How to Disinfect Wood Furniture Without Damaging the Finish

All furniture needs a good cleaning every once in a while. However, you should be careful about what solutions you use to disinfect wood furniture.

Certain chemicals can be damaging to the finish and can turn a good-looking finish into a blotchy, half-dissolved mess that can be easily wiped off.

Fortunately, there are a few solutions that are excellent for naturally cleaning wood furniture in a way that won’t damage it.

In this post, you can discover how to disinfect wood furniture without damaging the finish with 5 materials.


To disinfect wood furniture without damaging the finish, use solutions such as Simple Green, white distilled vinegar, dish soap, vodka, and certain cleaning wipes.

Since practically everyone has dish soap, it’s easy to create a simple cleaning solution by mixing warm water with a dash of dish soap. Soak a rag in the solution and wipe down the furniture. 

Solutions for disinfecting wood furniture without damaging the finish

The following cleaning solutions are effective at cleaning without stripping varnish or other finish.

However, no matter what solution you end up moving forward with, it’s best to test the solution in an isolated spot on your furniture just to be safe. Apply just a little bit of the solution of your choice and observe its effect before applying it to the rest of the furniture.

Simple Green

Simple Green is an environmentally friendly, yet powerful all-purpose cleaner. It is commonly used to clean kitchen counters, sinks, floors, and toilets, it can most certainly be used to sanitize furniture as well.

This biodegradable cleaning solution is strong enough to wipe away grease, grime, and harmful bacteria, however, it’s too mild to remove finishes from wood.

How to use Simple Green to disinfect wood furniture

To apply Simple Green to furniture, fill a pale with equal parts Simple Green and warm water. Soak a lint-free cloth in the solution and wipe down your furniture.

Periodically wring out the cloth to release the dirt and grime that has been picked up from cleaning the furniture. Soak the cloth again before wiping down the furniture again.

Avoid spraying the solution directly on your furniture. Again, Simple Green is a mild solution, but even still, a little goes a long way. Diluting the solution with water is recommended.

Related: How to Clean Old Wood Furniture Naturally

White distilled vinegar

White vinegar is a great household disinfectant that is highly effective at killing bacteria. Depending on how it’s used, it can also dissolve dirt and grime that has been built up on your wood furniture.

As a natural solution, white vinegar doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals that can be damaging to furniture. White vinegar’s active ingredient, acetic acid, is relatively mild, but still strong enough to be an effective disinfectant.

A diluted white vinegar won’t damage lacquer or varnish, however, if the solution is overly concentrated, it can remove the wax finish.

How to use white distilled vinegar to disinfect wood furniture

To clean furniture with white vinegar, pour three tablespoons of vinegar per cup of water into a bowl. You may need more or less of the solution depending on the size of the furniture. You can even add a drop or two of nice-smelling dish soap to avoid having your furniture smell like vinegar.

Mix the solution a bit with a spoon. Soak a cloth in the solution, and wring it out a bit to get rid of excess solution before wiping down the wood.

Dish Soap

Dish soap is one of the most popular solutions for cleaning furniture before painting. The best part is that practically every household has a bottle of dish soap.

Just like you can use dish soap to clean gunk off of dishes, you can use dish soap and water to clean grease and dirt off wood furniture. Because dish soap is a mild cleaning solution, and doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals, you don’t need to worry about stripping varnish when using it on furniture.

How to use dish soap to disinfect wood furniture

Fill a pale with warm water and a squirt of dish soap. A little goes a long way. Mix the solution thoroughly and soak a cloth or sponge in the solution. Squeeze out the cloth or sponge to get rid of excess liquid and wipe down the furniture. Periodically squeeze out the cloth or sponge to release any dirt, resoak it, and apply again.


Vodka is a powerful disinfectant. The alcohol in the vodka kills bacteria immediately upon contact. Nevertheless, unlike denatured alcohol, vodka isn’t strong enough to remove finishes. Given that it’s completely clear, it won’t leave a stain.

Vodka is also great for removing odors from wood furniture as well.

How to use vodka to disinfect wood furniture

To apply the vodka you will need a spray bottle. Fill up the spray bottle with about half a cup of vodka to start.

Mist down the furniture with the vodka. You don’t need to go overboard- the furniture doesn’t need to be dripping in vodka, but misting the furniture completely once or twice over is all that is needed.

Once you are done, let the vodka naturally dry off on its own. Simply put the furniture in an area where there is good airflow and sunlight so the furniture can dry.

If you don’t have a spray bottle, you can alternatively soak a washcloth with vodka and wipe the furniture down.

Cleaning wipes

Lysol wipes or Chlorox plant-based wipes are great for cleaning finished furniture. A finished wood surface is fully sealed, and in turn, you don’t need to worry about the chemicals absorbing into the wood. This is not a recommended approach for unfinished wood that can absorb moisture.

How to use cleaning wipes to disinfect wood furniture

Pull out a wipe and swiftly wipe down the surface of the wood furniture. You can wipe the furniture lightly- rubbing the wipe into the wood won’t disinfect it more effectively.

Materials NOT to use to disinfect furniture (if you are worried about the finish)

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 chemical.

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 is a substance that 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, because it is a mixture of harsh chemicals, it can be damaging to varnishes and other finishes.


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.

TSP (Trisodium Phosphate)

TSP is a powerful cleaning solution and degreaser, however, this solution is harsh compared to Simple Green, white vinegar, and other natural solutions. Reserve this solution for furniture that you will be painting over. 

Final words: Applying a new wax or finish

Sometimes, if the furniture is worn down and the finish needs more than a good cleaning to bring it to life, consider applying a new finish.

However, before applying a new finish, you will need to remove the old finish. Stripping gel is an excellent way to remove varnishes and stains from furniture. Additionally, one of the most effective ways is to simply use sandpaper to rub off the finish.

Either way, it’s important to have an untainted wood surface to make sure the new finish looks even and adheres well to the wood.



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