The Best Way to Clean Old Furniture

The Best Way to Clean Old Furniture

Do you love antiquing but don’t know how to clean it right? Or do you have an old dresser in your garage that you’ve wanted to fix up? In this article, we will guide you on the best way to clean old furniture.

Over the years debris, dust, and grime build up over such pretty pieces of furniture. Some people toss old furniture out but people like us have a strong respect for antique things in life. We’re willing to do the work.

But where do you start when it comes to cleaning old furniture? Can you clean it like you would any other piece of furniture?

We’re sharing out secret for the best way to clean old furniture so you can pretty up your new old furniture.

Step #1 Test Your Cleaner 

When it comes to older wood furniture, you want to avoid strong chemicals at all costs. All those heavy cleaners you would use to wash any other wood furniture is too much.

You can easily damage older furniture with those tough chemical cleaners. They can tear away the finish and paint.

We prefer to use dish detergent. It’s one of the most mild cleaners you can find out there.

Stay away from the dish detergent you use in a dishwasher though. Even that’s too harsh for old furniture. It can peel away finish as well.

Even though you’re using a mild dish detergent you should check to make sure it doesn’t ruin the finish on the antique first. You never know how it’ll react.

Take a wash cloth and wipe some dish detergent in a small area. You should know right away if it’ll ruin the finish. You can leave it on for about five minutes to double-check.

Another option is to use white vinegar. For each cup of water you pour in a bowl, add in three tablespoons of white vinegar.

Like with the dish detergent, you’ll want to test out the diluted white vinegar before you commit to using it to clean.

Step #2 Wipe the Furniture Down 

Step #2 Wipe the Furniture Down


Wet your wash cloth and add the dish detergent (or diluted white vinegar) to it so you can get started wiping down the furniture. But don’t get the antique too wet because it will warp, rot, or even crack the wood.

Move the wash cloth in the same direction as the grain on the wood. This should remove most of the dirt and grime on it.

Use a steel wool pad for anything you can’t get with a wash cloth. Don’t scrub or you’ll scratch the wood. And be gentle while you wash.

If you’re still having problems getting out stains with dish detergent or white vinegar, try your hand at cleaning the wood with mineral spirits.

Once you’re done, you need to dry the wood right away with a dry wash cloth.

Step #3 Remove Water Stains 

Now you can work on the extra issues that come along with old furniture. Some old furniture may be covered in water stains.

To clean the water stains, you first need to make your own cleaner. Mix together a tablespoon of baking soda with a tablespoon of toothpaste.

Once it’s mixed, you apply it to the water stain you’re ready to work on. Using a wash cloth, rub the cleaner in a circle motion over the stain. Be gentle while you rub out the water stain.

Dry the wood off once all the water stains are gone.

When it comes to oil stains on old furniture, the only thing that’s going to remove them is mineral spirits.

Step #4 Shine the Furniture 

Step #4 Shine the Furniture


Once your antique is good and clean, you can move on to shining it. A great shine will make it look as if it’s brand new again. But you can’t use any shining product because of the harsh chemicals.

You’re going to make tea. Yes, you read that right.

Put on a pot of water and set it to boil. Dunk two or three teabags into the water once it’s started boiling.

You’re going to use the tea and a wash cloth to wipe the furniture down. This will give the wood a fantastic shine.

Make sure you don’t soak the wood so it doesn’t get damaged.

Step #5 Prevent the Furniture from Getting Dirty Again 

It feels like old furniture gets dirtier easier than newer wood furniture. We don’t know if it’s fact or if it just gives off the impression. Either way, you want to prevent the antique from getting super dirty again.

Keep up with the dusting. Dust is one of the easiest to build up. It helps to dust at least every two weeks. But if you have the time, consider dusting once a week instead.

This is the biggest step that will prevent you from dealing with a dirty mess again.

When it’s possible, keep the furniture out of the sun. And you should keep it out of the way of a window.

The sunlight can damage the wood and sunlight damage is very hard to get rid of. Not to mention, it attracts dust. 


You don’t have to get rid of your old furniture and antiques because they’re super dirty. You can clean them in your own home with supplies that you already own. You don’t even have to head to the store for anything.

But the best way to battle dirt and grime is to stop anymore build-up this time around. Prevention is key.

When you’re done cleaning your antiques, you’ll be proud of your hard work. And you’ll be even prouder of what you achieved.

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