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Restoring Your Wooden Antiques

While most people prefer to throw away old, outdated furniture there are some that find genuine charm to older pieces. […]

While most people prefer to throw away old, outdated furniture there are some that find genuine charm to older pieces. Keeping up with the times in your home has become a mainstream trend. Old tables, worn in sofas, and lackluster cabinets are finding themselves on the trash curb or in thrift shops everywhere. Many new pieces of furniture are created with different types of materials.

Metals, resin, plastics, or fabric all adorn our modern day designs. Classic, dark wooden furniture isn’t getting the fan base that it once used to with all of the new competition at hand. But before you think about parting ways with great grandma’s wooden china cabinet, consider all of the ways to restore it and give it some life. Sometimes all it takes is a little paint, wood finish, or just some extra love to bring it back to life.

Most old pieces of furniture hold some sentimental value to those that own it. Before trashing the memories, consider the ways to make them last.

Wood Finish

Before beginning any restoration process on a piece of wooden furniture, it’s important to identify the coating. There are many wood finishes that are applied to furniture and they must be identified before they can be stripped or worked around. Shellac, lacquer, and varnish are the three main types of finishes. With the simple addition of a little alcohol, you can easily tell what type of finish is on your furniture.

If the coating completely dissolves, it’s shellac. If it only dissolves partially, it’s a combination of shellac and lacquer. Test a small area with some lacquer thinner as well. If the area is not affected by either alcohol or lacquer thinner, it’s a varnish. Once the type of wood finish is established, you can begin your restoration process.


Most outdated wooden furniture suffers from some basic and common issues. Cracks, discoloration, dirt, or general wear and tear. The first step that can be taken to help these issues is a good cleaning. This is the easiest method of restoration, and sometimes it’s all that is needed! After years of sitting, wooden furniture can accumulate dirt, grime, or waxy build up. By purchasing an oil-based wood cleaner, these build ups and dirty areas can easily be removed.

An at-home mix of warm water and liquid detergent can do the trick just as well. The key is to use sparingly, and work quickly! Too much water can damage the wood and its finish, and leave a white haze behind. Make sure to wipe down all wood thoroughly with a dry cloth after cleaning.


If your piece of furniture has suffered from discoloration or white, hazy marks it’s time to buff them out and restore it. This milk-white discoloration is called “blushing”. It can be removed by buffing with steel wool. Prior to beginning, make sure that your furniture is cleaned. Dip the steel wool into mineral or linseed oil and rub it gently alongside the grain of the wood. Make sure the wool is always well oiled, and work slowly. This process removes only the top portion of the discoloration. Once finished, dry the wood and polish it with a hard paste wax.


If you’re entire piece of wooden furniture is suffering from discoloration, a little extra work must be involved. Begin by cleaning the piece, and then sanding down the worn areas until it’s bare. Once the wood is bare, apply a stain to it. Allow the stain to dry, and then buff the furniture with a hard paste wax, and reapply a wood finish for shine (if desired).


If all of your cleaning and restoring techniques aren’t doing the trick, or making you fall in love with your furniture again then it’s time for a little redecorating! This is the point where you can get creative, and add a little paint, some stencils, or other decorative designs. Decorative wood finishes with flakes or color can be applied for a little pop. Sometimes taking something old and transforming it into a whole new piece can be just what you need to keep it in your home.

Before you trash your classic wooden furniture, think of all the ways you can keep it healthy. All it may take is good cleaning and new wood finishes. You’ll save a ton of money and fall in love with that coffee table all over again! Wooden furniture is classic, hearty, and natural. Keep it living by taking extra care of it!

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Ashely is very big into upcycling. She loves to find old furniture and turning it into something beautiful again. To see more, check out her Twitter @ashelymarie1985.

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