Cleaning Antique Wood Furniture Naturally

The technique we use for deodorizing and cleaning antique wood naturally uses things you probably already have around the house.


I recently bought this small desk from an antique store. Isn’t that cute?? I’m not sure if it’s actually a desk but that’s what we will use it for. I can also envision this as a really cute potting bench or a bathroom vanity one day.

The natural pine wood is so beautiful but with most vintage furniture, it needed a good cleaning. The wood felt sticky and had a bit of a musty smell as most antiques do.

When it comes to cleaning antique wood, there are several ways you can do it. For this piece, I wanted to use natural cleaners that would also deodorize.

Supplies Needed For Cleaning Antique Wood

  • Warm Water
  • White Vinegar
  • Dish Detergent
  • Microfiber Cloths

Mixing The Solution

First, mix a solution of equal parts warm water, white vinegar, and dish detergent in a bowl. I used about a half cup of each for this piece.

natural wood cleaner and reusable-cleaning-towels-instead-of-paper-towels

Cleaning Old Wooden Furniture Naturally

To apply the solution, I used microfiber cloths. One cloth to apply it and a second to dry it. I bought these to cut down on my excessive paper towel usage and I’ve been happy with them. You can find similar cleaning cloths here.

You will definitely want to test the solution on an inconspicuous area to be sure it doesn’t discolor the wood.

natural wood cleaner solution

I applied a generous amount of the wood cleaner to the back of the desk first. When I was sure it wasn’t damaging the wood, I went on to clean the rest of the desk.

Cleaning antique wood with this solution will not shine the wood. I didn’t want that. If you want a polished look, there are other methods you can use. I wanted the matte look of natural wood.

If you want your piece to shine using natural cleaners you can mix equal parts white vinegar with olive oil.


It looks mostly the same but it feels squeaky clean and no longer smells musty.

Deodorizing antique Wood Furniture

If you have an antique piece with drawers or something such as a trunk there is another way to deodorize the interior. A friend recommended this method to me after I bought a vintage trunk that was really stinky years ago.

For the trunk, I used odor-eliminating volcanic rocks. If my friend hadn’t recommended these I would have been skeptical to try them. But I’m glad I did because they really work. I still use them to deodorize various things and we even keep a bag of them in the car.

natural wood furniture cleaner

Also to note, I’ve read that the natural cleaning solution I used on this antique desk should NOT be used on wood floors. I’m not sure if that’s correct but I would avoid trying that just in case.

Can You Clean antique wood with vinegaR?

Yes, it works! I was a little afraid to try this, but it removed all the sticky build-up and didn’t strip any of the wood tones with the method I used above. Always try it in an inconspicuous spot first to be safe.

Removing water stains on wood

This little desk has what looks like a water stain on the surface. After reading up on how to remove water stains, I realized there are a lot of different options. So far I’ve tried the vinegar method as well as the Vaseline method and neither has worked. Here are a few other suggestions on water stains I may try later.

Once your piece is all cleaned up be sure to take good care of wood furniture to prevent any damage!


  1. Very helpful post; Thankyou. I have an antique rocking chair I will try this cleaning method on
    For musty smelling drawers on antique furniture I have used vodka to get rid of the odor. Wet a cloth with vodka (I use cheapest vodka I can find since we’re not drinking it) and wipe down the inside of the drawer. Let it dry and repeat if necessary. Usually only need to repeat once, if at all
    I put the Volcanic rock packs in our closets – highly recommend especially if dirty laundry hamper is kept in closet

    1. I’ve not heard of the Vodka trick, thanks for sharing!

  2. I have an old cedar chest that smells strongly of moth balls. Tried putting newspapers in it to absorb the smell. They did but smell is still there. Tried to wash it but the felt lining disintegrated. The smell was still there. I have quilts in it anyway, doubt I’ll get the smell out of them, but I’m going to try some of these methods.

    1. Please don’t put quilts in a cedar chest!!! The cedar breaks down the fibers. Store them in a cotton pillow case and some where out of sunlight. The quilt fibers need to breath. Plastic is also very hard on them.

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