How to Clean Old Wood Furniture Naturally

Old furniture can be anything from slightly fragile to nearly falling apart. Needless to say, you need to clean old furniture strategically to make sure you don’t damage it.

Certain approaches might be perfectly fine for relatively new furniture. However, furniture such as antiques requires cleaning solutions that aren’t overly abrasive.

The question is what to clean old furniture with.

Generally, natural cleaning solutions are the way to go. Natural cleaning solutions that don’t contain harsh chemicals ensure that the finish doesn’t get removed or that the wood doesn’t get discolored.

In this post, you can learn how to clean old furniture naturally, and the best solutions.

Natural cleaning solutions for old wood furniture

White distilled vinegar

White vinegar’s active ingredient is acetic acid, an all-natural cleaning agent that can be used for a variety of purposes. Often, people use vinegar to clean wood before painting

White vinegar can break down dirt, grease, or grime built up on your furniture after years of use. Given that white vinegar doesn’t have a color, you don’t need to worry about staining or discoloring your furniture as you apply the solution.

White vinegar can be just as effective for cleaning as many household cleaning products, and yet it doesn’t contain any chemicals that can damage the wood. Nevertheless, diluting the vinegar solution with water is important before cleaning your furniture. Straight vinegar can be strong enough to remove furniture wax, which is probably not your desired result. Instead, create a solution of three tablespoons of vinegar to one cup of water. To avoid making your furniture smell like vinegar, add a drop of scented dish soap.

You can find brands such as Lucy’s Distilled White Vinegar here on Amazon, or at your closest supermarket. 

Simple Green

Simple green is a powerful cleaning solution that is also kind to the environment. Environmental safety advocates applaud this cleaning solution for its biodegradable qualities. It is a great solution for cleaning furniture, as well as floors, stove tops, countertops, sinks, and toilets. The solution isn’t abrasive enough to be damaging to wood furniture, even if it is weathered with age.

There are a few Simple Green products used for various purposes such as exterior house cleaning, and driveway cleaning. However, for furniture, the best Simple Green product is the all-purpose cleaner. This product in particular is what the company is well known for.

To use the solution, fill a small pale with half simple green and half warm water. Wet the cloth with the solution before wiping down the furniture.

Eco-friendly dish soap

Dish soap is another excellent household solution for cleaning furniture without damaging the wood or the finish.

There are numerous natural dish soap brands including:

  • Ecover Natural Plant-Based Liquid Dish Soap
  • Seventh Generation Dish Liquid Soap
  • Mrs. Meyer’s Liquid Dish Soap

To apply dish soap to furniture it’s best to just use a few drops in a small bucket. Mix up the solution thoroughly with the water before soaking a washcloth in the solution. Rinse the washcloth to get rid of excess liquid before wiping down the furniture from top to bottom.

Related: How to Disinfect Wood Furniture Without Damaging the Finish

Cleaning old wood furniture naturally: Do’s and dont’s

Know that a little goes a long way

You don’t need to be overly generous with any other of these solutions. A little bit of dish soap (a few drops) mixed with two or three cups of warm water will get the job done. You certainly don’t need to apply any of these solutions directly on furniture without diluting them in water first.

Don’t scrub

Old furniture can be fragile. It’s best not to vigorously rub these solutions into an old piece of furniture such as an antique. The furniture may not be damaged by the solution, but the scrubbing itself can wear away wax and finish which can dull the furniture.

Wring out the cloth regularly to get rid of filth

If you have a particularly dirty piece of furniture, your cloth filled with your non-toxic cleaning solution of choice can absorb a surprising amount of gunk. You can rinse it out in your cleaning solution if you want, however, it’s best practice to rinse it out in the sink before dipping it back into the solution. This ensures that you don’t simply absorb more of the filth and proceed to spread it around the furniture.

Squeeze out excess water

The goal is not to soak the furniture in the solution. Be sure to drain out the rag thoroughly before wiping it on the furniture. Otherwise, you risk over-soaking and waterlogging your furniture which can be damaging to the wood.

Let the furniture dry before painting or staining

It’s important to give the furniture enough time to dry if you plan to paint or stain it. Be sure to place your furniture in a well-ventilated area so that it can dry faster. Put it under a window that gets a good amount of sunlight if possible.

Related: 7 Best Materials to Clean Furniture with Before Painting

Materials NOT to use to clean old furniture

Detergents containing ammonia

Window cleaners, oven cleaners, bathroom cleaners, and many other household products contain ammonia.

It’s certainly found in household cleaners on the strong side. After all, to be able to dissolve bits of burnt food and grease in an oven, you need a powerful product.

That being said, it’s a bit too corrosive to be applied to a furniture finish. You would risk damaging the even finish.

Denatured alcohol

Denatured alcohol typically contains methathole, isopropyl alcohol, acetone, and other toxic chemicals. The substance is often found in cleaning products and has amazing anti-bacterial properties. However, it can be damaging to varnishes and other finishes because it’s a harsh solution. 


By using bleach on your furniture you could not only damage the finish but you can also discolor it. You could inadvertently create blotchy light areas on your furniture just by cleaning it with bleach.




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