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Posted by on Feb 29, 2012 | 4 comments

Caring for Antique and Vintage Furniture and Accessories

Caring for Antique and Vintage Furniture and Accessories

As I get older, I find I’m phasing out some of my cheaper furniture for nicer vintage or antique pieces with more character. I’d like to make sure my investments last a long time so for some tried and true cleaning and care tips, I sat down with our local antique and vintage experts at Potomac West Antiques and Interiors. They shared the following tips which they use on pieces that come in the shop and on their personal pieces at home.

Restoring/Repairing Furniture

  • For scratches, small nicks, uneven coloring or surface damage, use #0000 Super Fine steel wool with Howard Restor-A-Finish and wipe it down. Follow the instructions on the Restor-A-Finish packaging carefully and make sure to wear rubber gloves. Don’t let the product sit on the wood for too long (about 5-10 minutes) before wiping the excess off.
  • For bubbled veneer, place a damp cloth over bubbled area and apply a hot iron over cloth for few seconds.

Restor A Finish wood cleaner

Cleaning Furniture

Use the following mixture to clean finished and unfinished wood. Wipe with clean cloth.

  • 1/3 linseed oil
  • 1/3 white vinegar
  • 1/3 turpentine

15     antique wood dresser

Waxing/Shining Furniture (regular maintenance)

  • Do not use products like Pledge or Endust. They can discolor as well as damage wood.
  • Do use a wax product like The Original Bees Wax for weekly/regular cleaning or a product like Briwax. These help to protect and preserve the wood. You can use these products as you are dusting/cleaning your house regularly.

Upholstered Fabric Furniture and Rugs

  • Keep dust free.
  • Do not keep in direct sunlight as the fabric will fade and discolor.


  • Always wash china, crystal and stemware in lukewarm water with mild dish soap or detergent. Take special care with china that has gold plate around the edge.


Sterling Silver

  • Do not store silver plate or sterling silver flatware mixed in with stainless steel flatware as it will cause the silver to tarnish and discolor.
  • Polish sterling silver using Cape Cod Metal Polishing Cloths — they come pre-packaged in sets of two cloths. The cloths clean and polish silver (Potomac West’s resident metal smith, David Sisson owner of Metal Magic, swears by them).
  • Polish silver when tarnished or in need of a cleaning. The more often you clean and polish, the easier the job will be.

silver serving set

Many of the cleaning products mentioned here can be purchased at Potomac West Antiques and Interiors at 1517 Mt. Vernon Avenue. And, their staff is super helpful if you ever have specific questions.

wood cleaning products


  1. How do you repair chipped veneer? Or remove a laminate top off an antique piece of furniture?

  2. To fix large spots of missing veneer, you can buy small and large sheets of different wood veneers at Woodcraft, make a template of the spot of missing veneer, and use an Exacto knife to cut the veneer to fill in the gap. For chipped veneer along the edge, it’s easier to use a putty to fill it in and then stain it to match. I like Kwik wood, a wood epoxy that comes in a tube like a Tootsie Roll. You knead it to activate the chemical process, then spread it over the damaged part with a putty knife or your fingers. It cures very fast to a rock-hard material, so you have to work quickly, but once it’s cured, you can carve it, sand it, and stain it.

    • Wow — thanks for the information, Lisa! Mandi — hope this answered your question.

  3. Hello, I used Kwikwood on a couple of damaged speaker cabinets. I love it! You can mold it with the wood veneer and sand it. My problem is the stain step. I am staining the cabinets a special oak from Miniwax. It is looking good except for the Kwikwood is staining alot lighter. Any suggestions for a novice stainer/painter. My next step is possibly a stain pen, maybe darker?

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