How to Clean Antique Furniture

Antique furniture is extremely valuable, so it makes sense to keep it clean and preserved. If you’ve had the antique in your possession for a while, dusting may suffice. However, newly bought or newly passed on antique furniture may require wax and polish. Cleaning antique furniture is just like cleaning other kinds of furniture except it requires more care. There are many ways to clean antique furniture. Listed below are just a few techniques that I’ve found to work.

[box type=”warning”] You could severely reduce the value of your antique furniture by cleaning it at all. Always test on a small area first before going gun-ho on a whole piece of furniture.[/box]

The first step in cleaning any antique furniture is to remove the old wax buildup, as this is what makes the furniture look old and dingy. Some cleaners will also not be able to penetrate the wax, thus, leaving the furniture’s underlying finish dirty. You can take the old wax off by gently rubbing a pad of 0000 steel wool with paint thinner or mineral spirits on the surface of your furniture.

Learn about the differences between paint thinner and mineral spirits: Mineral Spirits vs Paint Thinner





This will liquefy and loosen the old wax, which you can then remove with a clean cloth. The steps in the methods below should be done after the old wax buildup is removed.

Method 1: Lemon oil

Step 1: Stock up on lemon oil.

Step 2: Use a thin, old sock to spread lemon oil on your furniture. Keep repeating this until the wood stops absorbing the oil. This step may last for a number of days especially if you are cleaning every part of your furniture.

Step 3: After the last area of your furniture has dried up, use an old shirt to remove all the excess oil and dirt. Any stubborn paint flecks can be removed by a razor blade and a magnifying glass.

Method 2: Oil-based cleaner.

Step 1: Apply oil-based cleaner on your surface by spraying or rubbing it in using a clean cloth.

Step 2: Let it set for at least 1-2 hours.

Step 3: Spray or rub with the cleaner again and then remove the excess with paper towels or a clean cloth.

Step 4: Apply antique furniture polish for a nice shine.

Method 3: Water and detergent.

Step 1: Combine water and mild dishwashing detergent.

Step 2: Use cheesecloth or an old washcloth dampened with the mixture to wash the furniture from top to bottom. Make sure to work one area at a time and that the surface is not saturated, as this may damage the wood. Also make sure to regularly rinse the cloth before going on to the next area to get rid of the dirt.

Step 3: Rinse the surface using another cloth damped with clean water.

Step 4: Using a dry rag, wipe all the wet surfaces dry.

Step 5: Touch up any nicks or cracks on your furniture. (See our earlier post: Best wood hole filler for wood)

Step 6: Apply antique furniture wax to protect the clean surface.

Method 4: Mineral spirits.

Step 1: Wash the surface from top to bottom with a cloth damped with mineral spirits. Work one area at a time.

Step 2: Right after cleaning an area with mineral spirits, dry it with another rag. If this still gets dirt, wash it with mineral spirits again. Repeat until the dry rag doesn’t pick up dirt anymore. However, make sure to let it dry for 1-2 hours before cleaning it again.

Method 5: Chemicals.

Step 1: Combine equal parts of turpentine, vinegar, and boiled linseed oil. (Read about linseed Oil here)

Step 2: Wipe the mixture on your furniture until the wood stops absorbing it.

Step 3: Remove excess grime and dirt using an old shirt.

This method will quicken up the cleaning process but it is not advisable to use it on expensive antique furniture, as it includes harsh chemicals.





Antique furniture requires more care than other kinds of furniture because its old age may have made it more fragile. This makes it a wee bit more difficult when cleaning. You have to be gentle and make sure you don’t scratch or damage the piece and make it less valuable than it is. However, cleaning antique furniture is really not that hard. Following any of the methods above will keep your furniture looking nice and new.

One thought on “How to Clean Antique Furniture

  1. The key to cleaning antique furniture is patience! You don’t want to rush it or you risk damaging the furniture. Remember, it took years for it to get that dirty, it’ll take a few days to get it clean!

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