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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 scroll down to read all of the questions on this page.


 - Cleaning, dusting, and polishing furniture/cabinets in general
 -
Cleaning Kitchen Cabinets
 - Damaged furniture after moving from another country or a different
   area of the country

 - Plastic table cloth/plastic items ok to use on Italian or any finished
   table top surface
 
 - Sticky finish showing wear and tear
 -
Damage from nail polish remover
 -
Indentation damage from pen
 -
State firm needs custom built computer stations
 -
Business owner needs custom matched credenza
 -
Removing white marks or rings from table tops
 -
Kitchen Re-Facing - how long
 -
Chair repairs - how long
 -
Dining set refinish - how long
 - 
Bug infestation in furniture
 - 
Table top only - refinishing with matching
 - 
Chipped veneer
 - 
Existing kitchen cabinets - wants more added
 - 
Fireplace mantel with bookcases built in beside
 - 
Corner entertainment center
 - Custom built bookcases to match periods
 - Refinishing advice
 - Minor Finish Damage on Antique Oiled Furniture
 - Removing smoke smell from furniture (from cigarettes)
 
- French polish over original finish on antique bed - value damaged?
 
- Black marks from water on furniture
 - Worm holes in furniture - active pests or not?
 
- Coffee maker and stove steam are damaging my kitchen cabinet finish
 
- What do you recommend for cleaning priceless antique furniture
 
- Moisture and musty smell in furniture (from the United Kingdom)
 - Finish turns "cloudy" on dark cherry table top after polishing with pledge
 
- How do I remove sticky tape residue on furniture
 
- How 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: 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.

A: 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 reface.

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 the grain.
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 English.

We 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.

A: 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.

Q: Is 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

Q: 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.

Q: 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 from furniture.

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:

  1. Very lightly and carefully, use 180 grit sand paper on the affected are only. (as close as you can)
  2. 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.
  3. 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 thinner?)
  4. 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.
  5. 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)
  6. Allow finish to dry at least 3 days in damp weather, 2 days under normal weather.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 the area.
  9. 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.

Q: 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 finish.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 different applications.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 the chest?

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 of termites?

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 positive.

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.

Q: 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.

Q: I 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.

Q: 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 notice.

Q: 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.

Q: 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.

Q: 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 this?

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.

Q: Would you ever answer questions about refinishing if I wanted to do it myself?

A: Of course. We will be happy to help all we can.

Q - 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 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.
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 our best.

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 as well.
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 correctly.

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 them?

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 contain toxins.

Q. My 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 these areas?

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 furniture?

A: There is a variety of solutions to the problem you are facing. To remove moisture you may use the following products:
- 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.

Q:  I 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!

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 paragraphs.

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 lacquer.

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.

Q: 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 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 smell?

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 and Removing 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.


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