5 Easy Steps To Restore Wood Furniture

Refinishing & Refreshing

DIY furniture restoration is an exciting and doable project if you’re not a complete amateur. I ventured into carpentry as a young adult, and one of the earliest challenges I truly enjoyed was sanding and refinishing old furniture. I recall that it got a bit messy the first few times. I was simply following my instincts and barely relying on guidance.

Well, that’s what you’re not going to do. Restoring wooden furniture and cherished vintage pieces is an easy enough process, as long as you follow the right instructions and use the right materials

How To Restore Wooden Furniture in 5 Steps (Refinishing)

Refinishing furniture is more complicated than cleaning it and preserving the old finish. With these steps, however, you should be able to do it successfully.

The items you will need to refinish wood furniture

  • Paintbrushes
  • Chemical stripper and scraper
  • Wax and polish remover
  • Steel wool (Grade 0000)
  • Mask and gloves
  • Wood dye
  • Wax polish
  • Sandpaper and sanding block
  • Tack clothes
  • Clean clothes and rags (lint-free preferably)

Step-by-step Instructions

  1. Use a chemical stripper and scraper to strip off the old finish

    Using a brush, apply a chemical stripper to the surface of your furniture. This will dissolve the layers of the old finish. Then use a scraper to scrape off the finish. Depending on the composition and thickness of the layer, you will need to wait between 5 and 30 minutes to let the finish dissolve. Refinishing and stripping wood is generally a messy process, so it’s best to do this outdoors or use a protective sheet on the floor if working indoors.

  2. Neutralize the stripper with steel wool and clean the furniture

    You should neutralize the stripper by cleaning the wood with a pad of steel wool soaked in wax and polish remover. Make sure to rub the wood in the direction of the grain. Clean off the residues with a rag and leave the wood to rest for 24 hours.

  3. Smoothen the wood with a sanding block and sandpaper

    Having stripped the furniture, you can now use the sanding block and sandpaper to smooth any wood fibers that appeared during stripping. Just like when neutralizing, you should do this in the direction of the wood grain. Get rid of any surrounding dust as this could compromise the wood’s surface, then wipe the furniture with a tack cloth.

  4. Apply wood dye and finishing oil.

    Using a brush, apply wood dye generously to the furniture. Allow the material to penetrate, then clean off the excess. Wait for the surface to dry, then apply a layer of finishing oil using a lint-free cloth. Let the oil penetrate for 10 minutes, then wipe off the excess before it gets sticky. After at least five hours, gently clean the surface with steel wool. You can apply another coat of finishing oil to improve the wood’s shine by repeating this process.

  5. Apply furniture wax

    Apply a thin layer of furniture wax on the wood, leave it for an hour, and wipe it with a lint-free cloth. For best results, let your furniture dry indoors. Avoid placing it in the sun or in hot environments, as uneven drying can cause the wood to warp in some areas.

How To Restore Wooden Furniture In 5 Steps (Refreshing)

If you’re refreshing your furniture without refinishing, then you’re preserving the old finish and restoring its shine. This can be done by cleaning the wood and applying some gel stain and finish.

The items you will need to refresh wood furniture

  • Clean towels and rags
  • Wood cleaning soap
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Wax filler stick
  • Epoxy putty
  • Gel stain
  • Protective wood finish

Step-by-step Instructions

  1. Wash the surface of the furniture

    Using a wood cleaning soap and a rag, scrub and wipe off dirt and grime from the furniture, then dry it off with a clean towel. This is the safest way to clean furniture if you’re trying to preserve the old finish. Other chemical solutions or products could ruin your finish.

  2. Use petroleum jelly to remove white rings

    Your furniture may have white rings and watermark spots left by spilled drinks and liquids over years of use. You can remove these by rubbing petroleum jelly into the spots. Let the jelly sit overnight and soak into the finish for the best chance at removing the spots, then wipe off with a rag. If petroleum jelly doesn’t work, you can try a mix of equal parts vinegar and olive oil or use white ring remover products. Just be sure to test the product, as some varieties can compromise the finish.

  3. Use epoxy putty or wax filler stick to repair small peels or cracks.

    Look for an epoxy putty or wax filler stick that most closely matches the color of the wood, then shape it to fit into the chip or crack. For best results, try to make the wax or putty blend with the surface’s furniture. It’s okay if the color of your furniture doesn’t match exactly with the putty or wax. You can always cover up with gel stain or a protective finish.

  4. Apply a gel stain to restore and blend the wood’s color

    Using gel stain makes sense if you want to restore the furniture’s color without stripping off the old finish. Use a soft cloth to rub it into the furniture, then wipe off the excess stain and let it dry overnight. You can always remove the applied gel with mineral spirits if you want another effect or color.

  5. Apply a wipe-on finish to restore the shine

    Polyurethane is the go-to wipe-on finish if this is your first time restoring or working on wood. It’s durable and easy to use. Apply it to the wood with a clean cloth in circular motions, wipe off the excess finish, and let it dry overnight. With that, you will have restored your precious wood furniture to its former glory.

When To Leave It To The Experts

Restoring wood furniture is relatively simple, but unless you’re a woodworking specialist like I am, I’d advise you to leave the wood restoration to an expert if your furniture is in need of extensive repairs.

I once had a client who made this mistake trying to restore some furniture and fix his roofing system. We had to order a milwaukee dumpster rental to get rid of the mess he created. At the end of the day, refinishing is just one part of the whole restoration process. Complete restoration is best left to the experts.