Cleaning and Reviving Old Furniture

Any piece of furniture that has been neglected or stored in a shed or garage etc. will need some cleaning. Look closely and you will see that the wood has lost its colour and lustre, dirt and old wax has gathered in cracks and carvings. Nothing a careful clean won't put right!

The aim is remove the surface layer of grime and wax without damaging the natural underlying colours or patina which has built up over it's life. Providing you are careful and not too vigorous this will be quite straightforward.

To remove old wax, dampen a piece of course cloth with cleaning fluid. (I recommend LIBERON antique cleaner restorer). Proceed by rubbing the wood in the direction of the grain. The wax will gradually soften and build up into a sludge and must be wiped from the surface with a clean rag before it dries out. Continue doing this until the wood is smooth and no more dirt comes off. You may have to use wire or steel wool 0000 grade (very fine) to remove thick wax. Dip it in the fluid as before but don't rub too vigorously. Finally clean the surface using a soft cloth and white spirit.

If you are unable to purchase a propriety brand of cleaner, you can make some yourself by mixing 4 parts white spirit to 1 part linseed oil.

Initial cleaning always improves the appearance of old furniture, but can still look dull and lifeless. All that is required is some buffing with a mild abrasive such as burnishing cream, even rubbing the surface with a clean soft cloth will start to put a lustre on it. To start bringing back the colour and to show the grain more clearly, apply some wood reviver.

This is a recently cleaned and revived Windsor Chair using the methods explained.

I recommend LIBERON antique furniture reviver or finishing oil.

Make your own reviver by mixing 1 part malt vinegar, 1 part methylated spirit and 1 part linseed oil. Mix well in an empty Jam Jar, put a lid on it and it will last for months.

If the surface isn't too bad then you can just wax polish the surface; it isn't always necessary to clean off first if the surface has a relatively good finish.

To find out what the surface finish is, try a test patch in an inconspicuous area with a cloth moistened with methylated spirits. If the cloth becomes grey you are merely removing the wax polish, but if brown stains appear on the cloth this will mean you are dissolving the French polish. Therefore you cannot use a cleaner which contains Methylated Spirit, on a French Polished surface.

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