How to Clean Wood Furniture Step by Step
Wooden furniture is classic, chic, and can be adapted to suit essentially any style, from Scandi to mid century modern, contemporary and traditional. It’s also tough as nails; a durable pick for every home that’ll withstand the test of time if taken care of. But, what should you do when your timber furniture is looking a little worse for wear?
Unlike rust-proof metals, wooden facades (think particleboard) and plastics, cleaning wood furniture involves a bit of care, and can’t simply be solved with a wet wipe. To help you through the process, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide to keeping your wooden dining table, bed frame, coffee table, or other wooden item looking spic and span. Save this for the next time you need to clean timber…
Maintaining your wooden furniture
Ensuring your wooden pieces look good is truly all in the maintenance. If you care for your beloved furniture items day to day, you won’t have to worry about ‘deep cleaning’ them often, if at all. A quick dust every week or so, and a regular polish, will provide all the TLC they need.
There’s nothing worse than rapidly accumulating dust bunnies marring your beautiful furniture, so it’s best to stick to a frequent dusting routine – at least once every fortnight, or weekly if you can manage it. Keeping this up will also ensure that you’re not triggering hayfever or allergies amongst your household members!
The easiest way to dust your wooden piece is to grab a microfibre cloth and run it over its surface to collect all of the dust. If you find it’s becoming airborne quickly, you can either vacuum afterwards, or spray a small amount of water or furniture polish onto the microfibre cloth to dampen it, which will pick up more dust (just be careful not to go overboard – wet dust is an unruly beast!).
Polishing and waxing your wood
Another must-do task in a solid timber maintenance routine is giving your wood a good polish or wax, depending on your needs. This step will buff out any small marks or stains, create a thin protective layer, and best of all, give your wood a shiny and sleek finish.
Wood polishes come in an array of formats and formulas, but the two key choices you’re facing are sprays versus oils. In most circumstances, an oil will be the better bet – sprays can cause discolouration in the wood if concentrated too hard in one area, and often leave a difficult-to-remove residue that no furniture owner wants to deal with. Instead, source a quality polish oil that you like the look and feel of (try to test it out before you go whole-hog) and apply this lightly to a microfibre cloth. Run the cloth over the length of your piece using gentle circular motions, and once you’re done, it’ll look good as new.
If you have a tad more time, but want to really prolong the life of your wooden piece, we can’t go past furniture wax. Furniture wax is especially good for antique or second-hand pieces, or anything that has been constructed using high-quality materials, as it offers a protective coating that will resist further nicks and scrapes. Wax comes in a tin, and has a putty-like consistency – scoop out a small amount based on the size of the furniture piece you’re caring for, and warm it between your hands before applying. Knead into the wood with small, circular motions until the entire surface of your piece is covered – et voila, furniture that’s expertly protected against the elements and wear and tear for many years to come. Waxing is especially good for a wooden desk, dining table, or wooden coffee table, as these pieces tend to get used very frequently and bear any manner of different objects.
Removing marks and stains from wooden furniture
Cleaning wooden furniture is a delicate task, but it doesn’t have to be tricky – if you know what you’re doing, and go in with the right materials, that timber piece will be back to its original glory in no time. To remove a particularly tough mark or stain, you’ll first want to determine what it’s made out of, or what the texture is. If it’s sticky, some detergent or soap and a couple of drops (we’re not underselling it – just a few) of water will do the trick. Work at the stain until it’s removed, being sure to fully dry the surface as quickly as you can when complete.
If it’s something a little deeper, or that’s been there a while, though, you might need to bring out the big guns… like toothpaste! Non-gel toothpaste is a lifesaver when dealing with tricky stains on wood, especially water marks – simply apply to a soft cloth such as a microfibre or an old t-shirt, and rub into the affected area. If that doesn’t work, an alternative for darker and more prominent stains is a bit of methylated spirits on a dry rag. Tread very gently, only adding a few drops and topping up where necessary as you work on the stain. This should clear it right up, but if you’re still left with marks, it’s either time to call it a day or consider a whole refinishing of your piece.
Fixing scratches and nicks in wooden furniture
When you clean your wood table, desk or wooden bed frame, for instance, you might notice some nicks and cuts – especially if it’s an older piece, or has been constructed from a softer wood. Firstly, don’t panic! If they’re just surface level, it’s an easy fix, and even deeper cuts are manageable with the right tools. To remove light scratches on the surface of your timber piece, find a scratch remover at your local hardware shop and apply it per the instructions. You might need to use something with thin bristles or coils like steel wool to embed the product into the affected area.
For a deeper scratch or nick, furniture wax offers another purpose – gap-filling! Knead it into the scratch and remove any excess with a sharp, flat surface like a putty knife or credit card. You might need to employ some sandpaper if things still look a little uneven, before finishing with a furniture polish in the right colour to ensure everything looks harmonious.
Some final wood maintenance tips
Ready to get out there and start cleaning your timber piece? Whether you’re dealing with something small like a wooden stool or a huge timber dining table, the same principles apply every time. To make sure you’re maintaining your furniture to the very best of your ability, here are a few final handy hints from our expert Brosa stylists.
Determine your furniture’s finish
Whether your furniture piece is finished or unfinished should influence the way you clean it. Something raw-hewn and rough will absorb more water, leading to swelling, so be very careful not to oversaturate your piece. Instead, stick to gentle products and damp microfibre cloths.
Go with the grain
The grain of your furniture is the direction the wood runs in – and it’s an important fact to pay attention to as part of your cleaning routine. Always rub, scrub and polish with the grain, not against it, to maintain the sleek look and feel of your wooden furniture piece.
Finally, a huge part of treating your wooden furniture piece well is keeping it away from too much water. Excess moisture can ‘waterlog’ your timber item or cause it to swell, as well as provoking mould and damp. When cleaning, be sure to use small amounts of water and to never apply it directly to your furniture piece, instead applying to your cloth first.
Wooden furniture is a gorgeous addition to any home, and comes in a huge array of styles and finishes to suit the dining room, living room, bedroom, and home office. Just like any other furniture piece, a wooden item deserves to be treated with care and consideration – so keep these tips up your sleeve to ensure your timber looks and feels good for longer.