How to Make Old Wood Furniture Look Great Without Refinishing


If you have a piece of old wood furniture that looks bad, don't be in a big hurry to strip it and refinish, or worse yet, throw it away. Many pieces can be touched up to look great with a minimal amount of work or expense.

  • Use a dust rag first to get rid of the cobwebs and surface grime. The wipe the wood with a clean rag just damp with a mild detergent and water. Be sure not to over-wet the wood, and dry with another rag as you go along. If the piece still looks dirty, clean it with a cleaner special designed for wood.

  • If there are paint drips or thick dirt still remaining on the furniture, rub it down with 0000 steel wool. Wipe again with a dust cloth.

  • If the hardware is in good shape, leave it on. If it is really dirty, remove it and scrub with detergent and water or a metal cleaner. Be careful not to use strong chemicals that may remove the metal finish.

  • Replace with new hardware if the old hardware is broken, unattractive or looks cheap. Try to find hardware that goes with the style of the furniture. New hardware can make a remarkable difference.

  • Replace any larger pieces of wood that are missing, such as corners or pieces of molding. Use a putty stick to fill holes and gaps.

  • Use wood finish touch-up pens to touch up any areas where the finish is gone. Follow the instructions on the pen, but they usually call for you to wipe immediately with a soft rag to even the finish.

  • Use a combination stain and varnish for all-in-one touch-up of any wood replacements. Blend the new area to the old with 0000 steel wool, and repeat until you have the match you need, allowing it to dry after each coat.

  • Rub the entire piece with a good-quality furniture polish. You can use lemon oil or, for darker woods such as mahogany, a scratch-cover type of polish. Allow to dry and wipe with a soft cloth.

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