Brisbane . Gold Coast . Sunshine Coast

JR French Polishing

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Furniture Restoration guide 


We get asked alot about how to clean furniture that is past its best or damaged so i have put up this small list of minnor technecs that can help.


You may have a piece of antique furniture that is dirty, slightly scratched and worn, but not damaged badly enough to require stripping and refinishing. You may own a valuable antique whose beauty might be enhanced but whose quality could be greatly diminished if you stripped the old finish away, or did anything more than dust the piece. You may own a piece of furniture that really needs some attention but your time or personal situation may not allow you to refinish it just now. What to do—clean it and/or recondition it? Cleaning and reconditioning may accomplish the task or will temporarily solve the problem until you can do a more thorough refinishing. Some methods for cleaning and reconditioning are:


1. Cleaning/washing

2. Abrasion

3. Over coating


They are listed in order of increasing difficulty. Use the method that will require the least work to accomplish the desired result.


CLEANING AND WASHING There is no best way to clean a finish. It depends on the kind of dirt.

NOTE: Use a water wash sparingly—water can loosen old glues.


1.Hot Wash: Add to each gallon of hot water:

2 tablespoons gum turpentine

4 tablespoons boiled linseed oil


This formula works best if it is hot enough to require that you wear rubber gloves. Wring out a soft clean cloth in the solution and wash the wood. The turpentine and hot water will clean away soil, oils, and built up waxes and polishes. The linseed oil will replace oils and actually “finish” worn or bare spots. (Linseed oil has been one of the most used finishes of the past.)


2 Wipe dry and buff with a clean soft cloth. This may be sufficient. Polish with lemon oil or apply a surface wax if desired. This wash works well for furniture, cabinets and wall panelling. Oil soap or similar products can also be used to wash wood.

2. Ammonia wash. Make a solution of 20 percent household ammonia and 80 percent water. Wring clean rag and wipe furniture. Depending on the type of finish, this method may discolour or cloud the wood finish. ( Avoid using on oak timbers )

3. Mineral spirits wash.( try diluting the meths in water first before trying it straight ) Moisten a clean soft cloth with mineral spirits and rub soiled wood to dissolve polish, wax, oil and greasy grime.


For flood damaged furniture excluding veneered items and mdf the use of fresh water can be used to wash out the dirt left behind by dirty flood water. Simply boil as much water as needed for the item and wash down until the water runs clear and the surface is free of dirt. After washing place the item on an angle by placing timber under the legs or leaning up against a wall ( do not place in direct sunlight ). It may loosen the glue but it is better that than mould and a piece of non repairable furniture if left to rot.


ABRASION Wax build up, finger prints, soil or scratches may require you to use an abrasion technique. Good furniture finishes are actually thick enough that you can “wear” away damage that is on the finish and has not penetrated to the wood. Sometimes the damage is only in the wax or furniture polish that is on top of the finish. A white ring is an example ( see blog pages bellow ). It may be in the wax or polish or in the finish. Stains that are dark or black are usually through the finish and into the wood. However, the abrasion of the finish will take a high gloss finish to a satin finish and so the abrasion will need to be over the entire surface of the wood. 1. Oil and Abrasive Polish Paraffin oil OR Boiled linseed oil Pumice or rotten stone or 0000 steel wool Place abrasive in a small can or jar. Place oil in a small can or jar. Dip a small pad of 0000 steel wool into the oil and then into the abrasive. Polish the furniture in small sections, rub back and forth with the grain. Adjust the pressure to the needs of the job at hand When the defects have been removed or sufficiently repaired, wipe off the surface.


OVER COATING In some cases the wood may be in good shape but the finish may be worn out and thin with not enough left to repair by the abrasion technique. Over coating is the technique of applying a new finish over old. Begin by cleaning the surface with paint thinner or a weak solution of ammonia and water to remove soil, polishes and waxes. If the stain is worn, apply new stain. In some cases, a coat or two of oil based stain buffed into the wood with 0000 steel wool and wiped with a clean cloth is enough finish. If stain has been applied, let it dry thoroughly. Apply a thin coat of a clear finish. It is best if you apply the same kind of finish that was used originally, i.e., shellac over shellac or varnish over varnish, etc. The least successful method is any synthetic varnish over shellac. Always test a small amount of finish over a hidden part of the furniture. If a surface finish has been applied (not a penetrating oil finish) when it is thoroughly dry, wipe it with very fine steel wool and apply paste wax.



Always use the correct protection and work in a well ventilated area. It is always best to seek professional help if you are unsure of any of the techniques outlined above.