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Flea Market Finds: How to Clean Antique Wood

Cleaning antique wood

Treasure hunting isn’t only for the movies.

You go on a spectacular treasure hunt every time you go antiquing. But what if you find the perfect piece and it doesn’t look like treasure yet?

Most types of grit and gunk come off with regular cleaning that you can do at home. Get the pristine antique furniture you knew was underneath your latest purchase by using our ultimate guide for how to clean antique wood at home.

Test the Method

Before charging ahead with any of the cleaning tactics in this article, make sure that you always test it first. Find a small section of the wood in a spot where you can’t see it from most angles. Try to clean there, and if you don’t see any damage, then you can continue to use the cleaning method to work the rest of the wood.

Each of these methods will be different depending on the age of the treasure you found, the depth of the grime, and what the gunk is made of. You have no way to know what the previous owners used to try and clean or refinish the furniture, so that’s why testing each method in an invisible spot is imperative.

Regular Soap and Water

If you’re cleaning that chair you found to go with your vintage ottoman, chances are dish soap will work fine with some water. Unless the new furniture is too dirty, gentle rubbing with a soft cloth and soapy water will clean off the dirt from many years of wear.

How to Clean Antique Wood with Ammonia

While ammonia is a harsher chemical, it may be most effective if you have stubborn stains and grease marks. Don’t use the sudsy kind, and make sure you’ve got a big buildup of wax or other sticky messes. Otherwise, this can be too strong.

Dilute it with at least half water, and remember to test it before use.

Using Elbow Grease and Vinegar

Dilute the vinegar in a bucket or bowl with half water, as with the ammonia. Now use a gentle scrubbing motion with a soft-bristle brush. Don’t be too vigorous with your scrubbing because you don’t want to damage the finish.

Make sure you have a soft cloth handy to wipe the area after you’ve scrubbed with the brush. You’ll be able to see your progress, and any possible damage to know if you’re pressing hard enough.

Murphy’s Oil Soap

For cases that aren’t as bad, oil soap can clean wood and shine it. This won’t work very well if someone has waxed the antique buffet table or other furniture. If you’re sure the piece isn’t very dirty, try Murphy’s first. Be careful, and always test it first.

Preserving History

One of these methods for how to clean antique wood is sure to brighten your new piece of furniture. Bringing history home is part of the fun of shopping for antiques.

Make sure to polish the wood to protect it from future gunk and grime. Something like Old English can hide any scratch marks that your cleaning job revealed. Then your new piece is ready to show off in your home.

Read more Knock Off Decor for more inspiring decor and project ideas you can do at home.

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