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How To Clean Antique Furniture Like a Pro (Best Methods Explained)

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Furniture will attract dust, grime, and dirt over time, losing its appeal and, ultimately, its usefulness. Antique furniture has special value, whether acquired as a collector or inherited.

Cleaning the antique furniture in your possession is essential if you want to keep its value.

The process of cleaning regular furniture will value slightly with cleaning antiques due to their delicate nature. However, mistakes can prove costly if you do not follow proper cleaning methods.

In addition, antiques are rare and often carry sentiment value, damaging them will be quite expensive. It doesn’t matter if it’s a single piece of antiquity or a line of different pieces; learning how to clean your possessions is beneficial.

Cleaning the furniture involves maintaining the finish, preventing scratches, and maintaining shine or polish where necessary. There are several methods you can use to clean your antique furniture.

Some methods use simple materials, while others require more sophisticated equipment. Before we see the methods to clean these antiques, here are a few things to do first:

Checklist: How To Clean Antique Wood

Before cleaning your antique furniture, follow this checklist to determine the best cleaning method.

Identify All Antiques

Identify All Antiques

Often, people do not know what is classified as antique furniture in their homes. A piece of antique furniture is interior furniture that is old enough, rare, provides excellent utility, and can be coveted by collectors. Therefore, you have to identify all possible antique furniture in your space.

To identify antiques you may have, examine all furniture and interior decoration in your home; then check the maker, age where possible, and rarity before looking out for vintage kitchen stools, dressers, chairs, and tables.

It would be best if you noted all the possible antiques you have. Using tools like spreadsheets can be effective where there are a lot of antiques.

Identify Antique Material

Identify Antique Material

Check the material for each antique, whether brass, gold, silver, wood, or metal, and record each material in your spreadsheet alongside the antique.

The type of material will determine the cleaning method and style to employ. It can also determine the frequency of cleaning and cleaning agent to use.

Identifying antique material includes the type of finish or stain on the furniture. First, run a simple test to determine the type of finish on the antique furniture.

Choose a small spot on the furniture to test for the finish, preferably a place with little visibility. Then, keep a cotton swab in denatured alcohol and wipe the spot. If the finish cleans off, the finish is most likely shellac.

If the finish remains undissolved, it can be an oil, polyurethane, or lacquer finish.

Ways to Clean Antique Furniture

Dirt is almost non-negotiable when a piece of furniture is in use. Here are some of the ways to clean dirty antique furniture and increase its lifespan:

1. Using Hand Dish Soap

Hand Dish Soap

Dish soap for hand washing is one of the best ways to clean antique furniture. It is mild with fewer chemicals, ensuring the antique finish is left unaffected after cleaning.

Mix Dish Soap with Warm Water

Choose a mild dishwasher soap and dilute it further by adding warm water. Mix 1 teaspoon of dish soap with half a liter of warm water.

Wipe Furniture

Take a clean towel and dip it in the cleaning product. Then, Squeeze it to take off the extra product. After that, begin to wipe the furniture but remember to be gentle because many antique pieces of furniture are delicate. At last, change the towel once it is completely dirty and can’t pick up any more dirt.

Use a Toothbrush for Corners

Nooks and crannies are not only the most difficult parts to reach with a towel but also the areas prone to dust collection. Use a small soft bristle to reach the narrow areas after applying a cleaning product. Take note that if you use a brush with worn down or hard bristles, it might scratch the furniture surface.

Use Steel Wool for Tough Stains

Steel wool is an abrasive made up of low-carbon steel. It can remove tough stains on furniture.

The steel wool is soft enough to prevent scratch marks and tough enough to remove hardened stains. It is especially useful for wood and metal parts of furniture.

2. Wipe with Dry Rag

Wipe with Dry Rag

A dry rag can be used to gently dry the furniture and remove all cleaning products and water from it. This task cannot be done roughly, so remember to wipe it down in a slow manner.

The wood should feel dry when you finish wiping. Allow the furniture to air dry for a few hours before moving to the final step.


Polishing antique furniture is not always necessary, but it’s a great way to protect the furniture’s surface and restore its shine.

Please choose a suitable polish and spray it on the surface while buffing it with a clean towel to ensure shine. It would help if you avoided polish made from silicon materials.

Oil Soap

Dish soap may struggle to remove tougher stains on the furniture. You can use the stronger oil soap to clean difficult stains; however, you need to be careful so the chemical does not react and loosens the finish.

Mix the Soap and Water

Add 28.5g of oil soap to a bowl and then add 0.18 liters of warm water to the soap and mix thoroughly with a fork to form a solution.

Soak Clean Rag and Wipe

Soak a clean rag in the solution and squeeze it, so it is no longer dripping. Use the rag soaked in oil soap against the furniture’s surface and wipe down in circular motion.

Wipe with Dry Rag

At this point, the surface may be wet, which can lead to several other problems, like mold appearing on your furniture.

So, you need to wipe down the surface again in a circular motion and allow the dry rag to remove soap and leftover dirt from the furniture.

Allow the furniture to dry before you proceed.

Wax and Buffer

Waxing the furniture gives it a shine and protects the surface from damage. In addition, waxing after cleaning makes subsequent cleaning easier since concerted efforts are employed to cover the furniture surface.

3. Vacuum Cleaner

Vacuum Cleaner

A vacuum cleaner uses pressurized air to draw in dust from corners and hard-to-reach areas of the furniture into a collection bag.

Sometimes dirt enters tight corners that even a toothbrush cannot reach. A tool like a vacuum cleaner will easily remove dirt from those areas.

However, a vacuum cleaner requires a significant outlay, depending on the type. You can also decide to rent the tool when you need to clean it.

Pass the vacuum over the surface, paying extra attention to corners. Vacuum cleaners are only effective when dealing with dust particles as they will not remove grime and oil marks from the furniture.

4. Distilled White Vinegar

Distilled White Vinegar

Mildew appears in the wood where there’s more than normal moisture content. Once mildew appears, it becomes challenging to obliterate the mold.

Simple dish soap with water can remove fundamental mildew growth. At the same time, tough marks require more effective methods like distilled white vinegar.

Firstly, you’ll need to protect your eyes, lungs, hands, and more by using protective gear. The mold can quickly move to your eyes, nose, or ears with the help of materials like goggles, hand gloves, and nose marks.

Next, clean the furniture with a dry towel so all the dirt and grime come off. Next, mix distilled white vinegar with oil in the same quantity and soak the small end of a rag into the solution.

Wipe the mildew-infested area with small circular motions. Working the vinegar into the furniture pores will loosen the mildew and kill them off. Use any clean towel to wipe off loosened mildew from the surface.

5. Mayonnaise


Mayonnaise does not have to stop at your meals; it is a great way to clean water marks off antique furniture. First, generously rub the affected area with mayonnaise and allow it to sit over the night or for over 8 hours.

By this time, the mayonnaise had gone to work on the stain and loosened its hold. You can then use a clean, dry rag to wipe off the mayonnaise. Next, continue cleaning the surface to remove mayonnaise and leave the surface dry.

6. Volcanic Rocks

Volcanic Rocks

Antique furniture is old, so it’s only natural to smell unpleasant. This problem is usually solved by placing volcanic rocks in the corner of the furniture. These rocks have a unique odor-eliminating feature.

The rocks come into tiny pieces, making putting them in drawers easier and still having enough space to use.

Also Read: 13 Free DIY Jewelry Box Plans (Design & Ideas)


Worried about how to clean antique wood? There are a few common household items that can help you clean antique furniture. And if you are a DIY person, this is handy.

The sheer number of ways to clean these unique pieces of furniture makes it easier to follow since you’ll almost always have one of the materials at home.