How to clean and care for your wood dining furniture

A step-by-step guide to cleaning wooden furniture, polishing and restoring wooden tables and chairs, as well as home remedies that work.

So you’ve invested in a sturdy, beautiful wooden dining furniture set, and you might be asking yourself: what next?

While a carefully chosen wooden dining table is a wonderful centrepiece, and can easily last generations in your household, it also benefits from love and maintenance to keep it looking its best.

And it’s with that in mind that we’ve put together a surefire how-to guide on cleaning and caring for wood dining furniture, from daily to deep cleaning methods and some home remedies to boot.

Before we get going though, here are a few guiding principles:

  1. Prevention is better than cure: use coasters or cork and felt mats to prevent scratches on your table, and mop up spills as quickly as you can so they don’t set.
  2. When cleaning, start small and with the mildest options before progressing to other methods.
  3. Always ask your furniture manufacturer for their best practices (our Customer Service would be happy to help)

And now onwards!

1. Placement matters

First things first, where your table sits in the room matters. What we’re trying to balance here is neither too much heat nor too much humidity. So don’t position a wooden dining table where it would be in hours of direct sunlight or over a radiator.

Both temperature swings and humidity can cause warping or splitting, so be strategic about the placement of your table and chairs, and consider the inclusion of a humidifier or air conditioner in the room, if you can.

2. Clean after use, and dust weekly

Nautical inspired dining room with oak wooden dining table and slatted back wooden dining chairs.
Furniture And Choice - Highbury Oak Dining Table

The next important thing is to clean the table after every use with soft cloths to capture any spilled food or drink. A microfibre cloth is best, but any lint-free cloth (and old T-shirt even!) would be a good choice - just dampen slightly and wipe immediately after meals or spillage to prevent stains from setting.

If you have grease spots to deal with, a highly diluted solution of dish-washing liquid and water can be used. It’s also important to dust frequently. While dust can seem harmless, it can build up, and scratch and damage a table’s finish, so it’s best to get ahead of it.

3. Give your furniture a thorough clean twice a year or so

Even with daily cleanings, your wooden table and chairs will really benefit from a deep, thorough clean once or twice a year. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Dish detergent
  • Warm water
  • White vinegar
  • At least two microfibre cloths
  • (Optional) Plastic pot scraper

Begin by creating a diluted solution of warm water with mild dish soap. Or for an even gentler clean, opt for white vinegar - a good ratio to work with is 240 ml (1 cup) of water to 45 ml (three tablespoons) of vinegar.

Next, clean any dust off the table and chairs by wiping it down with a cloth. After that, dip one of the microfibre cloths in your solution and begin wiping your furniture, working from section to section. Avoid soaking the wood in water and always keep a dry, soft cloth on hand to ensure that you wipe any excess moisture away immediately to avoid absorption and warping.

If you have particularly stubborn marks or build up, never use abrasive cleaning products or a sponge or scrubber to clean your tables and chairs, as that might scratch the surface and ruin the finish. Instead, plastic pot scrapers or even credit cards might be a good alternative.

4. Protect and restore wood lustre with wax or oil

Close up of elegant, polished dark wood dining table
Furniture And Choice - Cavendish Dark Wood Table

Once your wooden furniture is cleaned and dry, it’s all about restoring and protecting the natural lustre and look of your table and chairs. Use a cheesecloth (or your trusty microfibre cloth) and apply a semi-solid or carnauba wax, by buffing it in with firm, circular motions for a lovely, gentle shine.

If you don’t have wax, or lack the time to make a run to the hardware store, all you need is in your kitchen! Simply mix 1 tablespoon of vinegar with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and use that for an easy, homemade polish.

5. Mix up some home remedies for cleaning wood furniture

As we’ve covered, vinegar and olive oil can double up as a polish and cleaner for your wooden dining set, but there are other pantry staples that can work as quick cleaning hacks. For instance:

Lift water stains with mayonnaise

It’s very likely that if you have a watermark on your table, it’s not set in the wood but in the wax layer instead. Rubbing it with mayonnaise should successfully lift the stains out - and give a little bit of a polish in the process!

Use tea to get a beautiful shine

Steep two bags of black tea in a pot of boiling water, and then allow it to cool. After, use a soft cloth, soak it in the tea, wring it out, and wash your wooden furniture. This will provide a natural protectant and a soft shine.

Deploy baking powder for stubborn marks

For ink or paint marks (or any other stains insisting on sticking around), mix a tablespoon of baking soda and a small amount of water - think a teaspoon or so - into a paste. Simply apply that to your table or chair with a soft cloth, and rub until the stain fades or disappears.

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