How to Clean Wood Furniture to Make It Look Brand New

Refreshing your wooden dining table, chairs, and credenza is easier than you might think.

person with pink gloves wiping down a dining table
Photo: Sarah Crowley

There's a reason wood furniture is a design staple with serious staying power. Not only is it a durable option, but a well-made piece has timeless appeal, especially if it has great bones. But, of course, you'll need to learn how to clean wood furniture the right way if you want to make your favorite pieces last.

While it might seem complicated to clean wood, a simple approach is always best. For starters, when purchasing wood furniture, always ask the vendor for tips on how to care for the piece. Because every finish, stain, and type of wood is different, it's hard to have a one-size-fits-all approach to cleaning. However, a good rule of thumb is to start with the mildest cleaning solutions first and work your way up from there. You'll also always want to test new cleansers or products in an inconspicuous spot before wiping down a whole table or chair.

Our Go-To Method

Here's our recommended gentle cleaning process that will work to clean and protect a variety of wood furniture.

overhead shot of products and cloths to clean wood furniture
Sarah Crowley

What You'll Need

  • Microfiber cloths
  • Mild dish soap
  • Mineral spirits, optional
  • Semi-solid furniture polish, optional
  • Cheesecloth, optional


  1. Start by wiping down your wood furniture with a barely damp microfiber cloth to remove dust and grime. You never want water to sit on the wood, so quickly wipe it down with another dry microfiber cloth. For regular dusting, a quick wipe-down with a microfiber cloth will do the trick.
  2. If your wood furniture has any spots with sticky residue, add a drop of dish soap to a microfiber cloth and test a tiny, out-of-sight section of the furniture to make sure the finish doesn't get removed. If it's fine, combine a few drops of dish soap with a cup of water and gently work on the gummy section. Again, avoid soaking the wood in water. Once the spot is cleaned, wipe the area dry with another microfiber cloth.
  3. In more extreme situations, you might need to try mineral spirits. Test a small spot beforehand to make sure it won't remove the finish. Working in a well-ventilated area, apply a little bit of mineral spirits to a clean cloth and rub down the sticky area. And if that still doesn't do the trick? You might need to consider refinishing the piece.
  4. Depending on your wood furniture, you might need to apply some wax to protect it and help keep its shine. Using a cheesecloth, apply a semi-solid wax (without silicone) to the wood furniture. Let the wax paste sit on the wooden surface for a few minutes before buffing it in with a clean microfiber cloth. Avoid polish sprays, which can leave a residue. If you opt to use a wax, be sure to read the product instructions before applying.

Note: As mentioned above, always start with the least damaging cleaning method first and spot test a solution before applying it to the whole piece. Worst-case scenario, if you feel really unsure about what to do, call a local furniture repair company and see if they can offer a consultation.

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