Valuable antique or vintage furniture will have a layer of grime on its surface from years of exposure to dust, dirt and fumes. Collectors and buyers of good antique furniture look for this layer of grime, which is referred to as the antique’s “patina.” If you are looking to sell the piece, it is best not to try to clean it yourself without first consulting a professional antique restorer.
Remove the old wax from your antique furniture first because a cleaner of any kind will not penetrate a surface that has a build-up of old wax. There are varieties of name-brand cleaners and/or strippers that you can purchase at a hardware store to do this. Or you can use paint thinner at home in a well-ventilated room, wearing protective gloves and a face mask.
Pour a small amount of the paint thinner into a glass bowl, then with a superfine (0000) pad of steel wool, gently rub in slow circular motions across the surface of the antique, being careful not to rub so hard that you scratch the wood. Eventually the old wax build-up will loosen and begin to re-liquefy and you can then gently rub it off with a soft cloth. Continue this step until you’re sure there is no more old wax on the surface.
Mix a little mild dish-washing liquid in warm water. Now, using a soft cloth, gently wipe away the residue of the old wax and the cleaner from one small area of the antique at a time. Do not soak the wood, nor let water pool on its surface. Continue to wipe off the entire surface with your damp cloth until you are sure the wax build-up and residue is gone.
Reapply a wax to your newly cleaned antique after you complete the touch-ups. The new wax will protect the new clean surface, unlike oily furniture spray polish, which may provide a shine but do nothing to protect the furniture.
Important Tip: When using any harsh chemicals like paint thinner, do it in a well-ventilated room, wearing protective gloves and a face mask. Check our guide to buy antique furniture online.
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