How to clean antique wood

Updated February 21, 2017

Antique wood takes a little more effort to clean because of its delicacy. Age and wear will create a patina, which many antique collectors consider a treasured asset. In order to preserve the look of antique wood, it must be dusted, cleaned and polished regularly. However, cleaning chemicals and certain types of polishes may damage the wood. If the proper techniques are used, antique wood furniture and surfaces of all kinds can be maintained indefinitely.

Vacuum antique wood surfaces or dust with a clean, dry cloth at least once per week to remove dust. Use the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner for the best results. Dust carved, detailed or gilded areas of antique wood with a large sable brush.

Dip a clean cloth into solvent-based cleaning wax and gently wipe antique wood about once every two weeks to remove lingering dust and provide a deep cleaning. Wipe dry immediately with an absorbent paper towel. Never allow cleaning wax to stand on the surface.

Protect and polish antique wood with carnauba paste wax, which is made from the leaves of the carnauba palm and is completely safe for antique finishes. Rub a light coating of the wax over the surface of the wood using a soft cloth, moving with the grain of the wood.

Buff the antique wood immediately after applying the paste wax using a clean cloth. Move the cloth in a circular motion over the entire surface of the wood until a hard coating is formed. Allow the wax to set for at least 30 minutes before using the surface again.

Wipe the antique wood once more with a clean cloth after the wax has set to remove any loose soil or remaining dust. Buff the surface with an electric buffer if desired to remove any streaks or smears left behind by the manual buffing.


Use flannel cloths for dusting and waxing antique wood if possible. Flannel traps dust and dirt without damaging the delicate surfaces of antiques. A sable brush is a large artist's brush that can be purchased at craft and hobby stores. It's excellent for getting into the cracks and crevices of highly detailed antique wood. Beeswax may be used in place of carnauba wax if necessary, or a mixture of the two may be used for the same results. Polish and buff antique wood with paste wax once every month or two to preserve the soft-gloss finish.


Never use spray waxes or polishes on antique wood. They leave behind a silicone or high-gloss finish that makes refinishing antiques in the future much more difficult. Always consult a professional before refinishing or making any major changes to your antique wood furniture aside from basic cleaning.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum
  • Clean cloths
  • Sable brush
  • Solvent-based cleaning wax
  • Paper towels
  • Carnauba paste wax
  • Electric buffer (optional)
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About the Author

Willow Sidhe is a freelance writer living in the beautiful Hot Springs, AR. She is a certified aromatherapist with a background in herbalism. She has extensive experience gardening, with a specialty in indoor plants and herbs. Sidhe's work has been published on numerous Web sites, including