I have many years of experience in cleaning antique furniture, and have explained how to clean wood furniture many times before while liquidating estates, running an antique business and while participating in historic restoration projects. Cleaning antique furniture just requires a little common sense, a gentle touch, and a little instruction on how to clean wood furniture without using harmful cleaning products. Before attempting to clean wood furniture antique pieces, try to understand where that piece of furniture has been since it was cleaned last, and what that furniture piece may have been exposed to. If there is the remotest chance that the antique wood item was stored around mice, wear a dust mask and gloves until the piece is cleaned. There are some nasty diseases from mice that can be transferred to you through the item’s dirt or dust.
When cleaning wood furniture and especially when you clean wood furniture antiques, it is very important not to scrub in a circular motion. Always follow the lines of the grain in the wood when you clean wood furniture or you will be causing very tiny nicks as your rag rubs against the grain. Wood has lines and tiny pores like your skin does, and it is these lines and pores that are getting nicked. Over time, these tiny nicks will result in a terminally dull finish. Older pieces require more care while wiping than newer ones do.
How to clean wood furniture antique pieces:
The first thing that you do when cleaning wood furniture is to buy a couple of bottles of lemon oil. Find an old sock and put that over your hand or glove so that you can feel your wood through the sock. Now, dump and spread an even layer of lemon oil over your wood. Keep going. The lemon oil will keep soaking into the wood.
Clean wood furniture in the above manner until your wood quits drinking the lemon oil and has a light thin layer of oil on top. You may have to finish this step on how to clean wood furniture pieces over a period of days so that different parts of your wood furniture piece are facing up.
Let the standing lemon oil rest on your antique wood furniture piece overnight. The next day, using an old t-shirt, scrub the loose grime and all excess oil off of your clean wood furniture. Repeat this step as many times as needed until all signs of dirt, paint flecks, grime, and wax build-up are gone. If you have a stubborn paint fleck, use a razor blade under a magnifying glass to score an X into the top of it.
If you would like to speed your cleaning antique furniture process up, and you do not care about using harsh chemicals on your old wood, here is an old timer’s recipe on how to clean wood furniture in your living room:
Mix and use equal parts boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and vinegar to clean wood furniture. The linseed oil acts like lemon oil and it soaks into the pores of your wood. The turpentine removes flyspecks, paint flecks, and problem spots. The vinegar removes the heating smoke or cigarette smoke clinging to the wood.
You do get clean wood furniture rather quickly with the old timer’s oil, turpentine, and vinegar concoction. Although I am rather wary about trying this recipe on expensive antique wood furniture pieces, and prefer the lemon oil soaking method that I know will not harm anything.
An interesting side note to that turpentine recipe is that turpentine was used to clean wood floors during the 1800’s. It was spread over the floor, and then a layer of clean straw would be placed on top of it. Carpets were then placed over the straw that acted as room insulation and padding. Many homes were heated with fire and amazingly they didn’t all burn down. Turpentine cleaned, the smell kept mice away, and it killed bugs.