This area of our website is where
we provide answers to some of the most often asked questions we hear
from our clients and web visitors. We hope you'll find this
information helpful. You should find that most of the common
questions and answers to your furniture and wood issues are here.
We are no longer accepting inquiries
or questions for wood related issues. Any issues beyond the answers
you see in this section will likely require a professional.
Please select the question you would
like to see, and click it to go directly to that Q & A. Or
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dusting, and polishing furniture/cabinets in general
furniture after moving from another country or a different
area of the country
table cloth/plastic items ok to use on Italian or any finished
table top surface
finish showing wear and tear
from nail polish remover
damage from pen
firm needs custom built computer stations
owner needs custom matched credenza
white marks or rings from table tops
Re-Facing - how long
repairs - how long
set refinish - how long
infestation in furniture
top only - refinishing with matching
kitchen cabinets - wants more added
mantel with bookcases built in beside
built bookcases to match periods
Finish Damage on Antique Oiled Furniture
smoke smell from furniture (from cigarettes)
polish over original finish on antique bed - value damaged?
marks from water on furniture
holes in furniture - active pests or not?
maker and stove steam are damaging my kitchen cabinet finish
do you recommend for cleaning priceless antique furniture
and musty smell in furniture (from
the United Kingdom)
turns "cloudy" on dark cherry table top after polishing
do I remove sticky tape residue on furniture
do I clean Fire damaged furniture
We have received hundreds of questions
on the basic cleaning, dusting and polishing of furniture and/or
cabinets, and what product to use to polish. There are many ways to
clean and polish furniture, depending on the type of finish you
have. For more specific and direct questions on antique furniture or
cabinets, please view our other questions in this section. Your
answer is more than likely here, or in another Q/A. Many common
questions can also be answered on our Caring
For Wood page.
Dusting finished furniture can be done with either a soft rag or a
"feather" duster. Adding a light mist of dusting agent
(such as Endust) is fine, however make certain that the mist is on
the rag or feather duster, NOT the furniture. It also helps to allow
the dusting product to dry before you begin to dust (it will still
work), so it doesn't smear your furniture. If you don't wait until
the dusting agent (ie: Endust) is dry and you get smears, either
wipe with a dry rag to try to remove the smears, or polish after
dusting. Oiled furniture should NOT have any product applied to a
rag or feather duster. Dust oiled furniture with a soft rag only and
re-oil as needed. How often should I dust?- Dusting depends
on how picky you are and how dusty your house is. If you house
accumulates a large amount of dust on a regular basis, dust daily if
needed. Weekly dusting is usually sufficient for most people.
Cleaning: Knowing your type
of finish is crucial to cleaning furniture, whether it has a
finish or whether it just has an oil coating. If the furniture is
oiled, using a damp cloth to clean will damage this furniture, as it
will force too much moisture into it. Oiled furniture should be
dusted with a dry rag ONLY and re-oiled only. There are specific
furniture oils for this procedure. Please note that oil offers the
smallest amount of protection of any finish (if you get water on
it, it's damaged instantly) and requires the highest
maintenance. You should oil your furniture an average of at least
once per month. During the heating season, you might want to oil
twice a month, as heat and dry conditions will dry out your
furniture faster. You should also never place anything like water or
even a "sweating" glass on your furniture. Oil will not
resist much. Also you may notice that placing cloth items on your
furniture will have an effect as well. Cloth will absorb the
moisture from the oil, leaving you with dry furniture. We recommend
that instead of oiling furniture, which offers very little
protection, get a finish applied to the furniture; oil was
traditionally used before more protective finishes we applied. If
the furniture is finished with tung oil, varnish, lacquer or another
more standard type of finish, maintenance cleaning with a damp cloth
and mild detergent such as "Dawn" can be done. To
remove old polish build up - The following method will not
work if your finish has failed. To thoroughly clean and remove
old polish, soak a very soft rag with "mineral spirits"
ONLY (no other type of thinner, using an incorrect thinner can ruin
your finish). You'll need a few very soft rags (like old baby
diapers that have been washed many times). We don't recommend using
paper towels, colored rags, or any rag that might be slightly harsh
feeling (like towels). Having thoroughly soaked one rag with mineral
spirits, (you may do this right over the tabletop surface in the
event some drips off the rag) wipe your table very thoroughly with
the soaked rag, making sure to flip the rag frequently so you can
absorb and remove the old polish into the rag. Thoroughly go over
all areas multiple times with the rag. Don't be afraid to flip the
rag and apply more thinner often when using this process. Dry
your surface well with a clean, soft rag. This should remove all old
polish. Your surface will look very dull, and this is NORMAL. Once
you polish a few times, the shine will come back. On furniture or
cabinets, polishing is crucial after every time of cleaning with
water and soap or mineral spirits. This keeps a small coat of wax on
it to protect the surface. This prevents it from scratching as bad
and offers general protection. If your finish has turned black or
very dark and can easily be scraped off with a fingernail or a
utensil, it has probably failed and this method will remove
finish. If this is the case with your furniture or cabinets, you are
in need of a refinish job. How often should I clean? -
Cleaning your furniture or cabinets depends on how much use it
receives. Kitchen tables used daily can be cleaned daily with soap
and water and with mineral spirits as often as 4 times a year.
Dining tables or other furniture that gets used infrequently may be
cleaned as little as once a year. Simply use your own good judgment
as to the frequency of use and clean accordingly. Do not over clean
by cleaning weekly or monthly if not needed.
Oiling/Polishing: First and
foremost, oiled furniture needs oil ONLY, and no other product.
There is a wide variety of oils on the market for furniture, and
most products are fine to use. DO NOT use polish on oiled
furniture!! Polishing furniture is simple and requires very little
effort to maintain a very nice look. The product we recommend for
polishing normal finishes, such as tung oil (if dried well),
varnish, polyurethane, most lacquers, pre-catalyzed finishes and any
other type of finish that offers general protection OTHER THAN
straight oiled furniture, is "Old English" in the aerosol
can. Paste waxes, and polishes that require applying like a car wax
are fine to use, but not as easy to apply. These paste wax type of
products DO offer more protection, however it is not
necessary to use these products IF you clean and polish on a
regular enough basis. To apply polish, simply
"mist" the entire surface area you wish to polish. Using a
soft, non colored dry rag (not paper towels or harsh products) wipe
the area in a circular motion, making certain that all areas of your
wood product are wiped well. Flip your rag to a dry spot and re-wipe
all areas to remove the "greasy" feeling and you're done.
Polishing table legs and areas that are not flat may be done by
spraying polish directly onto your rag and using the same general
method as a large surface such as a table top. How often do I
need to polish? - Applying polish is according to your needs and
the amount of use the wood product gets. Tables used daily should be
polished at least 3 times a week, if not daily. Tables or other wood
products that are used a few times a month may be polished once
weekly or less, depending on use. Cleaning, dusting, and
polishing should all be done on a regular basis to maintain the
integrity of your furniture or cabinets. Using common sense will
tell you (most of the time) when to apply a specific procedure. If
your furniture/cabinet is getting a dry "used" look
frequently, you're probably not polishing enough. If your furniture
or cabinet appears greasy all the time, you may be over polishing or
using a wrong method. Simply use common sense and see what your wood
product looks like and how it reacts to what you are doing.
REMEMBER!! - Polish is protecting your investment by keeping a small
amount of wax coating on top of your finish to protect it against
small surface scratches. If you do not polish, you are scratching
the finish itself.
Q: What is
the best, most
effective way to clean older, wooden kitchen cabinets? I
am re-doing my kitchen, but want to keep my cabinets. They
need a really good cleaning, but I'm afraid of damaging them.
Once they are clean, what is the best product to keep them looking
great? I would appreciate any advise.
Cleaning older kitchen cabinets might or might not be a dangerous
task. If the area around your handles has turned dark, your finish
older and has failed. Your finish will all come off when you attempt
to clean, leaving you with no protection on your cabinet doors at
all. This area will eventually turn black and be permanently
stained. The oils from hands and cooking oils have disintegrated the
finish over the years. At this point we highly recommend refinishing
or refacing your cabinet doors at the very least. You will be nearly
wasting your time trying to refresh or clean your finish.
To attempt to clean your cabinets, first we recommend that you use
the dish washing liquid "Dawn" and water (like you would
wash dishes) and try a few spots before you attempt the entire
kitchen. "Dawn" will help remove grease from hands and the
cooking oils that have accumulated over time from opening your doors
and cooking in your kitchen. You will need to test areas that are
NOT extremely noticeable, but that appear to be dirty. Wipe gently
at first to see if the dirt will lift easily. If the dirt lifts
easily and doesn't harm the finish, proceed by wiping firmly and
continue on with the rest of your kitchen. If the cleaning seems to
remove finish, STOP IMMEDIATELY and do not continue. Your finish has
failed and there is nothing more you can do other than refinish or
If your finish comes clean without damage, dry off your entire
kitchen with a soft rag and let sit for at least an hour. Then you
may polish with an over the counter spray polish. Mist the surface
you wish to polish very well, wipe in a circular motion then with
You're now done! It's really fairly simple, and you may use the same
process on furniture. The furniture polish we recommend is Old
receive questions on a very frequent basis for this problem.
This is a general answer to 99% of the problems that exist.
Q: We have an
alter piece made out of Indonesian wood. We had no problem with it
whatsoever while we were in Hong Kong. We have moved to London and
our furniture arrived in November 2002. A few weeks ago, I noticed a
crack plus the two connecting parts at a joint have moved apart and
there is a rectangular hole.Hope you can advise me on how we can
repair and protect it from further damage.
The problem you are experiencing is not an uncommon one to people
who move from one location to another (whether it be another
country or within a country), and we get this question very
frequently. Temperature and humidity is the culprit, and it is not
an easy fix unfortunately. I am going to assume that the
temperature and humidity in Hong Kong is far different from
London. Wood expands and contracts with the surroundings that it
is in. If your piece was shipped by ocean liner, this can be a
major problem if it was not packed and padded correctly. The sea
has the highest level of humidity possible. It is very possible
the damage could have been from this. If your piece was shipped by
land over an extended period and not packed and padded correctly,
the same thing can happen in an enclosed truck with no temperature
and humidity control. Otherwise, once a piece is moved to the new
location, it literally has to adjust to the surroundings. This
takes an average of a year, or a complete cycle of weather. If
your piece is finished with oil, varnish, polyurethane, lacquer,
or any basic type of finish (other than no finish at all), it must
adjust. We suggest that you do not attempt to do anything for the
first year, other than make sure the entire inside of the
piece has finish on it. If there is NO finish on the inside, this
can also be the culprit. Find out what type of finish you have and
apply it to all areas on the inside. This is what is called a
"balanced surface" and is imperative to keeping a piece
from expanding and contracting unevenly.
Unfortunately, it sounds like your piece qualifies for a
professional once it has settled.
it harmful to keep a clear vinyl table cloth on my Italian
lacquer dining room table?
A: We're more than happy to answer
your question with an amount of detail we hope will clearly clarify
this issue for you.
Any modern day finish (within the last 10 plus years) should NOT
have any form of plastic set on it for any length of time.
Current finishes have chemical properties in them that can actually
mix with the chemical composition of plastics (such as a plastic
table cloth), causing what is called "plasticizer
migration." This is a chemical reaction between the two
individual surfaces. This reaction leaves different types of marks
on your wood finished surface, such as lightening the area affected
with a cloudy look. Therefore, you should not place any type of
plastic on a table top. This includes a plastic table cloth, plastic
figurines or any type of center piece with plastic feet, plastic
bottom place mats, plastic cups or saucers, plastic plates, etc..
You should always make sure there is some form of felt or cloth
under any plastic that will be set on a table top surface.
To view more highly detailed information about plasticizer
migration, you may view this web site and click on any of the areas
of detailed descriptions. http://www.nrc.ca/irc/thesaurus/physical_changes.html
I have an older (30 years) pecan wood coffee table that needs some
attention. I don't know what kind of finish it has now, but the
surface is showing wear and tear. The grain is raised in some areas,
sticky in others. What do you suggest I do to clean and restore the
beauty of the wood? Thanks in advance for the advice!
A: Older finishes are not as good
as the finishes of today. Your table sounds like it needs to be
restored to make it look good and last. Once a finish has turned
"sticky", this generally means the finish has failed.
"Sticky finishes" are a result of too much polish build
up, oils over the years, and an older finish that has just simply
failed over time. Once this process has happened, the oils have
permeated the finish and loosened it up, causing it to feel
sticky. If you were to try to clean this table correctly, you
would end up removing failed finish as well as the stickiness,
leaving the table with no finish to protect it.
To temporarily clean it, use
mineral spirits and #0000 steel wool, rubbing with the grain of
the wood. Wipe three or four times with a rag and fresh thinner
after you have rubbed the surface with the steel wool and thinner
(mineral spirits). We do not recommend polishing after this
process, as most of the finish more than likely will be removed
and you will be polishing only the wood underneath.
I recently dropped a cotton ball with nail polish remover on it on
the top of a cherry night stand in my bedroom. I removed the cotton
ball immediately, but the damage had already been done. The coating
was removed from the wood, and felt gummy when I blotted it (like
glue). After the area dried, the stain beneath was still intact, but
there is now an ugly mark resulting from the damage to the coating.
This area is slightly smaller than a quarter, and is in a very
conspicuous spot. Is there anything I can do to smooth it out
without damaging the finish?
A: Unfortunately, nail polish
remover is nothing more than liquid stripper in a small bottle. It
removes the paint from your nails, thus it also removes finish
This can be touched up, but it is
a difficult consumer process to make it blend properly and look
the same as your old finish so it can be reasonably un-noticed.
The finish has actually crinkled due to the stripper starting to
eat the finish.
If you care to try to fix this
yourself, here is the method:
- Very lightly and carefully, use
180 grit sand paper on the affected are only. (as close as you
- Continue sanding until it
appears that the majority of the wrinkling is gone. You may
not be able to get it all out, but do the best you can.
- Once you have the area sanded
as best you can, use a WHITE colored rag, dip it in some
mineral spirits and wipe the area. Look to see if the original
color is still present. (In other words, does the affected
area look the same color as before, as SOON as you applied the
- If the color remained the same
after sanding, no additional color need be applied. If it is
lighter, you must add the appropriate color to blend with the
rest of your piece.
- Once any additional color or
the thinner has dried (approx 6 hours), you may now apply some
finish. Determine the sheen of the original finish (satin,
semi-gloss, gloss), apply a thin coat of finish to the
affected area only with an artist brush. (Recommended finish
for this would be Minwax fast drying polyurethane)
- Allow finish to dry at least 3
days in damp weather, 2 days under normal weather.
- Lightly sand the affected area
and a very small (1/4") area surrounding it. If the area
"powders" up you are ready to apply a second coat of
finish. If the area "balls" up, it is not dry and
needs at least another day to dry.
- If the finish is dry and ready
to sand, sand it as mentioned above, wipe any dust off with a
"tack cloth", and apply another coat of finish to
- Repeat steps 6, 7, and 8 until
the finish looks close to the way it did originally.
This is a not an easy project for
the homeowner, especially if you want it to look original. My
recommendation is to call a professional furniture touch-up
company and have them do it for you. If you need to locate someone
in your area, please go to our Refinisher Links page, or tell me
where you're located and I'll try to help you find someone.
I have a cherry wood desk with a satin finish. I was writing on a
paper on top of it and the writing pressed into the wood below. Do
you have any products that would repair this? What should I do?
A: Most of the time when this
happens, it is the result of one of two things, or a combination
of both. Either the desk was not protected by a durable hard
finish, or you pressed too hard when writing. Unfortunately, the
only good resolution for this is to clean and prep the finish that
exists, and re-coat with additional top coats of a hard, durable
finish such as polyurethane. Another alternative is to strip, sand
and refinish the top completely, again using a durable hard
We are a large, state-operated firm that needs special computer
stations built. Is your company capable of designing, with us, for
the space allowed and the specifications needed?
A: Yes. We have worked with firms
in the state as large as the University of Iowa to rebuild their
entire Hospital lobbies tabletops. We have also worked with the
local library to build all of their Internet computer stations, as
well as restoring an entire county courthouse seating area. We
work with small firms, major corporate firms, and state and
federal firms as well.
I have a business, and cannot find an appropriate desk and credenza
to fit the space available, nor can I seem to find the color that
will match the existing woodwork. Is it possible to have this type
of furniture built, with color matching, from your company?
A: More than likely, yes. We need
to see the allowable space, the design you want, and the color to
be achieved. We have built many desks of different styles for
I am 14 years old and I set a glass of water on a table of my Mom
and Dad's and some spilled out. It left a white mark and I am in big
trouble. I am grounded until I can do something about it. Can you
help me PLEASE!!?
A: Yes, I can help you young man.
Try this: Get a jar of creamy peanut butter. Use a very soft rag
and spread a fair amount of the peanut butter on the rag , then
rub it on the white spot on the table. You may need to rub for a
while, but it should help. Creamy peanut butter contains a mild
abrasive and oils which will force the oil back into the finish,
removing some, if not all, of the white mark. I hope you get
"ungrounded" with this help.
How long would it take to have our kitchen re-faced?
A: The vast majority of the work
is done in our shop. Depending on how large your kitchen is and
how many kitchens are in line before yours, it can take anywhere
from 6-10 weeks before we get into your home. Once in your home we
are usually not there more than 2-3 days.
How long does it take to repair a chair that is just loose?
A: Of course it depends on what
"loose" is. Most chair repairs can be returned within a
week or less, barring the need for ordered or custom made parts.
I have a dining room table with 3 leaves, and 6 chairs. How long
would it take to get it refinished?
A: The time frame for all
refinishing jobs goes in order of when we receive them, however
the current turn-around time for a set of this size is
approximately 45-60 days.
We recently bought a beautiful antique chest. Unfortunately we've
just found out that we have termites. The fellow who sold us the
chest recommended a spray, which we used, to kill the bugs. I am
writing to you to ask for your expert advice on this matter. Is it
safe to spray the chest? Will it kill the termites? Will the
termites really be gone or will they return? Is it truly possible to
get rid of termites? If the termites don't die, will they eventually
eat through the entire chest? Will they spread to other antique
furniture that we have in our house? PLEASE help me. Your advice
would be greatly appreciated.
A: First, I recommend that you
isolate this piece from your home immediately. The risk of
termites invading your home is very great at this point. Termites
like dark, warm places. Allowing this piece to remain in your home
allows termites to find a newer, darker atmosphere, with the end
result being possibly detrimental to your surroundings.
You ask: Is it safe to spray
If you are going to keep the
original finish there is a chance that it can do some minimal
damage. Depending on the type of finish it is and the termite
product you use, will offer you the end result. I would recommend
a bomb type fog insect repellent rather than a direct spray. If
you have this option, make sure to place it a little way away from
the piece, yet close enough to have a good effect. Confine the
area with the chest to be bombed. I have not run into the problem
with termites in 17 years of business, however I have set off fog
bombs in my building for other bug problems with no adverse effect
to my finishes.
Will it kill the termites?
This I cannot determine for you.
The manufacturer would be the appropriate place to ask about the
potency of the product. If homes can be rid of termites, I see no
reason that a chest could not.
Will the termites really be
gone or will they return?
Once again, this depends upon the
potency of the product.
Is it truly possible to get rid
Termites can be removed from homes
by removing the source, or the nests that contain the new eggs.
Most times, termites will just move to other locations rather than
die. The new eggs in the nests are what dies. I would venture to
say that if you can treat your newly-acquired piece in a manner
similar to the way homes are treated, your results should be
If the termites don't die, will
they eventually eat through the entire chest?
If the termites don't die, don't
move out of the chest, and the new eggs are allowed to hatch, then
yes, they will eventually destroy your entire piece as well as
invade your home.
Will they spread to other
antique furniture that we have in our house?
Yes, they will. Termites reproduce
at an alarming rate. It only takes one unaffected nest to create a
disaster in your home and your furniture.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you need to take action
immediately. Remove this piece from your home, have your home
inspected ASAP, and have all areas treated if needed. Do not waste
time in this action. Call a termite inspector, tell them what you
told me, and have them inspect your house right away. You may not
have any affected areas, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
I have a table that only needs the top refinished. Can you match the
color and refinish just the top?
A: In most cases this answer is
yes. We can not promise a flawless color match, as we do not have
the exact stain that was used, and the aging process has changed
the color. However, we have refinished hundreds of "just
table tops", and they have turned out very well.
have an end table that has some veneer missing, and is chipped on
top. Can you fix this?
A: Yes, it is possible to
re-veneer items such as this. We can either patch the veneer or
replace the entire section. Patching is not the best alternative,
as it will show no matter what we do. We recommend replacing the
entire section and then color matching to the rest of the piece.
I have existing kitchen cabinets that are fine. I want to have a
couple of cabinets added. Can you make them look the same, matching
the looks of the doors, color, hardware, etc.?
A: Most likely, yes. If you know
the manufacturer of the cabinet, it might speed up the process of
acquiring the color, rather than having to custom-mix it. We also
have hundreds of knobs and handles to choose from, from a wide
variety of suppliers. Door profiles (inside and outside edges) can
usually come very close, however shaping bits can become changed
with sharpening, not allowing us to re-create precisely. In most
cases we can come close enough that the average eye will not
I am building a new house and want a fireplace mantel with bookcases
built-in beside it. We have a contractor that has done all the work
so far, but will not build cabinets and mantels. Can you make all of
this, match the wood and the color that he has used?
A: Yes we can. If your contractor
has the brand and color of the stain, the type of wood used, and
the sheen of the finish applied, we can match very well.
I have a spot in my house where I want an entertainment center
built, but it is in a corner. Is it possible to have a custom-built
unit to fit in the corner I want it in, and in the available space?
A: Yes, depending on how much
space is available for what you want. The size of your TV, stereo
gear, and whatever else you want inside it does have a bearing on
it though. We have custom-built many entertainment centers to fit
specific areas, many of them being corner units.
I have an older home that I would like bookcases built into. It is
important to me to match the period of the house with the type of
carvings and moldings we currently have. Is your company capable of
A: Yes, we can do this. We have
done bookcases in a few lovely older homes where our customers
wanted "period matching". We can get a wide variety of
carvings, moldings, and pressed designs to match most eras.
Would you ever answer questions about refinishing if I wanted to do
A: Of course. We will be happy to
help all we can.
I have bedroom furniture that goes back three generations. This
beautiful furniture has an oil finish with a few minor flaws. What
would you recommend I do for the few white spots, the edges under
the drawers that have worn through the finish, scratches and what
appears to be dust trapped in the grooves? Thank you in advance for
any suggestions you can offer."
A - The white spot(s) on your
furniture is from moisture, such as a glass or a plant being set
down on top of a surface. One possible cure would be to rub creamy
peanut butter into the finish with a soft rag in a circular
motion over and over. The oils from the peanuts, as well as the
abrasive from the peanuts, should offer some what of a
"renewable" effect. This process forces the oils into
the finish, revitalizing it some. Once you're done rubbing, take a
dry cloth and wipe it off well. This is a method that
does not always work, however we have found that, depending on the
severity of the damage, it often times performs what people
consider a "miracle." Once the peanut butter process is
done, re-oil your furniture. Please note that oil offers the
smallest amount of protection of any finish and requires the
highest maintenance. You should oil your furniture an average of
at least once per month under normal temperature and humidity
conditions. You should also never place anything like water or
"sweating" glass on your furniture. Oil will not resist
much. Also you may notice that placing cloth items on your
furniture will have an effect as well. Cloth will absorb the
moisture from the oil, leaving you with dry furniture.
If this peanut butter does not work, unfortunately you may need to
have your furniture restored.
Q - I recently received a
beautiful, antique, four poster bed.
The headboard is made out of wood, walnut, I think. The problem is
that the elderly lady that had it for many years smoked
cigarettes. Now the wood smells like old cigarettes, and is
somewhat musty smelling. It is a beautiful wood, and I tried
cleaning it with Murphy's Oil soap, which did not take out the
smell. I then tried Liquid Gold, which seemed to take out the
smell temporarily, and lifted it a little bit. Do you have a
remedy for taking undesirable smells out of wood? I was wondering
if there was some type of oil or something I could try. I think
the cigarette smell is deep in the pores of the wood. I would
appreciate any help/advice you could give me. Thanks
A - Your bed has smoke imbedded
into the finish, which makes it difficult to get out completely,
however there are some remedies to get you closer to "no
smoke smell." Try cleaning the bed with a very soft rag and
"mineral spirits." Make certain to use "mineral
spirits" only and not another thinner. Some other thinners
will remove finish. Soak the soft rag very well and ring out the
major drips. Wipe over the surface many times, making certain to
re-soak and ring out the rag often. You will be removing nicotine
this way, which will remove a large portion of the smell you are
concerned with. Do use caution with older furniture that has older
finishes, as it may remove some of the old finish as well. Not to
worry though, you will be refreshing the finishing next. Now get
an aromatic furniture polish such as Pledge, Old English, or
another major brand that has a nice flower or lemon fresh scent.
Mist your furniture heavily, wiping in circles to force the polish
into the finish. Now wipe WITH the grain of the wood, using a
fresh unused section of the rag, or a fresh rag. This should
remove excess polish from your bed. The majority of the smoke
smell should be gone at this point. If it is not gone enough for
your sense of smell, repeat the process a few more times.
Q: I have a question regarding a
circa 1820 tester bed. I am
interested in purchasing this bed, but the dealer has advised that
he put "about 12" layers of French polish on it. The
finish does seem smooth in most places, but there is a little
crazing in parts that are highly carved.
In your opinion, does the application of the French polish
severely undermine the bed's value? I would have preferred that
the bed have it's original finish, but the dealer has said that
the French polish is not the same as a total refinish. The price
of the bed is $5,200, and needless to say, this would be the first
and last bed my husband and I would purchase. Any opinion you
could offer would be greatly appreciated!
A: It is difficult to answer your
question without being able to see the piece, however we will do
One way any antique will have it's value damaged is if the
original finish was bad enough to require correct
"restoration" and has not been. If the original finish
was not bad to start with and only needed cleaning or touching up,
the value will have been hurt if your dealer refinished it. In
touching up or re-coating furniture, a piece can be damaged by
"overuse" of a finish. Some modern finishes and products
have a maximum "mil thickness" that can be applied. If
this is exceeded, often the finish will begin to "craze"
or' crack from too much finish weight.
It sounds like your dealer simply cleaned this bed and french
polished it to re-vitalize the original finish. It is highly
possible that the finish underneath the french polishing was what
was "crazing" to begin with, causing the rough feel to
the carved area's. If this is the case, the dealer has done no
damage to the piece or the value by french polishing over the
original finish. The cracking or crazing would have been in the
original finish anyway, leaving you with a "not as
protected" surface from the original finish being so old.
Older finishes will craze, crack, and orange peel over time no
matter what you do to try to protect them against it. Finishes
just fail after so many years. With this information, I would say
that your antique dealer has done no damage to the value of this
bed, and may have helped salvage or lengthen the longevity of the
original finish by french polishing. You will, of course, get
varied opinions from varied sources. This is, however, the general
rule of most antique dealers across the country.
Q: I left a plant pot on a wooden
sideboard and there is now a black ring watermark - any idea
what to do? Many thanks in advance for your help.
A: We're more than happy to answer
your question. Unfortunately, when a black mark appears from a
water stain, the stain has permeated the finish and
the wood as well. Once water has permeated the finish and has
reached the wood part of any furniture, the damage is very severe
and is difficult to repair with any amount of ease.
We could go into a very descriptive explanation of what to do, but
this process is, and can even be difficult, for some professionals
If you are very familiar with the refinishing process, you can
strip the entire section that has the stain in it and sand it very
well. The next step requires oxylic acid, wood bleach, a lot of
precautions and patience, accuracy and blending of colors once
done. We highly recommend you take this to a professional to have
this done. You would be dealing with very dangerous toxic
chemicals that could be detrimental if not used very carefully and
We're sorry we don't have an easy fix for this, but to do it
correctly is a very involved process.
Q: - Hello, I read your FAQ's
and termites were addressed, but I have several very old
pieces with wood worms or beetles that leave tiny bore holes. Is
there a product I can buy to paint on these pieces to be rid of
A: - First and foremost, your piece
was probably affected many years ago and is not currently being
invaded by bugs. In years past, a lot of furniture was made out of
what was literally called "worm wood." This wood was
frequently used under a veneered surface to save money for the
manufacturer and then directly to the customer. If it was not
veneered, the holes were filled and a dark stain was used to cover
imperfections. We feel there is very little need to be concerned
about your old furniture at this point. If you do have a concern
and want to be very certain that there is no chance of
further damage, we would not recommend "painting"
anything on the direct surface of your furniture. It is possible
that it could severely damage or ruin the finish or wood. We do
recommend enclosing it in a specific area (small space) and using
a bug bomb that might get rid of them. We suggest that you go to a
professional pest control specialist and request the best product
they have for bombing. Make certain to follow all precautions and
directions when using products like these, as bombs like this
natural oak kitchen cabinets are 14 years old. When they were
built, they were finished with polyurethane. Most of them still
look great, but in areas above the stove and where my automatic
coffee maker steams, the finish appears flat and even gummy. Is
the finish gone or is there hope that I can restore the luster in
A. The problem you're experiencing
is very common. Heat a moisture are cabinet's two worst enemies.
Unfortunately, the finish has probably failed in these two areas,
and is in need of refinishing. Constant heat and moisture on any
finish, let alone a 14 year old one, will eventually ruin it. We
currently have the latest modern European technological finishes,
which are some of the best in the industry, and our top of the
line lifetime guaranteed finish cannot be guaranteed against what
you just referenced.
Sorry to be the bearer of this kind
of news, but your cabinets are likely now in need of refinishing.
To avoid this type of problem in the future, we recommend moving
your coffee maker to a position where the steam will not rise and
hit a cabinet. Your stove should have a good hood vent above it
also and should be used every time you use your stove, whether you
are producing steam or not.
Q: I have been employed to keep clean
and dust priceless antique furniture for customer. What
product do you recommend for cleaning? I've always heard a very
damp cloth with a little Ivory soap would be okay. Is this wrong?
... Thank you
A: Your question pertaining to
cleaning priceless antiques is a multi-part answer.
First and foremost, you need to know what type of finish is on
these antiques. This is crucial to the cleaning process. If the
furniture is oiled, using a damp cloth with Ivory will damage this
furniture, as it will force too much moisture into it. Oiled
furniture should be dusted and re-oiled only. If the furniture is
finished with tung oil, varnish, lacquer, french polish, or
another more standard type of finish, cleaning with the method you
are using is ok at best. We do recommend polishing with a
furniture polish. Let me explain why. When you simply wipe off
furniture with a damp cloth, you are "buffing" every
time you do it. Thus you are removing small amounts of finish each
time. When you apply a polish, you are adding a small amount of
wax to protect the finish. Using the correct polish and knowing
how to clean off excess wax after a period of time, is important.
We use Old English in the aerosol can. Simply mist the surface to
be polished, wipe in a circular motion spreading it all across the
surface with one area of the rag. Once completed, turn the rag
over and wipe the excess polish off with a dry section.
You should also clean your furniture once every year. To do this,
you should soak a very soft rag with "mineral spirits"
ONLY, and thoroughly go over all areas multiple times with the
rag. Don't be afraid to flip the rag and apply more thinner often
when using this process. This will remove all old polish. You will
need to use caution to make certain no area's of the finish appear
to be "sticky." This means the finish has failed and
will come off with the mineral spirits. If this is the case,
restoration is in order, as the finish will not get any better,
only worsen over time.
Once cleaned, you begin to re-apply
polish again in the same fashion listed above.
Q: My mother has an old
wardrobe that has become damp and musty inside. Is there
anything she can use to get rid of the damp and restore the
A: There is a variety of solutions
to the problem you are facing. To remove moisture you may use the
- Finely shredded newspaper or any other type of non-glossy paper
(should leave no scent)
- Cedar chips (should be available at a pet shop for hamsters -
leaves a cedar scent)
- Any other type of wood chip ( available from cabinet/furniture
makers as scrap - may leave some scent)
- Old pipe or cigarette tobacco that has dried out (will leave the
flavor of tobacco scent)
Once you have any of the above products, spread them very
generously around the inside of all sections of the cabinet and
leave the doors and drawers closed for as long a possible. A few
weeks is recommended for removing odors and moisture. If it is
possible to tip the wardrobe on it side to allow for the product
you will use to sit directly on the wood, it is best. Once it
appears the majority of the moisture is gone, you may use scented
potpourri to remove the musty scent. Place multiple potpourri in
open containers in all areas of the cabinet for a week or better,
making certain to "stir it up" or change it occasionally
to keep the scent alive. This should solve the majority of your
problem with moisture and musty smell. If not, you may repeat
either process until it is satisfactory to you.
have a new table that's been stained a dark cherry color and
has an oil-based finish. It looked beautiful until I used Pledge's
Lemon Scented Polish in an aerosol can. Now, the scratches that I
could not really notice before seem to be seeping clouds of oil
around them. Every day I try to rub out the oil with a paper
towel, and a few hours later the cloudy marks have reappeared. I
don't know what else to do, it is a dark color and so the cloudy
marks show up considerably. Please help!
I have a new hard
wood table and it has a sticky film from some tape i would like
to know how to remove the film with out damaging the finish
A: The cloudy look on your
table can be multiple things. We'll do our best to give the
correct solution to your problem for each possibility.
There are two types of "oil based" finishes. One is
literally an oil that needs to be applied frequently and offers no
protection at all. The other is an oil based finish such as
polyurethane or varnish. If your finish is literally
"oil" only, polishing it will ruin it. It should be
oiled only. If your finish is an oil based finish, not oil,
further possibilities for cures are listed in the following
Before you use any of the listed recommendations, you should know
that if your finish has failed, these methods may
worsen the problem. In this case, you should approach the
furniture dealer that you purchased it from, and attempt a
resolution from them.
1. It could be too much build up of polish and the wax/silicone
that is contained in the polish. To cure this problem, you must
purchase at least a quart of "mineral spirits." Please
make certain it is mineral spirits and no other type of thinner.
Using an incorrect thinner can ruin your finish, or make the
problem worse. Mineral spirits should be available at any home
center, hardware store, or paint center. Once you have the
thinner, you'll need a few of very soft rags (like old baby
diapers that have been washed many times). We don't recommend
using paper towels, colored rags, or any rag that might be
slightly harsh feeling (like towels). Now you'll want to
thoroughly soak one rag with mineral spirits. You may do this
right over the table top surface in the event some drips off the
rag. Wipe your table very thoroughly with the soaked rag, making
sure to flip the rag frequently so you can absorb the old polish
into the rag. Now use a dry soft rag and dry the surface off
completely. Repeat this process at least three times using a fresh
portion of the rag each time, or replacing the rag with a fresh
one. You should have dulled the surface of your table
substantially, and this is the correct look to have once this
process is completed.
You will now want to begin spraying fresh polish on your table by
"misting" the entire area thoroughly. We recommend using
a different polish than Pledge. Try using Old English Lemon Creme in
the aerosol can. It has less waxes and silicones than most
polishes. Once you have misted the entire area very well, rub the
polish with a soft rag in a circular motion very well. Keep
rubbing for approximately 2 minutes per side (table half). Now use
a clean soft rag or flip the polish rag to a dry spot and wipe
with the grain of the wood to remove excess polish. If the
problem is build up of polish, or the Pledge, this should cure the
problem with a few polishing's.
2. The second possibility is the more likely one. If the above
method has not cured your cloudy look, your finish is defective.
If your finish is defective, we recommend trying to return the
merchandise. If you are out of warranty, we recommend having the
top of your table restored by a professional that will use a
modern day durable finish that is not so humidity sensitive when
applying. It also sounds like your finish is lacquer based, and
not oil based. Oil based would be along the lines of polyurethane
or varnish. Lacquer based finishes that are applied in high
humidity can "soften" and blemishes will show easily,
such as yours. You may want to check with the manufacturer of this
product to make absolutely certain it is oil based and not
If you need to refinish the top, we recommend finding a refinisher
that use quality pre-catalyzed lacquers, or conversion finishes.
These are modern day finishes that will allow additives to protect
the finishes from failing due to high humidity levels and heat.
A: The problem your facing has
a very simple solution. You may use any of the "orange"
products that remove sticky film, or you may use denatured
alcohol. Both products should be available at your local hardware
store or home center. Either of these solutions should offer a
fast resolve to the stickiness. With the orange products, simply
put some on a rag and wipe until the sticky is gone, then
re-polish as usual. With denatured alcohol, use the same method,
however use a little more caution at first. Make sure to test the
area with a quick wipe to see that it will not damage your
furniture. It shouldn't cause any problem, but it is best to test
to make sure. Unfortunately, you may see a slight difference in
the sheen of finish from the affected area when you are done. This
doesn't always happen, but it does frequently. With polishing the
entire surface, it should blend in better over time.
Q: How can I clean
furniture that has been damaged from a fire? What products
should I use to clean them with and how do I get rid of the smoke
A: Only minor smoke
film can be removed by the general public.
Refer to and use the processes
listed in this section on Cleaning,
dusting, and polishing furniture/cabinets
in general as well as our section Sticky
finish showing wear and tear
smoke smell from furniture (from cigarettes).
If these processes do not work on
your fire damaged furniture, a professional is an absolute MUST,
without question, to correctly get your furniture as close as
possible back into it's original condition.