While it’s true that a build-up of dirt and grime can make furniture lose their former appearance over time, you can still save them with the right tools and materials.
Here’s how you can do it:
1. Observe proper safety!
Thick gloves, a dust mask, and a work apron (along with long sleeves and proper protective eyewear) will be your best friends for all things related to woodworking, especially since you’re using varnish that will produce noxious fumes.
You should also do this in a place with good ventilation. If you can, re-finish all pieces of old furniture outside so that the fumes will disperse instead of lingering in your home.
2. Know the type of finish used for the furniture.
The next step to restoring old furniture is knowing what kind of finish was used for it.
While natural finishes, such as varnish or lacquer, are hard to identify with sight alone, you can usually get a good idea on what it is by applying a small amount of denatured alcohol to a small area.
If it comes off, the coating is shellac. If it takes lacquer thinner, the finish is probably lacquer. If neither of these work, there’s a good chance you’re looking at a varnish.
3. Clean and re-amalgam.
After identifying the type of finish used, it’s time to start cleaning and re-amalgamating.
Scrub wood, rattan, and wicker surfaces with an oil-based wood cleaner to get through any dirt and wax on the surface, which should bring back some of the finish’s original luster. If this doesn’t work, use a solution of warm water and liquid detergent.
Because finishes can develop scratches over the years (which dulls wood surfaces), you need to re-amalgam them using a solvent to even out the imperfections. Next, buff it with steel wool along the wood grain.
Keep in mind that re-amalgamation only works for shellac or lacquer finishes and not varnish.
4. Strip off the old finish.
Strip away old finish by using a stripping formula – the more layers, the tougher the formula you will need – and applying it from top to bottom. Wait for twenty minutes before scraping with a scraping tool.
Switch to a liquid stripping formula for the last bit, and use a steel wool for carvings and corners.
5. Apply a new finishing coat.
Before proceeding to the last step, it’s important to make the much-needed repairs, such as filling in cracks or fixing any broken areas in the upholstery. But if there are no needed repairs to make, you can proceed to the re-finishing.
Do this by sanding the piece first with a rough grit sandpaper. Clean up any remaining dust on the surface before applying your finish with a natural-bristle brush, and then leave overnight before sanding it down again with finer-grit sandpaper.
(Disclaimer: this list is compiled in no particular order.)