Wood furniture

How to restore wooden furniture: clean, repair and restore

Are you looking for practical advice on restoring wooden furniture? You have come to the right place. Old, neglected wood furniture often suffers from a build-up of dirt and grime, with diminished color and luster resulting in a dull appearance. With this in mind, antique furniture owners often wonder how to restore old wooden furniture (often very valuable pieces) to their former glory.

Fortunately, restoring wood furniture is pretty easy and we’ve created this easy-to-follow guide so that when you come in to restore furniture, you know what to do for ultimate success. Plus, with catering furniture seemingly always at the forefront of home trends – in period and contemporary properties – and therefore more expensive to buy, now you can save on something beautiful just by creating the your.

  • Check out our guide to maintenance, cleaning and polish wood furniture if you have more modern rooms in the house.
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The mahogany desk in this project below had some ugly watermarks marring the top that also needed special attention. While it is easy to restore old wooden furniture on a DIY basis, we always recommend that you make sure you are using the right products. Our guide below explains the renovation and cleaning of furniture carried out by professionals.

Once you’re done, check out all of our cleaning purchases, tutorials and tips to help keep the rest of your home sparkling. Perhaps you are looking for expert advice on antique furniture restoration and all period properties, both interior and exterior? Go to our Lifetime hub page.

Everything you will need to restore old wooden furniture:

How to restore old wooden furniture: step by step instructions

1. Prepare to undress

Furniture stripping is messy, but the key to restoring wood, so work outside if possible. If you work indoors, protect nearby floors and furniture and ensure good ventilation. To avoid damaging the finish of the table body, cover it with a plastic sheet so that only the top is exposed. Apply the stripper liberally with an old brush.

How to restore old wooden furniture: the first step in restoration

2. Let the layers dissolve

For a good result when finishing wood, leave the stripper for five to 30 minutes until the finish – a mixture of old varnish and shoe polish – has dissolved. The duration will depend on the composition and the thickness of the coating. If the stripper hasn’t removed all of the layers, just roll out the paste and it will keep working.

How to restore old wooden furniture: second stage of restoration

Finishing wood furniture may seem like an art, but it is easy to do.

3. Neutralize the chemical stripper

Neutralize the wood with a pad of steel wool soaked in white spirit or proprietary wax and polishing remover, following the grain of the wood. Before using any chemical, always read the label carefully as different strippers require different neutralizers. Failure to neutralize the stripper may allow it to reactivate and your wood restoration may not go as expected.

4. Clean the rest of the table:

The next step in finishing furniture is to wipe off residue with cotton rags and let sit for 24 hours. Meanwhile, clean away dirt and old polish elsewhere by applying wax remover to a steel wool pad or coarse rag and working in small areas at a time. Leave the wax on for a few minutes to soften and wipe off with a clean cloth before it solidifies.

How to restore old wooden furniture: the stages of restoration

5. Return to the table

24 hours after stripping the deck, use a sanding block and very fine sandpaper to smooth any wood fibers raised during stripping – work with the grain. Shake and vacuum the protective sheet to get rid of any dust that could damage the finished part. Finally, wipe the top with a tack cloth.

6. Tackle areas of bleached wood

When you restore furniture, you will notice that each room is different to approach. Here, for example, for many years the table has been placed under a window and the sun has bleached some of the wood, so applying a mahogany wood stain will make the top a uniform color. Apply generously with a brush and allow the stain to penetrate; wipe off excess with a rag. Ensure a uniform finish by working in good lighting.

How to restore old wooden furniture: the stages of restoration

Catering furniture is the perfect way to introduce something timeless into period and modern properties.

7. Improve the gloss and finish when finishing wood

When dry, apply a coat of finishing oil using a brush or lint-free cloth. Let the oil soak in for 10 minutes and wipe off the excess before it sticks. Wait at least five hours and rub gently with 0000 gauge steel wool before re-coating; repeat again – the more layers, the greater the durability and shine.

8. The final embellishment with a wood restorer

Finally, apply a thin layer of good furniture wax sparingly over the entire table. Leave on for at least an hour and polish with a lint-free cloth. To prevent warping caused by drying out wood, place furniture away from radiators and fires. Sunlight bleaches the wood, so make sure it is not placed under a window

Home remedies to restore old wooden furniture

There are a few other tips you can use to restore furniture in the home. You can remove surface dirt and old layers of polishing wax with a homemade mixture of four parts white spirit to one part linseed oil. If the finish still looks a bit lifeless, pour some exclusive wood conditioner onto a cotton cloth and buff vigorously.

One such remedy that works when finishing wooden furniture is:

  • 1 part of linseed oil
  • 2 parts of methamphetamine
  • 2 turps games
  • 2 parts distilled vinegar

Finally, refinish the furniture with beeswax polish and it should bring it back to life.


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