’t quite as shiny as you’d like, repeat the entire waxing process to add another coat. Dust your wood furniture regularly to avoid grime build up in the future.
- When you’re purchasing new or antique wood furniture, it’s a good idea to ask for the proper cleaning and care guidelines.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Clean, lint-free cotton cloths
- Cotton balls
- Dishwashing liquid soap
- Mineral spirits
- Wood wax