Wood Furniture Cleaning Secrets!


You might have noticed during our recent home tour video, that we have a hodge-podge of wood furniture at Clean My Space HQ.

And since a popular ask has been how I clean it, I decided to go over in detail how to clean and care for wood furniture.

In General

As surprising as it sounds, the less you do to your wood furniture, the better it is for it.  In fact the varnished wood furniture in my home gets cleaned once a week using nothing more than a microfibre cloth and H2O.  This removes any dust and the microfiber helps shine up the surface.

Unfinished Wood

If your wood is unfinished, just clean it using a dry microfiber cloth, as moisture can parch and/or warp the wood. To determine if it is unfinished, add a drop of water to the surface. If it beads, it’s got varnish and if it absorbs in and leaves a mark (which will dry up), it’s unfinished.

Quick side note, if you want to know how to clean hardwood floors, we’ve got a video for that .

What’s Up with Furniture Polish?

According to the website of a popular brand’s manufacturer, store-bought furniture polish is designed to bring out the shine of your wood and polish and protect your furniture. But here’s the kicker: not all wood and wood finishes are created equal and because different specimens and varnishes have different requirements, furniture polish is not an al-in-one solution.  In fact, furniture polish can downright ruin some wood finishes!  Further, and here’s a misconception, it doesn’t even clean anything! It will however dull the finish and leave a build up on your furniture over time. So in my professional opinion, leave store-bought furniture polish out of your cleaning kit. However, you should listen to what the manufacturer says, and if it is recommended to clean or polish the wood with a particular product at a particular frequency, then that’s what you do.

But, what if your varnished furniture needs a bit of a pick-me-up and is looking a little dull?

Remove that build up!

If you find your wood is really dulled out from a build up of furniture polish, you’ll see a haze or streaks you can’t get rid of. You can either apply a vegetable-based enzyme cleaner to sit on the wood for a couple of minutes to remove the build up, then wipe with a cotton cloth and buff dry.  Review the instructions on the bottle for exact dwell times required, and watch how the enzymes break down the build up to reveal the wood’s natural shine.  If you want a quicker and cheaper hack, simply steep two bags of black tea for 10 minutes in boil in water (something unflavoured, unsweetened, etc.).  Let the tea cool, and then immerse a clean cotton cloth into the tea.  Wring out over the wood piece and let sit for just a moment, and then begin to wipe.  The tannins in the tea will break down that dull, waxy finish to reveal the wood’s natural beauty.

DIY Furniture Polish (and salad dressing)

If you have the need to polish your furniture, and again, speak to the manufacturer or your furniture dealer to get the skinny on whether this is OK or not, just make your own! In a clean spray bottle, add 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts olive oil and shake well. The oil moisturizes the wood and the vinegar cleans it. Kind of like a 2-in-one shampoo/conditioner deal. Spray the cleaner onto a soft cotton cloth and apply in a buffing motion to the wood furniture. You don’t need to do this all the time, just do it when your wood looks a little lacklustre. Using it too often will create a sticky build-up which attracts dust and dirt. No thanks!  When you’re done, you could (if you were thirsty) use this on salad, too! When you are applying anything with oil, remember to use a cotton cloth as opposed to a microfiber cloth so that the oil can actually wash out of the cloth when laundered.

You can use this mixture on antiques, however, do be very careful when dealing with old, antique pieces – or furniture made from exotic woods – they may very well have specific cleaning requirements, so do your research!

Heat or Water Marks

If you have heat or water marks, firstly, tsk tsk, secondly, you can restore the wood by applying mayonnaise to the area, leaving it overnight and then buffing it into the table in the morning. Now this one is hard for me to do because I have a major, and I mean major aversion to mayonnaise. I don’t know why this disgusting product works on wood, but it just does.

Preventative Maintenance

The key to keeping your wood furniture in tip-top shape is preventative maintenance!! Always wipe up spills and messes as soon as they happen and try to use placemats and coasters whenever possible.  It’s best to make sure everything decorative which is placed on your furniture has felt pads or something similar on the bottom.  Also, try to keep your wood furniture away from fireplaces and radiators which can sap it of moisture.

So that’s the straight goods on cleaning your woods…hope that helped!

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Melissa Maker is the host of the Clean My Space channel on YouTube, editor-at-large of CleanMySpace.com, and founder of Clean My Space (a well-known Toronto-based cleaning service). She's been knee-deep in the cleaning game since 2006. Follow Melissa: @MelissaMaker on Instagram, SnapChat & Twitter!


  1. I have a bedroom set that was my mothers I have no clue what kind of wood it is or if it’s even real wood 🙁 knowing my mother it’s real wood. Too bad I can’t attach a pic will the enzyme cleaner take the furniture polish haze off without ruining the finish that is on it?

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