Are you the proud owner of a vintage or antique wooden chair, dresser or table? If so, these five tips on how to clean old wood furniture are a must!

There’s nothing like wood to give your home that warm, cozy feeling we all crave. And in my opinion – the older the wood, the cozier the feeling.

Maybe you inherited a wooden coffee table from your parents or found an antique dresser at a garage sale. However that beauty came into your life, you’re going to need to know how to care for it.

Thankfully, caring for and cleaning old wood furniture isn’t difficult because part of its charm is that it’s usually a little worn around the edges.

We have all kinds of old wooden things in our home. The newest addition is my husband’s grandma’s dining table. But we also have a collection of desks, dressers, chairs and benches we’e either had given to us or I’ve adopted from a secondhand shop or antique mall. 

And while I don’t do a whole lot to keep them looking beautiful, there are a few things that are definitely helpful when you want to give your old wood furniture some TLC.

And here are five of them!

Note that this post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you click on a link and make a purchase a small percentage of the sale goes to yours truly. Please know that I strive to only feature eco-conscious products and brands.


Dust Regularly

Dusting is annoying. However, avoiding the chore of cleaning all those resting particles from your furniture can eventually lead to damage. Dust is made up of dirt, dust mites, dead skin and other fun things that float around in your home. When left to settle on your wooden furniture or flooring for too long, it can scratch and wear down the surface of the wood.

But it’s actually pretty easy to prevent this. Just grab a soft cloth, dusting wand, dusting mitt – even an old piece of cotton fabric will do. If you’re having trouble getting the duster to actually pick the dust up get it ever-so-slightly damp before wiping.

Make sure to use a washable cloth or dusting wand as opposed to the disposable ones. There’s no need to the environment to suffer every time we clean. How cute are these colourful handmade washable dusters? (Image Credit: TSDesignsUS via Etsy)


Avoid Direct Sunlight

Yup. Direct sunlight on a piece of wood furniture over a long period of time can indeed damage it. Ultraviolet rays can fade the wood’s colour and wear down the layer responsible for hardening the wood’s cell wall. 

If moving your furniture away from any windows isn’t feasible, use blinds or curtains to lessen the burden on your furniture. Applying an eco-friendly varnish to your wooden furniture is almost like putting sunscreen on it – it prevents damage from sun exposure while increasing the piece’s durability.

If you’re dealing with a vintage piece that’s already sun-damaged, why not bleach it entirely to get that beach-y, coastal vibe? Check out Making Home Base for an easy to follow tutorial. (Image Credit: Making Home Base)

Need help choosing eco-conscious furniture and decor for your home? That’s what I’m here for!


Use an Eco-Friendly Varnish

And speaking of eco-friendly varnish! If you want to refinish a piece – perhaps because it’s banged up or because you want to sand it down to its original wood colour – you’ll want to reseal it with a clear varnish. But don’t pick any old varnish! Choose a product with little to no VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which are hazardous to your health and to the environment.

ECOS paints have a zero-VOC clear varnishes in satin, semi-gloss and gloss and can be used on furniture, as well as wood doors, frames and flooring. Another eco-friendly varnish option is by the brand Tried & True, who makes a zero-VOC rub-on varnish oil.

The great thing about a wood varnish – when compared to a stain – is that it protects your furniture without changing its colour. (Image Credit: ECOS Paints)


Make Homemade Furniture Polish

Wondering how to clean wood furniture naturally? If it isn’t so far gone it needs to be refinished, but definitely requires more than just a quick wipe, trying mixing up a batch of homemade furniture polish. 

Mix one cup of olive oil with a 1/4 cup of vinegar – or adjust ratio accordingly if you need more. Dab a soft cloth into the mixture and buff your furniture until it shines.

You can also make homemade polish out of olive oil and lemon juice for that delicious citrusy smell. Here’s a DIY recipe by The Blender girl! (Image Credit: The Blender Girl)


Gently Remove Mold, Surface Scratches and Water Stains

Got mold? First, use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to suck up any loose spores. Then, wet a soft cloth with water and a mild soap and wring until it’s nearly dry. Wipe off the mold and then wipe again with a dry cloth. 

For surface scratches, you can buy felt-tip touch-up pens or wood filler from most hardware stores. But honestly I don’t mind me a surface scratch – it just adds to the character in my opinion! Water stains are a bit more unfortunate, but are easily dealt with. Use a non-gel toothpaste to buff out the stain. You can also mix equal parts toothpaste and baking soda if you need a bit more abrasion.

One of my favourite vintage furniture pieces, which I’ve done absolutely nothing to because I think dings and scratches give it extra character!

Learning how to care for and clean old wood furniture is a worthwhile venture. After all, the longer your furniture lasts, the less often you’ll need to buy new pieces to replace them!

And if you’re wondering how to care for other wooden elements in your home – such as a solid wood front door, there are many reasons why a wooden door can sustain damage. Watch out for things like loose hinges and screws, issues with the door closing properly or with it sticking, which could mean your home has structural issues. Yikes!



Posted on March 9, 2022

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5 Eco-Friendly Tips on How to Clean Old Wood Furniture

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