How to restore wooden furniture

How to restore wooden furniture

There are many ways to remove an old finish, some of them more difficult than others. Shellac and lacquer finishes are the easiest to remove, requiring only alcohol or lacquer thinner and a little muscle. The tougher finishes, paint and varnish, are more common; these are usually removed with paint and varnish remover. Oil, wax, and penetrating sealer finishes are less common; they are also removed with paint and varnish remover. In this article, we’ll discuss how to remove the old finish from your wooden furniture as well as some short-cut techniques.

Shellac and Lacquer: Finish Removal Made Easy

Before you use paint and varnish remover on a piece of furniture, take a minute to test the finish with denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner. Older furniture often has a shellac or lacquer finish, but it’s hard to know what the finish is just by looking. Shellac and lacquer are clear finishes, like varnish, but they’re much easier to remove. The time you spend to test the finish could save you hours of work.

Test the finish first with denatured alcohol. If the finish liquefies, it’s shellac; if it gets soft but doesn’t dissolve, it’s a mixture of shellac and lacquer. Test the surface again with lacquer thinner; if it liquefies, it’s lacquer. Shellac can be removed with denatured alcohol, lacquer with lacquer thinner, and a shellac-lacquer combination with a 50-50 mixture of denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner. Stripping with chemical compounds is not necessary to remove these finishes.

Apply the appropriate solvent to a section of the piece of furniture, using an old or throwaway brush. Let the alcohol or thinner work for 5 to 10 seconds, and then wipe it off with a rough cloth or with steel wool. If the finish comes off easily, you can remove the entire finish with the alcohol or thinner; paint and varnish remover isn’t necessary. Work quickly — alcohol and lacquer thinner evaporate fast. Clean small sections at a time, and change cloths frequently to keep the old finish from being reapplied to the furniture.

When the finish is off, go over the entire piece with a scraper to remove any remaining traces of finish. A furniture scraper is best, or use steel wool dipped in thinner. Always scrape with the wood grain, and be careful not to dig into the wood. If necessary, sand the wood smooth. No neutralizing is necessary. After sanding, the piece of furniture is ready to be sealed, bleached, stained, or finished.

The one drawback to lacquer thinner and denatured alcohol is that they work only on lacquer and shellac. If the old finish is varnish or paint, or if there’s a stain under the shellac or lacquer, you’ll have to move on to the more demanding techniques of paint and varnish removers.

Learn how to choose a paint and varnish remover for your project in the next section.

Choosing a Paint and Varnish Remover

Most home centers, hardware and paint stores, drugstores, variety stores, and even grocery stores carry a variety of paint and varnish removers. All soften old finishes so that they can be scraped, washed, steel-wooled, or sanded off. There are differences among removers, however, in chemical content, removal techniques, and price.

Inexpensive paint and varnish removers soften old finishes, but they’re not necessarily the bargain they appear to be. First of all, these removers may contain a waxy substance: paraffin. Paraffin gives the wood an oily look and feel and prevents the new finish from adhering properly. It must be removed with turpentine or mineral spirits before the new finish can be applied. Not only is this another step in the stripping process, but the additional money spent on turpentine or mineral spirits can be considerable. In the long run, you may end up spending as much as you would for the more expensive paint and varnish removers.

Inexpensive removers may also be flammable and highly toxic; check the labels carefully. This makes good ventilation — preferably outdoors — a must. And you must take care to keep the area free of open flame. No smoking while you work, and stay away from appliances with pilot lights.

The more expensive paint and varnish removers probably don’t contain paraffin, but they might very well contain a special wax that helps prolong the chemical evaporation process. This wax, like paraffin, must be removed after the furniture is stripped, regardless of the no-cleanup claims. A turpentine or mineral spirit rubbing or a light sanding with No. 0000 steel wool or very-fine-grit sandpaper will remove the wax.

Some paint and varnish removers don’t have wax; while you have to take extra precautions against evaporation, this extra cleaning step is eliminated. The more expensive paint removers probably contain methylene chloride, which decreases the flammability of the other chemicals in the remover. They are probably also nontoxic, although good ventilation is always desirable.

The most expensive removers are usually labeled “water-rinsing,” “wash-away,” or “water cleanup.” After application, the finish is washed off with water instead of being scraped or sanded off. The claims are true if you follow the manufacturer’s directions to the letter. The chemicals in these removers contain special emulsifiers that mix with the rinse water, resulting in a squeaky-clean finish.

The problem with these wash-away removers is that water is the natural enemy of wood and certain glues. The water used to remove the chemicals must be removed from the wood as soon as possible to avoid raising the wood grain or dissolving the glue. This water problem is especially pronounced with veneer finishes and inlays. To be safe, never use wash-away remover on veneers or inlays.

Most removers are available in liquid or semi-paste forms. The semi-paste removers contain a starch or stiffener. They’re designed for vertical surfaces where staying power is important, such as the legs of a chair. These semi-paste removers are susceptible to the same problems (wax, flammability, toxicity) as the others. You can, however, buy a nonflammable, non-toxic, non-wax semi-paste.

These thick removers can be used on flat surfaces as well as vertical, if desired.

For many jobs, the more expensive wash-away removers may be worth the price in time and work saved. The non-flammability of a remover is also a big consideration, and any remover that is toxic may not be worth the price you pay for it, small or large. The semi-paste removers are the easiest to work with when starting out, although you may want to experiment with a liquid remover as well. All in all, no one remover is necessarily better than another. The key to finding a remover you’re comfortable with is experimentation. Try different types of removers, perhaps on the same piece of furniture, until you find one you like.

There are refinishing kits on the market that contain all the materials you need. These kits have paint and varnish remover, steel wool, stain, and top finishes. For the most part, these products are excellent. You should check them out before starting any refinishing job.

Once you decide what you will use to remove the old finish, you are ready to get to work. Learn proper finish removal techniques in the next section.

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How to restore wooden furniture

There are several ways to restore furniture. Before beginning a project, it is important to evaluate the piece in question in terms of age, value, materials and how you wish to use it. The answers to these questions will point to the best techniques for your furniture and situation. In general, techniques to restore furniture range from less to more intensive in how they permanently alter the furniture.

The first step in restoring furniture is to determine the value and significance of a particular piece. The techniques used to restore a 25 year old mass-produced wooden bureau will be different from what you will do with a one-of-a-kind piece that is more than 200 years old. When working with antique wooden furniture, it is important to remember that less is often more. Interventions such as painting, sloppy glue jobs, alteration or refinishing can significantly devalue an antique.

The simplest treatments to restore structurally sound wooden antiques are to apply a good quality paste wax, and to clean, repair or replace hardware. A good quality paste wax, found at your local hardware store, can work wonders on a damaged wood finish. Over the years, the knobs and pulls may become corroded, damaged or mismatched. Removing them for cleaning or using period appropriate replacements will help.

When antique wooden furniture needs structural repair, evaluation by an expert may be necessary. Keep in mind, however, that the cost of expert restoration is expensive and in terms of sheer monetary value, only worthwhile for very old furniture. Although most people think of refinishing first, this is not always the best option for retaining the character and value of an antique.

If you choose to restore furniture yourself, perform a thorough check of all joints and supports. In order to preserve the value of antiques you should try to use materials similar to those used on the furniture originally. For example, if you need to re-glue something, do not use super-glue. Instead, seek out an adhesive specifically designed for antiques, or the glue that was commonly used on furniture when your piece was made.

To restore other furniture, more drastic techniques may be useful. If the primary goal is to render a piece usable, or to change its look, then structural repair plus painting is likely the way to go. Another technique to restore furniture is alteration. For example, you might want to lower a bed frame or table by cutting off the legs. Re-upholstering and replacing the foam padding can be an excellent way to restore an old chair or sofa and give it a completely new look.

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Discussion Comments

With antique furniture restoration, you should learn as much as possible before hand about the piece of furniture you are working on. You want to know what makes it valuable and what things you can do to enhance the value, and what things to avoid doing so you don’t end up with a piece of worthless furniture.

Contrary to what many people think, sanding a piece of furniture is not always a good thing. mobilian33 October 29, 2014

@Feryll – With all do respect to your girlfriend, I think it is tacky to paint good wooden furniture. I know there are plenty of people who agree with you that painted furniture is pretty and just as good and maybe even better than the original wood, but I am not one of those people. If you are going to restore wood furniture the last thing you want to do is hide the wood because it is the wood that makes the furniture special. Feryll October 28, 2014

My girlfriend restores furniture, and what I have learned from her is that paint can cover up a lot of different types of damage quickly, and in a way so that the furniture looks good when it is completed. I know the article mentions that painting a really expensive old piece of furniture can ruin it as a collector’s piece, but most of the old furniture my girlfriend works with is not expensive.

She restores the furniture because she likes the pieces and she likes bringing them back to life, so they can be used again and appreciated. She is always looking for different little secrets and tips to help her with her hobby.

A lot of what she does know about furniture and restoring and finishing furniture she learned by taking classes and taking part in one-day workshops.

If you’re looking to restore old wooden furniture and allow the patina of the timber to shine out again, you’ll need these step-by-step instructions from DIY expert Helaine Clare

How to restore wooden furniture

Looking for practical advice on how to restore wood furniture? You’ve come to the right place. Neglected old wooden furniture often suffers from a build-up of dirt and grime, with the diminished colour and lustre resulting in a dull appearance. With this in mind, owners of antique furniture are often left wondering how to restore old wood furniture (often much treasured pieces) to their former glory.

Thankfully, restoring wood furniture is quite easily done and we’ve created this easy to follow guide so that when you come to restore furniture, you’ll know what to do for ultimate success. What’s more, with restoration furniture seemingly always at the forefront of home trends – in both period and contemporary properties – and therefore, more costly to purchase, now you can save on something beautiful by simply creating your own.

  • See our guide on caring for, cleaning andpolishing woodfurniture if you’ve more modern pieces around the home.
More from Period Living

Period Living is the UK’s best-selling period homes magazine. Get inspiration, ideas and advice straight to your door every month with a subscription.

The mahogany writing desk in this project below had ugly watermarks that marred the top that also needed attention. While it’s easy to restore old wooden furniture on a DIY basis, we’d always recommend ensuring you use the correct products. Our guide below talks you through furniture renovation and cleaning done professionally.

Once you’re done, see all our cleaning buys, how-tos and hacks to help keep the rest of your home sparkling. Looking for more expert advice on antique furniture restoration perhaps, and all things period properties – both interior and exterior? Head over to our Period Living hub page.

Everything you will need to restore old wooden furniture:

  • Work gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Paintbrushes
  • Proprietary chemical stripper and stripping tool
  • Wax and polish remover and fine steel wool (0000 gauge)
  • Fine glasspaper and sanding block
  • Wood dye
  • Wood restorer/ finishing oil
  • Wax polish
  • Tack cloth and lint-free cloth

How to restore old wooden furniture: step-by-step instructions

1. Prepare for stripping back

Stripping furniture is messy, but key to wood restoration, so work outside if possible. If working indoors, protect the floors and any furniture nearby and ensure good ventilation. To avoid damaging the finish on the body of the table, cover it in a plastic sheet so that only the top is exposed. Apply stripper liberally with an old brush.

2. Allow layers to dissolve

For a good result when refinishing wood, leave the stripper on for between five and 30 minutes until the finish – a mix of old varnish and polish – has dissolved. The length of time will depend on the composition and thickness of the coating. If the stripper hasn’t removed all the layers just re-spread the paste and it will continue to work.

Refinishing wood furniture may seem like an art but is easily done.

3. Neutralise the chemical stripper

Neutralise the wood with a pad of steel wool soaked in white spirit or proprietary wax and polish remover, following the grain of the wood. Before using any chemical always read the label carefully as different strippers require different neutralisers. Failure to neutralise stripper can allow it to reactivate and your wood restoration may not go to plan.

4. Clean off the rest of the table:

The next step to refinish furniture is to wipe away residues with cotton rags and leave for 24 hours. Meanwhile clean away dirt and old polish elsewhere by applying wax remover to a steel wool pad or coarse cloth and working in small areas at a time. Leave for a few minutes to soften the wax and wipe away with a clean cloth before it solidifies.

5. Return to the tabletop

24 hours after stripping the tabletop, use a sanding block and very fine glasspaper to smooth over the wood fibres raised during the stripping process – work with the grain. Shake and vacuum the protective sheet to get rid of dust that could spoil the finished piece. Finally wipe the top with a tack cloth.

6. Tackle areas of bleached wood

When you restore furniture, you’ll notice that every piece is different to tackle. Here for instance, for many years the table was sited beneath a window and the sun has bleached part of the wood, so applying a mahogany wood dye will make the top a uniform colour. Apply generously with a brush and allow stain to penetrate; wipe away excess with a cloth. Ensure an even finish by working in a good light.

Restoration furniture is a the perfect way to introduce something timeless to both period and modern properties.

7. Improve the sheen and finish when refinishing wood

Once dry, apply a coat of finishing oil using a brush or lint-free cloth. Allow oil to penetrate for 10 minutes and wipe away the surplus before it goes sticky. Wait for at least five hours and gently rub with 0000 gauge steel wool before applying a further coat; repeat again – the more coats the greater the durability and sheen.

8. The final spruce up with wood restorer

Finally, sparingly apply a thin coat of good furniture wax over the whole table. Leave for an hour at least and polish with a lint-free cloth. To avoid warping caused by drying out of the wood, position furniture away from radiators and fires. Sunlight will bleach the wood, so ensure it’s not placed beneath a window

Home remedies for restoring old wooden furniture

There are a couple more tricks you can use to restore furniture at home. You can remove surface dirt and old layers of wax polish with a home-made mix of four parts white spirit to one part of linseed oil. If the finish is still looking a bit lifeless, pour some proprietary wood reviver onto a cotton cloth and buff vigorously.

One such remedy which works when refinishing wood furniture is:

  • 1 part linseed oil
  • 2 parts meths
  • 2 parts turps
  • 2 parts distilled vinegar

Finally, refinish furniture with some beeswax polish and that should bring it back to life.

If you’ve got old furniture that is looking worn, dull and dated, then give it new life with these simple steps for how to restore wood furniture. You’ll just need a couple of things that I bet you already have on hand – no chemical stripper or sanding required!

If you’re signed up for my email newsletters, you know I’ve been helping my aunt redo her bedroom. We completely remodeled her and my uncle’s master bathroom last fall. By “we”, I mean that I helped with the design and then handed it over to the contractor. My uncle’s version is probably somewhere along the lines of “Jenna spent all my money.” Either way you look at it, my aunt and uncle got a killer new bathroom that is so much more functional for them. I really need to snap some pics and show you what we did. I digress though.

The bathroom remodel snowballed into a kitchen remodel for them that should happen within the next month or so – can’t wait to show you that one when it’s done too! Somewhere along the way, my aunt got hit with the decorating bug and much to my uncle’s dismay I’m sure, we are now also redoing their master bedroom, mudroom/garage entry and she’s told me when we’re done with that, we’re moving to the living room. She’s a woman on a mission, folks.

The furniture they have in their bedroom was actually my grandparent’s bedroom furniture. And since our family’s side is a sentimental bunch, we don’t easily part well with things of that nature. Sorry, Aunt Sherry. So a non-negotiable for my uncle was that the bedroom furniture stay.

The bedroom furniture though, well it had most definitely seen better days. The finish was worn and dull and the pulls were dirty. Initially my aunt wanted to completely refinish it, but she decided she would try to clean it up first. I gave her my secrets for restoring old furniture (without sanding!) and cleaning up the hardware. She put some elbow grease to it, and boom, that 50+ year old bedroom furniture was born again.

How to restore wooden furniture

Can y’all even believe that?! And no, she didn’t paint the hardware or use a single chemical / topcoat / whatever on the wood! She took the ‘before’ photo and I took the ‘after.’ Don’t worry, I’m going to have a talk with her about photo angles. 😜

I’ve used this furniture refinishing trick a few times now and I’ve had the same results – it’s really like magic.

This post contains affiliate links for your shopping convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

How to Restore Furniture

How to restore wooden furniture

Supplies Needed:

  • Vegetable Oil
  • White Vinegar
  • Soft Cloth
  • Cloth for dusting
  • Screwdriver for removing hardware

Step 1

Remove all items from the piece of furniture including the hardware. Wipe the piece clean with a damp cloth or a tack cloth to remove any dirt or dust. If you use a damp cloth, let the furniture dry completely before proceeding.

Step 2

Mix 1 part white vinegar with 1 part vegetable oil. I generally do a cup of each.

Step 3

Using a clean, soft cloth, rub the mixture onto the wooden furniture.

To be on the safe side, I suggest testing the solution in an inconspicuous spot on the furniture first, then proceed if all goes well. I’ve never had an issue with this mixture, but if you’ve got a priceless piece of sentimental antique furniture, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

As you apply the mixture to the furniture, most scratches will disappear and shine will be restored!

How to restore wooden furniture

As I said before, I’ve used this solution for refinishing wood furniture before and I’ve gotten great results. I’ve done it on both dark wood like this, but also on light wood as well and it worked perfectly on both.

Related: Need to remove paint from furniture and then restain it? Then read this post on restaining furniture.

Did you also notice how well her brass pulls cleaned up?

How to Clean Old Brass Hardware

Supplies Needed:

  • Brass Polish (Brasso is what I use) and/or Bar Keepers Friend
  • Two Cloths – one for cleaning and one for polishing
  • Gloves

Step 1

Depending on how dirty your hardware is, you may be able to get by with brass polish alone. If the hardware is really bad though, using Bar Keepers Friend will often drastically cut down on cleaning time.

To clean the hardware, simply wipe on the Brasso or create a paste with the Bar Keepers Friend and scrub until the grime is gone. I wrote a whole post solely on how to clean brass hardware using Bar Keepers Friend right here.

Use gloves because this stuff is rough on your hands!

Step 2

Once you’ve removed all the tarnish and grime from the hardware, rinse it well, then polish with a clean soft cloth.

How to restore wooden furniture

I’m so glad she was able to bring this bedroom set back to it’s former glory!

Can you share any tips on how to restore wood furniture without sanding?

Looking to save yourself more time on furniture makeovers or cleaning things up? Here’s a few of my tricks…

Velvet Finishes Paint – the no priming, no topcoat way to paint furniture! And yes, I’m serious.

Waxing Furniture Tips – the easy way to wax furniture if you prefer to go that route!

Vinyl Seat Cleaner – the best way I’ve found to clean vinyl upholstery.

How to Clean Copper – restore copper to its original beauty in a fraction of the time!

How to Remove Rust from Chrome – yes, you can salvage that chrome furniture! Try this trick before tossing it!

Want to remember this furniture tip for later? Pin the image below to quickly come back here!

How to restore wooden furniture

Get more tips on social media:

Want to know how to restore wood furniture without sanding? Well, let me help you to know all the details to do it yourself without needing to visit a professional woodworker.

Table of Contents

Imagine a dull and pale spot on the vintage wooden furniture that belonged to your grandfather. Just the thought of it is very discomforting to the heart and the mind. This wooden furniture is as much a piece of us as our thoughts and memories of those loved ones.

How to restore wooden furniture

Every wooden piece of furniture has a story to tell. But time, weather, and many external factors can cause them to wear and tear despite all love and care. Unlike other household goods, you cannot wash wooden furniture with water, soap, and other such agents. Some may suggest sanding and polishing, but that isn’t a permanent solution. But then, “how to restore furniture without sanding,” you ask? Let me answer that question for you in this write-up.

Restoring Wood Furniture: Preparation Work

Not all furniture requires extensive sanding to return to its former glory. It’s all about a little bit of tender love and care combined with some very simple household applications. But before restoration, you need to do a bit of preparatory work.

Clean away the debris and the dirt

With the increasing pollution all around, it is not surprising to see dust and dirt accumulating on the surface of household goods. Crevices, corners, intersections, and joints especially collect a lot of dust over a while.

How to restore wooden furniture

The first step of restoration is to eliminate every possible dirt and have the wooden furniture squeaky clean. Since soap and chemicals can be too tough on old wood, the best way is to use a microfiber cloth sprayed with a light solution of orange or lemon-based cleaner.

Getting rid of water stains

Remember the last time your mom scolded you for leaving behind a coaster-less wet mug on the table? The water stain not only looks ugly but is not so easy to get rid of. So why do these water stains appear?

Wood has a strong affinity for water. It absorbs moisture from under a cup that causes a blemish-like appearance on the surface. One easy and very effective way to remove stains is to dab a small amount of the regular mayonnaise on the water ring and wait for an hour before wiping it away.

How to restore wooden furniture

If the watermark is old, spray the area with a mixture of olive oil and vinegar and use a microfiber cloth to wipe it down after some time. The hydration alone will give a new life to the furniture.

Once the wooden furniture is clean and stain-free, it’s time to bring the wood back to life!

How To Restore Wood Furniture Without Sanding

The idea of restoring the wooden furniture without even needing to sand it or strip it was unthinkable years ago. But now, it is as simple as doing it in 3 easy steps. Just a few hrs of dedication and time, and the wood is as sparkling as brand new once again. Once the furniture is squeaky clean and devoid of any soil or unwanted particles, it’s ready to come back alive!

#Step 1 – Paste Wax application for color restoration

The first step is to use a generous coat of Citrecious paste wax on the furniture. Lather the surface well in a good amount of coating of the paste wax.

How to restore wooden furniture

Remember that paste wax comes in various light to dark shades, so it is important to choose one closest to the wood of your furniture. Ensure to use a fine steel mesh to spread the paste wax through all the fine line cracks and gaps.

Be generous with the paste used, as you can easily remove the excess wax later on.

Leave it on for 15 minutes to allow the wood to absorb the color from the wax coat.

#Step 2 – Oil Spraying for removing excess paste and smoothening the surfaces

Spray the entire surface with any citrus oil. Lemon Oil and Orange Oil are the best choices for this step. Be very liberal while spraying the oil, as it will help remove over 60 percent of the excess wax on the wood surface.

How to restore wooden furniture

Using a fine cloth, wipe down the entire surface at least twice. This will help remove all the excess product on the wood surface and leave behind a very shiny and fresh-looking wood.

#Step 3 – Finishing with Beeswax polishing

Generally, it is best to use a combination product of Beeswax and Orange Oil for this step.

Just like steps 1 and 2, make sure to get excellent coverage of all the nooks and crevices while applying the Beeswax and Orange Oil combination.

Wipe down well with a polishing cloth, and it’s done!

Important Note

Refinishing wood furniture without stripping or sanding is incomplete if any of the steps mentioned above are missed.

The initial paste wax helps in restoring the color. The Oil spray helps remove the excess paste wax and helps in providing rehydration and nourishment to the wood. The final step of using Beeswax gives it a smoother and glossier wood surface that looks very elegant and new.

If you want to see how quickly you can restore your old wooden furniture without sanding, you can watch it here:

Want to know how to restore wood furniture without sanding? Well, let me help you to know all the details to do it yourself without needing to visit a professional woodworker.

Table of Contents

Imagine a dull and pale spot on the vintage wooden furniture that belonged to your grandfather. Just the thought of it is very discomforting to the heart and the mind. This wooden furniture is as much a piece of us as our thoughts and memories of those loved ones.

How to restore wooden furniture

Every wooden piece of furniture has a story to tell. But time, weather, and many external factors can cause them to wear and tear despite all love and care. Unlike other household goods, you cannot wash wooden furniture with water, soap, and other such agents. Some may suggest sanding and polishing, but that isn’t a permanent solution. But then, “how to restore furniture without sanding,” you ask? Let me answer that question for you in this write-up.

Restoring Wood Furniture: Preparation Work

Not all furniture requires extensive sanding to return to its former glory. It’s all about a little bit of tender love and care combined with some very simple household applications. But before restoration, you need to do a bit of preparatory work.

Clean away the debris and the dirt

With the increasing pollution all around, it is not surprising to see dust and dirt accumulating on the surface of household goods. Crevices, corners, intersections, and joints especially collect a lot of dust over a while.

How to restore wooden furniture

The first step of restoration is to eliminate every possible dirt and have the wooden furniture squeaky clean. Since soap and chemicals can be too tough on old wood, the best way is to use a microfiber cloth sprayed with a light solution of orange or lemon-based cleaner.

Getting rid of water stains

Remember the last time your mom scolded you for leaving behind a coaster-less wet mug on the table? The water stain not only looks ugly but is not so easy to get rid of. So why do these water stains appear?

Wood has a strong affinity for water. It absorbs moisture from under a cup that causes a blemish-like appearance on the surface. One easy and very effective way to remove stains is to dab a small amount of the regular mayonnaise on the water ring and wait for an hour before wiping it away.

How to restore wooden furniture

If the watermark is old, spray the area with a mixture of olive oil and vinegar and use a microfiber cloth to wipe it down after some time. The hydration alone will give a new life to the furniture.

Once the wooden furniture is clean and stain-free, it’s time to bring the wood back to life!

How To Restore Wood Furniture Without Sanding

The idea of restoring the wooden furniture without even needing to sand it or strip it was unthinkable years ago. But now, it is as simple as doing it in 3 easy steps. Just a few hrs of dedication and time, and the wood is as sparkling as brand new once again. Once the furniture is squeaky clean and devoid of any soil or unwanted particles, it’s ready to come back alive!

#Step 1 – Paste Wax application for color restoration

The first step is to use a generous coat of Citrecious paste wax on the furniture. Lather the surface well in a good amount of coating of the paste wax.

How to restore wooden furniture

Remember that paste wax comes in various light to dark shades, so it is important to choose one closest to the wood of your furniture. Ensure to use a fine steel mesh to spread the paste wax through all the fine line cracks and gaps.

Be generous with the paste used, as you can easily remove the excess wax later on.

Leave it on for 15 minutes to allow the wood to absorb the color from the wax coat.

#Step 2 – Oil Spraying for removing excess paste and smoothening the surfaces

Spray the entire surface with any citrus oil. Lemon Oil and Orange Oil are the best choices for this step. Be very liberal while spraying the oil, as it will help remove over 60 percent of the excess wax on the wood surface.

How to restore wooden furniture

Using a fine cloth, wipe down the entire surface at least twice. This will help remove all the excess product on the wood surface and leave behind a very shiny and fresh-looking wood.

#Step 3 – Finishing with Beeswax polishing

Generally, it is best to use a combination product of Beeswax and Orange Oil for this step.

Just like steps 1 and 2, make sure to get excellent coverage of all the nooks and crevices while applying the Beeswax and Orange Oil combination.

Wipe down well with a polishing cloth, and it’s done!

Important Note

Refinishing wood furniture without stripping or sanding is incomplete if any of the steps mentioned above are missed.

The initial paste wax helps in restoring the color. The Oil spray helps remove the excess paste wax and helps in providing rehydration and nourishment to the wood. The final step of using Beeswax gives it a smoother and glossier wood surface that looks very elegant and new.

If you want to see how quickly you can restore your old wooden furniture without sanding, you can watch it here:

If you’re looking to restore old wooden furniture and allow the patina of the timber to shine out again, you’ll need these step-by-step instructions from DIY expert Helaine Clare

How to restore wooden furniture

Looking for practical advice on how to restore wood furniture? You’ve come to the right place. Neglected old wooden furniture often suffers from a build-up of dirt and grime, with the diminished colour and lustre resulting in a dull appearance. With this in mind, owners of antique furniture are often left wondering how to restore old wood furniture (often much treasured pieces) to their former glory.

Thankfully, restoring wood furniture is quite easily done and we’ve created this easy to follow guide so that when you come to restore furniture, you’ll know what to do for ultimate success. What’s more, with restoration furniture seemingly always at the forefront of home trends – in both period and contemporary properties – and therefore, more costly to purchase, now you can save on something beautiful by simply creating your own.

  • See our guide on caring for, cleaning andpolishing woodfurniture if you’ve more modern pieces around the home.
More from Period Living

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The mahogany writing desk in this project below had ugly watermarks that marred the top that also needed attention. While it’s easy to restore old wooden furniture on a DIY basis, we’d always recommend ensuring you use the correct products. Our guide below talks you through furniture renovation and cleaning done professionally.

Once you’re done, see all our cleaning buys, how-tos and hacks to help keep the rest of your home sparkling. Looking for more expert advice on antique furniture restoration perhaps, and all things period properties – both interior and exterior? Head over to our Period Living hub page.

Everything you will need to restore old wooden furniture:

  • Work gloves
  • Dust mask
  • Paintbrushes
  • Proprietary chemical stripper and stripping tool
  • Wax and polish remover and fine steel wool (0000 gauge)
  • Fine glasspaper and sanding block
  • Wood dye
  • Wood restorer/ finishing oil
  • Wax polish
  • Tack cloth and lint-free cloth

How to restore old wooden furniture: step-by-step instructions

1. Prepare for stripping back

Stripping furniture is messy, but key to wood restoration, so work outside if possible. If working indoors, protect the floors and any furniture nearby and ensure good ventilation. To avoid damaging the finish on the body of the table, cover it in a plastic sheet so that only the top is exposed. Apply stripper liberally with an old brush.

2. Allow layers to dissolve

For a good result when refinishing wood, leave the stripper on for between five and 30 minutes until the finish – a mix of old varnish and polish – has dissolved. The length of time will depend on the composition and thickness of the coating. If the stripper hasn’t removed all the layers just re-spread the paste and it will continue to work.

Refinishing wood furniture may seem like an art but is easily done.

3. Neutralise the chemical stripper

Neutralise the wood with a pad of steel wool soaked in white spirit or proprietary wax and polish remover, following the grain of the wood. Before using any chemical always read the label carefully as different strippers require different neutralisers. Failure to neutralise stripper can allow it to reactivate and your wood restoration may not go to plan.

4. Clean off the rest of the table:

The next step to refinish furniture is to wipe away residues with cotton rags and leave for 24 hours. Meanwhile clean away dirt and old polish elsewhere by applying wax remover to a steel wool pad or coarse cloth and working in small areas at a time. Leave for a few minutes to soften the wax and wipe away with a clean cloth before it solidifies.

5. Return to the tabletop

24 hours after stripping the tabletop, use a sanding block and very fine glasspaper to smooth over the wood fibres raised during the stripping process – work with the grain. Shake and vacuum the protective sheet to get rid of dust that could spoil the finished piece. Finally wipe the top with a tack cloth.

6. Tackle areas of bleached wood

When you restore furniture, you’ll notice that every piece is different to tackle. Here for instance, for many years the table was sited beneath a window and the sun has bleached part of the wood, so applying a mahogany wood dye will make the top a uniform colour. Apply generously with a brush and allow stain to penetrate; wipe away excess with a cloth. Ensure an even finish by working in a good light.

Restoration furniture is a the perfect way to introduce something timeless to both period and modern properties.

7. Improve the sheen and finish when refinishing wood

Once dry, apply a coat of finishing oil using a brush or lint-free cloth. Allow oil to penetrate for 10 minutes and wipe away the surplus before it goes sticky. Wait for at least five hours and gently rub with 0000 gauge steel wool before applying a further coat; repeat again – the more coats the greater the durability and sheen.

8. The final spruce up with wood restorer

Finally, sparingly apply a thin coat of good furniture wax over the whole table. Leave for an hour at least and polish with a lint-free cloth. To avoid warping caused by drying out of the wood, position furniture away from radiators and fires. Sunlight will bleach the wood, so ensure it’s not placed beneath a window

Home remedies for restoring old wooden furniture

There are a couple more tricks you can use to restore furniture at home. You can remove surface dirt and old layers of wax polish with a home-made mix of four parts white spirit to one part of linseed oil. If the finish is still looking a bit lifeless, pour some proprietary wood reviver onto a cotton cloth and buff vigorously.

One such remedy which works when refinishing wood furniture is:

  • 1 part linseed oil
  • 2 parts meths
  • 2 parts turps
  • 2 parts distilled vinegar

Finally, refinish furniture with some beeswax polish and that should bring it back to life.

I found another fantastic piece of vintage furniture that I have decided not to paint. When I find these old wood pieces in great vintage condition, I tend to leave them with their original finish. When the wood and finish are this nice, I just don’t think paint can improve the beauty.

This little piece was in really nice vintage condition, solid, clean inside, and with all its original hardware. The finish was a bit dry and dull, though. All it needed was a good cleaning and something to bring out the beauty in the wood and restore the luster.

***This post contains affiliate links. For my complete disclosure policy, click here.***

I tried a new to me product called Fusion Beeswax Finish. I have used Fusion Mineral Paint many times (see those projects here, here, and here) and love it, and this product is just as great. It’s all natural – yay! – and made of hemp oil and beeswax. It looks and smells like hemp oil, but has the consistency of soft butter. It’s so simple to apply – love that, too! I just wiped a thin coat on with a soft, lint free rag. You can also use a brush if you prefer. I let it sit for about 30 minutes and lightly buffed. It gave the dresser a light sheen and brought out the depth of the wood grain.

How to restore wooden furniture

The original hardware has a great patina and is so sturdy.

How to restore wooden furniture

The paneled sides are a nice subtle detail. You can see the pretty sheen of the finish and how the Fusion Beeswax restores the lovely depth to the wood grain.

How to restore wooden furniture

How to restore wooden furniture

I found the painting at the Goodwill for $12. It’s one of those pieces that I was immediately drawn to. I am by no means an expert on art, and know nothing about this painting. I just thought it was really beautiful. The woman in the painting seems sort of mysterious to me. Is she looking down, or maybe her eyes are closed. Not sure.

How to restore wooden furniture

How to restore wooden furniture

So happy that my hydrangeas are blooming, and I can bring in fresh cut flowers from my garden. I found the Boyd mason jar also at the Goodwill. I have a collection of sorts, and was drawn to this one because the glass is green (rather than the usual blue I find).

How to restore wooden furniture

How to restore wooden furniture

If you have a piece of furniture that needs a little something to bring back the luster, you might want to give Fusion Beeswax Finish a try. It is also recommended for use over paint, but I haven’t tried that yet. If you have, let me know how you liked it.

How to restore wooden furniture

I think this little chest would look great as a nightstand. It’s large enough that it would be really nice between two twin beds. Even placed at the foot of a bed for extra storage and seating.

How to restore wooden furniture

Thanks for reading!

Disclosure: I have received product used in this post from Fusion Mineral Paint. As always, my opinions are 100% my own, and I only recommend products that I know and love.