How to Revive Lacquer Finishes on Furniture

wooden furniture image by Dmitry Nikolaev from

Lacquer is a protective finish that enhances your furniture's wood grain and provides a smooth and glossy finish. Over time, the gloss can fade due to usual wear and tear, but there are ways to revive lacquer finishes on furniture. Regular cleaning combined with the use of a few speciality products and techniques will ensure that your lacquer furniture looks new for years to come. You should also be able to identify when a finish is too worn and it's time to start over.

Clean dirt and grime from the surface. Often dullness can be blamed on simply needing a good cleaning. Typical cleaners paired with soft cloths, however, might not be strong enough for this job. Instead, try a product specifically made for removing wax and polish, if the surface has been waxed or polished in the past. Paint thinner, or white spirit, may also help to remove dirt. Scrub in a circular motion using very fine grade steel wool, and finish by wiping the surface with a clean towel.

Fill in the nicks and scratches. If your furniture piece is old, a few imperfections give it character, but it is possible to fill in minor damage if you prefer. Coat your furniture with the appropriate shade of paste wax to fill in these nicks and scratches and revive the colour. Wax adds depth and gloss to your furniture's finish, just be sure to choose a tint that closely matches your furniture's lacquer finish colour.

Soften the lacquer to repair it. If your furniture's finish has problems more serious than a few scratches, then you need to apply a lacquer thinner to literally soften the surface so that it fills in the imperfections, especially if the finish has wrinkled in places. Unlike paint thinner, lacquer thinner is made specifically to revive this type of finish beyond simply cleaning it.

Know when to call the pros. In some cases a lacquer finish can't be revived and you must start over. It's possible to relacquer the piece yourself by stripping the current finish and then applying a fresh one. This is time consuming and tedious work, and if the piece of furniture is an antique of value, you should consider taking it to a professional furniture refinisher.

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