How to Clean Used Furniture


Whether you've inherited used furniture from a relative or purchased it at an estate sale, you'll want to clean it thoroughly. You'll be surprised at the difference a good cleaning can make. Treat furniture gently and clean with the least invasive method possible first. Always consult a professional before cleaning valuable antique furniture.

Things You'll Need

  • Mineral spirits
  • Soft cloths
  • Soft-bristled brush or toothbrush
  • Ivory soap flakes
  • Baking soda or activated charcoal
  • Liquid dishwashing soap
  • Vinegar
  • Dry cleaning solvent

Cleaning Used Wood Furniture

  • Dust the wood furniture with a soft cotton cloth to remove all surface debris.

  • Apply a small amount of mineral spirits to the furniture with a cotton cloth to remove built-up wax and grime. Rub it over one area at a time.

  • Apply mineral spirits to crevices and hard to reach areas with a soft-bristled brush or toothbrush. Wipe off the mineral spirits with a clean cloth.

  • Mix 1/2 cup Ivory soap flakes with 2 cups warm water. Apply the soap mixture to the furniture with a soft cloth if it still looks grimy. Dampen another cloth with water, wringing out well, and wipe off the soap mixture.

  • Place bowls of baking soda or activated charcoal in drawers to remove strong odors, such as cigarette odors. Remove the bowls after a week.

Cleaning Used Upholstered Furniture

  • Vacuum the furniture carefully with the upholstery attachment of your vacuum.

  • Check for any care labels on the cushions or underneath the furniture. "W" indicates water-based cleaning, "S" indicates water-free solvent, "WS" indicates water-based or water-free cleaners and "X" means dry clean only.

  • Treat stains by mixing 1/8 cup gentle dishwashing liquid, 2 tbsp. vinegar and 2 cups warm water. Blot the stain with a small amount of the soap mixture on a clean cloth. Don't rub the stain as you may ruin the fabric. Rinse with a small amount of cool water and blot dry. Treat fabrics with an "S" label by applying a small amount of dry cleaning solvent to the stain on a clean, white cloth. Blot the stain well. Open the windows or run a fan to provide ventilation.

  • Remove covers from cushions and zip them shut. Also remove any slipcovers. Wash them in cold water on a gentle laundry cycle. Air dry and replace them on furniture when they are almost dry. The following fabrics can be laundered: canvas, denim, gingham, ticking, toile, brocade, tapestry, chenille, corduroy and microfiber, providing that they have been preshrunk.

Tips & Warnings

  • Rent an ozone machine to remove heavy odors. Place it in the room for several areas. Ozone machines can irritate lungs so leave the house or stay in another room during operation.
  • Professionally clean leather, wool, rayon and silk upholstered furniture.
  • Always apply any furniture cleaning product to an inconspicuous area before treating the entire piece of furniture.
  • Consult a curator before cleaning valuable antique furniture.
  • Don't wet wood with water as it may ruin the finish. Dampen your cloth only slightly with water.
  • Don't apply any water to unfinished furniture as it may raise the grain. Clean with mineral spirits or consult a curator.

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  • Photo Credit Warm wood from old furniture image by giacomo scandroglio from
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