How to clean antique furniture

A question that we’re asked again and again, is how to clean up antique furniture – especially really dirty neglected items that have not been used for years or stuck in a garage.


This weeks blog will aim to explain not only how to clean antique furniture but what to use and how often to do it. We’re going to presume the furniture you need to clean is really dirty and dry but this technique can be used less frequently for well kept furniture too, so it stays in prime condition!


Step One


Using a clean duster or rag (which does not have loose fibres that may catch on veneers etc) dust down the item of furniture you wish to clean.


Fill a bowl with warm water and a drop or two of vinegar. Soak a good quality furniture cloth such as the one pictured below in the mixture and then ring out until almost dry.

Step Two

Using your soaked and rung out furniture cloth, wipe down the item of antique furniture until it is clean. Dark nicotine coloured residue may come off on the cloth, this is normal for a piece of furniture that has not been cleaned for a long time (or has been in a house with smokers in which case it will have more of this coloured residue).


Keep soaking and ringing out your cloth inbetween wiping down the item and continue until you are happy that it is clean. Remember that antique furniture builds up a patina on the surface, which develops over many years so don’t try to scrub it down, use gentle strokes and only clean until the residue on the cloth lightens sufficiently.


Leave your item of furniture for 24 hours to dry completely (don’t be tempted to rush with the polish as you will be locking the damp and moisture in the wood, which is not a good result!)


Step Three

Dust the furniture lightly with a clean rag or furniture cloth. Then, using a good quality Beeswax furniture polish (such as the one pictured below) rub plenty of wax into the furniture in small circular motions with a clean dry furniture cloth.

These traditional beeswax polishes are used on our own furniture and keep our stock looking sparkling. It’s best to steer away from spray polishes as they leave a sticky residue on furniture and many even state on the can ‘not to be used on french polished furniture’ which many antiques are.


We sell the beeswax polish above on our website, in our shop, in the warehouse and even on our ebay shop. It has become so popular with international customers that we ship jars all over the world every week, which initially amazed us, but it really is the best stuff to use even if it does have to travel across the world!




Step Four

Once you’ve rubbed plenty of beeswax polish into the furniture, leave it for at least two hours to soak into the wood or over night if it is a particularly dry piece of furniture. Then, using a clean dry cloth (combined with some serious elbow grease) buff the furniture until the shine returns and the colour starts to develop in the grain again.


Although this process only needs doing when furniture is very dirty, using beeswax polish and following step three onwards can be repeated every few months to keep your antiques in the best condition. We believe it’s worth investing time and effort keeping furniture clean and nourished, not only does it preserve them, it keeps furniture looking good and is much more hygienic – you wouldn’t neglect to wipe your kitchen benches for six months or even years at a time would you?!


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This useful information has been brought to you by Graham Smith Antiques Ltd

Graham Smith Antiques has been established for 14 years but Graham has been in the antiques business for 40 years. We trade on line and from showrooms on the edge of the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK and all the items shown on the website are available to view at the showrooms where they are displayed in four room settings – for ease of viewing. As long time members of LAPADA [the Association of Art and Antiques Dealers], the UK’s largest trade association for professional art and antiques dealers, we want all our customers to be confident to buy from us on line or in person and make every effort to make each sale a pleasure. Please take some time to read our Testimonials page which can be found on the home page of our website.

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