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5 Simple Steps to Clean Wooden Furniture

Castlery|Mar 20, 2024

Whether it's a bench, bed frame, or coffee table, wooden furniture are timeless and classic pieces that can elevate your home. But, proper cleaning and maintenance are essential to preserve its natural beauty and keep it looking its best.

This comprehensive guide will equip you with effective techniques and tips to clean and care for your wooden furniture, ensuring it retains its pristine condition for years to come.

Understanding your wooden furniture

Before diving into the best way to clean wood furniture, it's crucial to understand the type of wood used. Different wood species have distinct characteristics and varying maintenance requirements.

Teak is a commonly used material for furniture due to its durability and beauty. Pictured: The Rio Outdoor Teak Dining Table.

Common types of wood used in furniture include teak, oak, mahogany, and walnut. By understanding the characteristics of the wood, you can better assess its vulnerability to certain cleaning products or techniques.

Recommended read: How to Identify The Different Varieties of Teak Wood

Cleaning techniques for different finishes

If you have different finishes on your wooden furniture, the cleaning techniques may differ slightly. Here are some common finishes and how to care for them:

Varnished or sealed finishes

Varnished or sealed wooden furniture is relatively low maintenance. Wiping it down with a damp cloth and mild soap solution can easily remove any dirt and stains. But, even with a varnish, remember to dry the surface immediately to prevent water damage.

Oiled or unsealed finishes

Oiled or unsealed wooden furniture requires extra care because the absence of a protective finish leaves the wood more susceptible to damage and wear.

Clean it gently with a slightly damp cloth. Be careful to avoid excessive water as the absence of a varnish means the wood can easily absorb liquid.

Unsealed wood is also more susceptible to drying out due to exposure to air, heat, and fluctuating humidity levels. Regularly apply wood oil or conditioner to nourish the wood and prevent it from becoming brittle.

Routine wooden furniture cleaning

Step 1: Clean and clear the furniture

Clear your furniture of any decor, cushions, and rugs. Wipe down the wooden furniture with a damp microfiber cloth or soft brush to remove any dust and loose dirt.

Step 2: Clean with solution

Depending on the type of finish on your wooden furniture, the type of cleaning solution differs. As a general rule of thumb, always avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners as they can damage the finish. Do keep in mind to be thorough but gentle when cleaning to avoid scratching the wood.

Mild dish soap and water

A mixture of mild dish soap and warm water is a commonly recommended cleaning solution for wooden furniture. Dish soap helps to cut through grease and grime, while the water provides the necessary dilution.

This solution is safe for most sealed or varnished wood finishes. It is gentle yet effective in removing surface dirt and stains without causing damage.

White vinegar and water

White vinegar is a natural and versatile cleaner that is commonly used as a cleaning agent in households. The acidity in vinegar helps to dissolve dirt and grime and when mixed with water, it can be used to clean wooden furniture.

Mix equal parts of water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and lightly mist the surface of the table. Wipe it down with a clean and soft cloth. Vinegar is especially useful for removing water spots or sticky residue left by food or drink spills.

Lemon juice and olive oil

A mixture of lemon juice and olive oil can be used as a homemade cleaner for wooden furniture. Lemon juice acts as a natural disinfectant and helps to remove stains, while olive oil nourishes and adds shine to the wood.

Mix equal parts of lemon juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Apply a small amount to a soft cloth and gently rub it onto the table surface. Buff with a clean cloth to remove excess oil and bring out the natural luster of the wood.

Commercial wood cleaners

If you’ve got a wood cleaner on hand, you can save the extra effort and time of mixing your own cleaning solution. Just make sure your wood cleaner is safe to use on the specific type of wood furniture.

Step 3: Rinse the surface

After cleaning, dampen a clean cloth with water and gently wipe the entire furniture surface to remove any residue from the cleaning solution. This step helps to ensure that no soap or cleaning product is left behind.

Step 4: Dry the furniture

Using a dry cloth, carefully dry the furniture to remove any remaining moisture. Make sure to dry in the direction of the wood grain to prevent streaking or damage. Pay attention to any intricate details, corners, or crevices where water might accumulate.

Step 5: Apply furniture polish (optional)

Polishing your table gives it a nice shine, like on @sarahellenrandall’s Brighton Oval Dining Table. Also pictured: Austen Chair in Walnut.

This is an optional but highly recommended step - apply a suitable furniture polish or wax to enhance the wood's natural beauty and provide additional protection. This is especially helpful for old wooden furniture as the polish gives it a beautiful shine that makes it look clean and new.

How to remove stubborn stains

For stubborn stains, create a paste by mixing baking soda with water until it reaches a thick and spreadable consistency. Apply the paste to the stain, gently rubbing it in with a soft cloth or sponge. Let it sit for a few minutes, then wipe it off with a damp cloth. Dry the area thoroughly to prevent moisture damage.

Dealing with scratches

Scratches are common and bound to appear on your wooden furniture from daily use. Here’s how you can tackle them:

Minor scratches

For minor scratches on wooden furniture, use a soft cloth and apply a small amount of furniture polish or wax. Rub it gently over the scratch in a circular motion until it blends in with the surrounding area.

Deeper scratches

Deeper scratches may require more extensive repair. You can consider refinishing your wooden furniture, which will include sanding, using wood fillers, and resealing.

The Seb Extendable Dining Table. Picture credits: @huangyoushijie

Alternatively, you can cover up unsightly scratches on your wood coffee table or sofa with placemats and throws respectively.

Best practices to maintain your wooden furniture

You’ve probably heard of the phrase ‘prevention is better than cure’, and it certainly can be applied to your wooden furniture as well! Here are some best practices to ensure your wooden furniture lasts long without the need for constant deep cleaning.

Clean regularly

If your wooden furniture faces the brunt of everyday use, be sure to clean it frequently. This prevents dirt buildup which can make it harder to clean and could potentially cause damage to your furniture.

Avoid excessive heat and moisture

Keep your wooden furniture away from sources of excessive heat, such as radiators, fireplaces, or heat vents. Also, protect your furniture from direct sunlight as prolonged sunlight can fade the wood’s natural color.

Use curtains or window treatments to block out the sun’s rays if you have a small living room and can’t rearrange your furniture. Additionally, use furniture covers for wooden outdoor furniture.

The Vincent Dining Table Set in Walnut uses tropical-themed placemats that match an accent wall.

If you have a wooden dining table, use placemats and coasters when having meals to protect your table from water rings and heat marks.


Periodically polish your wooden furniture with a high-quality furniture polish to enhance its natural beauty and protect the surface.

Polish acts as a barrier between whatever you place on the furniture and the wood beneath the surface. This makes the clean-up process easier and quicker, and preserves your wooden furniture for longer.

Avoid harsh chemicals and cleaning agents

Even if you’re trying hard to get that stain out, steer clear of harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners as they can damage the finish of your wooden furniture. Opt for mild, wood-friendly solutions or natural remedies to clean your furniture.

Cleaning and maintaining your wooden furniture requires care, attention, and the right techniques. Aside from regular cleaning, be sure to adopt some best practices mentioned above to ensure your wooden furniture retains its natural beauty and elevates your space for many years.

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