How to clean an antique wood table & chairs without damaging them

Written by lindsay woolman
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Antique wooden furniture has a special place in any home. This type of furniture has often been hand-crafted and has stood the test of time. An antique wooden table and chairs are likely to have had a lot of use and need proper cleaning. Careless handling can not only harm the appearance, but also devalue the table and chairs. Make sure your antique wood furniture cleaning methods restore the beauty so you can enjoy the pieces for years to come.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Start with the least invasive method. Dust the entire piece with a soft cotton cloth, removing the dirt and particles. Use a soft toothbrush to clean between cracks

  2. 2

    To further remove grim, take the cloth and dampen it with lukewarm water and a mild vegetable-based soap mixture. Don't use dishwasher or laundry soap as it can leave a film behind. Be extra careful with areas that have gold or silver leaf gilding. Those parts should only be dusted with a soft cloth, not water.

  3. 3

    Run the damp cloth quickly over the surface. Keep turning over the cloth to avoid transferring dirt to other sections. Repeat with clear water. Avoid getting areas wet that are cracked or exposed. Wipe completely dry.

  4. 4

    If the antique table and chairs have wax build-up and a thin layer of dirt that just won't disappear, you can try using an oil and abrasive combination, such as paraffin oil and a pumice stone, along with a finest-grit steel (0000) wool pad.

  5. 5

    Put the pumice stone (abrasive) into a small can and the oil in another container. Dip the steel wool into the oil and then on the abrasive. Only clean as much as the surface needs. Scrubbing too hard or too long on an area will cause it to appear dull looking.

  6. 6

    Polish with lemon oil or furniture wax, if desired. Waxing antique furniture should only be done once or twice a year.

Tips and warnings

  • Always do a test run first on the underside of a table or chair to make sure the cleaning method won't cause damage to the surface.

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