If you're looking at your furniture and wondering why you ever bought it in the first place, it may just be in dire need of a good cleaning. Even if you dust your wood furniture regularly, the cleaning products you use, especially polish and waxes, can build up over time, causing a once beautiful grain to become muddy and dull looking.
Unfortunately, using even more cleaning products won't restore the wood to the glorious look that caused you to buy it in the first place. Instead, you need to give it a thorough cleaning using products that will strip off the oils, grime, waxes and dirt that have collected over the years. The first thing you should know is that every piece of wood furniture can have different cleaning requirements. So you really want to find the manufacturer's original cleaning instructions or look online to see if there's a copy there.
If you really want to get the dirt out and restore the luster, avoid commercial wood soaps. They really aren't strong enough to remove the grime that has built up. The best product out there also is less costly than commercial products. In a clean jar, create a mixture that's one part turpentine, one part vinegar and two parts linseed oil. It' OK if you make too much. Just don't make too little for the project at hand.
After stirring this mixture up, it's time to get down to the cleaning. Make sure you do this outdoors or in a well ventilated place. Turpentine fumes can really make you sick if you're not letting them vent properly. Lay down some drop cloths to catch any of the mixture that drips. This is another reason why you probably want to go outside when you're planning to clean wood furniture. Before you do the whole piece of furniture, you'll want to apply the mixture to a part that doesn't show. It's always best to test so you know what the results of your hard work will be. In some cases, especially with older furniture, a good cleaning can substantially lighten the wood. You may discover that you actually like it dirty.
If everything looks good to you, dip some fine steel wool into the mixture. Use small circular strokes to scrub the wood lightly. As you finish each section, wipe it off with a clean rag. You'll be amazed at how much dirt comes off.
Be sure you clean wood furniture a little at a time. You don't want the mixture to dry out. Continue cleaning the furniture until it has a uniform appearance. Dispose of the mix and any rags safely. Turpentine is highly flammable so treat it with respect. Now that your wood furniture is clean, you want to keep it maintained. You should regularly dust your furnishings, but don't be tempted to pour on more polish or wax. Instead, use some furniture oil and rub it into the wood to nurture it and keep it from cracking or becoming brittle.
If you notice water stains in the furniture, you can try laying a cloth over the spot and placing a warm iron over it. Or rub in some lemon oil and see if that does the trick. This also works for stains from cosmetics, medicines or alcohol, by the way. Burns can be removed with a powdered pumice/linseed oil paste. Rub it into the burn and keep repeating this until the burn is gone. Spilled milk can be removed by using a cloth that has been dipped into ammonia or silver polish. Be sure to wipe the area with a clean cloth when you're through. Whatever you do, treat your wood lovingly once you've taken the time to give it a deep cleaning. Resist the temptation to lavish it with Pledge or other commercial waxes or polishes and your love affair with your wood furniture should last a long time.
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