How to Clean Antique Furniture

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The other day, we decided to use some precious time off to go for a car ride. We headed out  toward the western part of New York and stopped at our favorite places.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon this beautiful antique farmhouse buffet.  It seems that I always find these pieces when I am not intentionally looking for them. Does this happen to you too?

Anyway, this buffet was clearly used in an old home.  I also believe at some point, it was used in a workshop.  So my guess is that it started out in a kitchen and then when the kitchen was “modernized”, this piece was moved out into a workshop. (Back in the day -in the name of frugality people seldom threw away furniture, they simply repurposed the item)


This piece didn’t need any repairs, it was all intact and the drawers worked well. However, it had been in storage for a number of years so it needed a good cleaning.

Also, as an aside, this piece was constructed out of solid wood.  A combination of oak and pine and as a result it was REALLY heavy to move around.  To prevent any unnecessary back injuries, we took it out of the truck and loaded it onto the furniture mover. I just did all the work in the garage, then we loaded it back into the truck and delivered it to Stone Soup Antiques.  We did not move the piece into the house for before and after photos.

This meant all the photos were taken in the garage/ driveway.



As you can see above, the buffet has been painted both inside and out.  In some areas, the paint on the shelves was scuffed and worn through.  That solid wood back with the original beaded board was amazing.



The photo above shows all the boards on the back of the buffet. The thickness of these boards is one reason the buffet was so heavy.

Once the piece was on the furniture mover, I set about doing the prep work and cleaning it.

Step 1

Almost every old piece of furniture that needs a good cleaning, can benefit from a light sanding. Sanding removes some of the built up grime and dirt that has accumulated on the wood and paint over the years.

So, I took out my random orbit palm sander and used some 180 grit sand paper to clean up the existing surfaces.  I sanded the exterior first and then the interior second.  Periodically, I would stop and wipe away any dust that had accumulated. I also followed up with sanding by hand the corners and crevices where the palm sander could not reach. The goal here is  not to sand down to the bare wood but to lightly sand over the painted surface to freshen it up.

Step 2

After wiping it down and removing all the obvious signs of dust, I used the vacuum to go over all the surfaces and clean up any loose paint.



Step 3

After vacuuming, I went inside and grabbed some Krud Kutter.  I have found buying the concentrated formula in a large jug works best.  Then I pour about a quarter cup into a bucket and add some some water.   Then using a damp rag, I wiped down the many surfaces of the piece.  The doors, the sides, the drawers (inside and out), the shelves, and the top.  Krud Kutter sometimes takes awhile to work, so I let the piece sit for about 30 minutes – then returned and wiped everything down again. (Just for good measure)

Step 4



Remember when I said that the shelves had paint worn away? Well, while I was at it, I thought: “Hmmm … I should probably repaint those shelves with milk paint”. As an aside I think “While I am at it, I might as well . . .” might be the one thought Americans have that leads to the most extensive remodeling and refurbishing experiences.

Off I went to mix up some milk paint in the color Linen – which is more of an off white color – and painted the shelves.   It was important have a white that was in harmony with the light yellow color on the rest of the buffet. Low and behold, there was some natural chipping that occurred on the shelves when the milk paint dried.



After the cleaning and repainting of the shelves, this piece looked much brighter and happier.



The neighbors must have thought I was nuts putting dishes into a buffet that was on a furniture mover in front of my garage.  Then I proceeded to bring out the silverware and dish towels.



This buffet has a ton of potential and offers great storage.

Perhaps the neighbors can now see this more clearly. . . .

Thank you for stopping by the blog today and checking out this corner of the internet. I’m always happy to share my adventures and mishaps in furniture refurbishing.



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