Damage-Free Antique Furniture Cleaning


If you have precious antiques or family heirlooms with a lot of sentimental value attached to them furnishing your home it would be a shame to do damage to the finish or functionality of these articles when it is time for a clean-up; learn how to clean and restore your treasures in a non-destructive manner with these top tips:

For wooden furniture:

Wooden furniture can end up being pretty tricky to clean, as dirt doesn’t just sit on the surface: the porous properties of the natural material mean that dirt can end up becoming engrained into old furniture; whilst this can add character to antique pieces, there comes a time when dirt can start to damage the wood – at this point, you may wish to restore the piece to its former glory – simply follow these easy steps for trouble-free cleaning:

  • Make sure to use a gentle, oil-based cleanser before adding any wax – citrus oils are a particularly effective and non-toxic option which soak into the wood and help to break up dirt beneath the surface – adding wax will prevent the oils from soaking in and doing their job.
  • Gently use a 100% cotton cloth to work citrus oils into the wood surface – remember, don’t use circular motions, instead, follow the path of the wood-grain.
  • Once oil has been applied to the wooden furniture, let it sit for a day, then use a clean cloth to rub any excess oil which remains on the surface into the wood.
  • You may need to repeat this process a few times for stubborn grime: don’t be tempted to use harsh chemicals – a gentle touch is required for antiques.
  • Apply a specialist antique-safe natural wax once the furniture has been cleaned to help seal and protect the wood for years to come.

For antique leather:

When creating upholstery for furniture, craftsmen of old often chose leather, due to its hard-wearing, versatile properties; for all of its charms, however, leather can dry out and accumulate dirt over the years – it may be tempting to get your antique chair re-upholstered, however, this could prove to be costly and would remove some of the character and historical value of the item – before getting your furniture stripped, follow these steps:

  • Using a soft cotton cloth, simply rub warm water into the leather surface – this will help to remove any surface dirt – pay special attention to stains – these should be rubbed with extra pressure, in a circular motion.
  • Dry the leather off completely, using clean towels.
  • Use a leather stain-remover, rubbing any remaining problem areas using a clean cloth – apply sparingly and check the label on the bottle to see that it is safe to use on your leather.
  • Use a towel to wipe away all traces of the leather stain remover.
  • Find a mild soap-based cleanser and make a warm lather in a bowl: use a clean cloth to apply this as per the first step, taking care not to saturate the leather – the goal is to wipe the surface gently and then mop up all excess dampness using a dry towel.
  • Once your leather has been cleaned and wiped dry, allow it to air dry in a dark area, away from any heat sources, overnight.
  • Find yourself a lint-free cloth and apply a leather conditioner to the upholstery – there are many products out there – most of them require you to dilute in a solution of water, before applying to the leather article – whichever method you use, make sure to soak the product into a damp cloth before rubbing in to the leather – don’t try pouring the conditioner onto the surface neat, or you run the risk of creating unsightly marks.
  • Allow the conditioner to dry for a few hours – you can then add some further coats if you wish: allow two hours between coatings.

Frank Ishmael is a specialist in cleaning and restoring vintage furniture; Frank’s Cleaning Services are characterised by all-natural products and old-fashioned techniques which are effective without being harmful to the furniture or the environment.

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