How to Clean Antique Furniture

Whether you’ve a one off piece of antique furniture or a house full of it, looking after your prized possessions is important if you want to retain their character and charm.

Antique furniture can be practical as well as aesthetically pleasing. While finding the perfect piece is part of the joy of antique hunting, it will no doubt need some love and attention if you want to keep it in good shape, especially if you plan to use it how it was intended.

Taking the time to clean your piece will prevent damage and erosion, which can significantly decrease its value. It will also help ensure it’s in good condition should you ever wish to part with it.

How to clean antique furniture wood

Antique collectors and dealers will often advise you to preserve the original finish of antique furniture, as this adds to its character and value. As such, it’s important to try and maintain it if you want to uphold the charm and history that you were drawn to in the first place.

While it might be tempting to give a particularly dirty piece of wooden antique furniture a good scrub, it’s best to go gently to avoid damaging it with harsh chemical cleaners.

Once you’ve got your beautiful purchase home and you’re ready to give it some TLC, use a clean, dry duster to remove any immediate dust from the piece itself.

After you’ve done this, make up a bowl of warm water and add a drop or two of vinegar. Ensure the mixture is extremely diluted to prevent damage to the wood.

Soak a furniture cloth in the water and wipe down the wood, rinsing your cloth in between. A soft brush or toothbrush can help you get into any intricate crevices. Nicotine or other stains should come off as you gently go over the furniture.

Continue until the residue on the cloth begins to lessen and you are confident the wood is clean.

Waxing your antique furniture

You will no doubt be desperate to get your piece up and running, but don’t rush the next stage. Once you’ve prepared your surface, leave it to dry for twenty-four hours to avoid locking moisture into the wood.

Invest in a good quality beeswax for polishing, which will also create a protective surface on the piece. It’s advisable to use a solid wax polish rather than a spray or liquid, as these can often contain damaging oils or solvents and can leave a sticky residue.

Taking a cotton or lint free cloth, use small circular motions to rub the polish sparingly into the wood. It’s important to take your time with this, as applying too much wax all at once will leave the wood looking dull. The wax will help get rid of any leftover grease and dirt.

Once you’ve applied the wax, leave the furniture for one to two hours to ensure it has soaked into the wood. Then, taking a clean cloth, buff the wax in the direction of the grain. Putting in elbow grease will really pay off, and once the shine starts to return to your furniture, you’ll be glad you put in the effort.

If your antique furniture has recently been cleaned by its previous owner, you may not need to wax your piece for a while, and some light buffing with a chamois leather should suffice. It’s important to keep on top of the cleaning process if you want to keep your furniture looking its best.

Cleaning metal and brass

As with antique wood, the patina that forms on brass and copper gives a desirable effect, so avoid cleaning with a metal polish. Giving the brass a soft polish with a cloth or chamois will suffice. For heavier stains, a brass cleaner may help, but be sure to clean the surface first.

Cleaning marble

You may want to keep your marble fireplace or table pristine, but it’ll need to be looked after sensitively. Exposure to acids or alkalis can lead to erosion of the surface. Liquid cleaning is a safe way to clean your antique marble by using a distilled water or white spirit, but be sure to use protective gloves before you begin.


Keeping your antique furniture clean is a must, whether you’re looking to sell it on or enjoy it yourself. As we’ve shown, if you know what you’re doing it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

As long as you remember to take your time and be gentle, you’ll be able to keep your antiques in good condition and enjoy them for years to come.

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