Today we’re going to talk about how to clean used furniture. I don’t want you to pass up a piece of furniture at a thrift store, garage sale, or flea market just because it’s dirty!
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First: Put Together a Furniture Cleaning Kit
- plastic scrapers – for stickers and other sticky residue
- small cleaning brush – for loose dirt
- wire brush – for caked on dirt
- spray bottles – to mix up your own cleaning solutions
- white vinegar
- denatured alcohol
- Goo Gone
- TSP substitute, like Krud Kutter
- Mr. Clean Magic Erasers
TIP: Make sure you take a “before” photo of your furniture! You’ll want to be able to impress your friends and family with what a change you made.
How to Clean Used Furniture
First, remove any pieces that can be taken off: hardware (handles or knobs), drawers, and/or shelves.
Then wipe, sweep, or vacuum all the loose dust and dirt off the piece. Be very careful when using a metal scraper or spatula or a wire brush. It’s very easy to scratch the wood with those. Plastic scrapers and brushes are much safer.
Now you have some decisions to make.
- Are there any stickers or sticky residue on the furniture? You’ll need to take care of those first.
- How are you going to finish this piece? Stain, chalk-type paint, latex, oil, etc. Different types of paint need different prep.
- Will you be reusing the old hardware? If so, does it need to be refinished?
Keep reading to see how to handle each of those problems.
Soap and Water Method for Greasy, Gunky, Sticky Dirt
Mix up a bucket of soapy water and scrub away. Yes, you can use water to clean wood furniture. Just don’t let the water sit on the surface. I’ve even heard of people hauling furniture to the car wash to get it clean!
Here’s a picture of the DIRTIEST piece I ever bought… a set of spice cabinets that I found at a flea market in Southern California.
These were covered with kitchen grease and dust. I didn’t dare even take these in our house. I just emptied out the shelves and drawers on our patio and used my patio broom to knock the dust off. Then I filled a bucket with water, squirted some Dawn in it, and scrubbed them down with a cleaning brush. I let them dry out a couple of days in the sun before painting them. You can see how they turned out (and what I found in the drawers) HERE.
Vinegar Furniture Cleaning Method
Mix white vinegar 1:1 with water to clean the dirty furniture. Also helps remove smells if your furniture is musty.
Melanie also uses the vinegar/water mix to remove sticker residue.
Denatured Alcohol Furniture Cleaning Method
Mix denatured alcohol 1:1 with water and scrub the piece. This method works when prepping furniture for water based paints.
Jenny uses denatured alcohol and a Scotch Brite pad.
Mineral Spirits Furniture Cleaning Method
Wipe down your piece with mineral spirits. This method works well when you’re prepping furniture for oil based paints or stains like Vineta did on this dining table.
TSP Furniture Cleaning Method
TSP, or trisodium phosphate, comes in a powder that you need to mix with water before using. Brush it on the old furniture, rinse it off, wipe off any standing water, and let it dry completely. The TSP takes some of the finish off so sanding is also easier.
Other Furniture Cleaning Tips
- Take all the drawers out and turn the piece upside down to make sure you get all the dirt and spider webs off the bottom and inside.
- Let the piece dry overnight if you’re going to paint it.
- If you’re not going to strip or paint it, seal the old paint with a top coat to stop the chipping.
- Check out how I cleaned a garage sale vinyl chair, too.
If you enjoyed reading how to clean used furniture, you might also like these:
- 9 Tips for Buying Second Hand Furniture
- Where to Find Used Furniture to Flip
- Why Shop at Thrift Stores
- 10 Top Thrift Store Tips
- How to Remove Musty Smells from Furniture
Thanks for reading my article. Let me know if you have any other questions about how to clean used furniture… or if you have more tips I should know about. We share at these blog parties. Featured on Smell Good Sunday.
‘Til the next project,