Cleaning & restoring antique & vintage timber furniture

We sell a lot of antique, vintage and just old timber furniture.   Sometimes it comes in looking great, but more often it

Vintage filing unit

Vintage filing unit

has water marks or nasty varnish and isn’t looking its best.


Here are answers to some of the some questions people ask every day in the shop.


How do I keep my timber furniture looking good?


Most timber furniture needs a good “feed” from time to time.  We recommend using Howards products – they make a range of products from Orange Oil spray application (for French polished and fine timber finishes, and also very good for cane) to complete restoration liquid applications. These are all easy and safe to use, and come in a range of tones to suit all timbers.


TIP 1: Don’t use Mr Sheen or similar products containing silicone on your timber.  If the surface gets stained, the silicone traps the stain and it can’t be removed from the timber.


TIP 2: When using products on timber, use only “0000” steel wool, which is a fine grade steel wool.


TIP 3: Over painted timber, vinyl, leather and any “shabby chic” pieces, use Gilly Stephensen’s polishing cream to bring back shine and condition. It comes in lavender, lemon and rose scents.


Do I need to ‘strip’ varnish from timber items to restore them?

Edwardian chair

Edwardian chair


Think carefully about the end result you want to achieve before you begin a restoration project.  Design trends have moved away from the perfect look of French Polish – seeing the natural beauty of timber is in. Stripping back timber can be very damaging to timber fibers, leaving them “furry” and hard to seal. 

DIY restoration without stripping:

Use Howards’ Restoration Product, which comes in most timber colours. 
Apply the liquid using “0000” steel wool, applying to a small amount at a time.
Rub the product in and wipe off the excess before it dries. 
For cracked varnish or water marks, continue to work the area until you see a result, then blend with the rest of the piece.
After you have completed the area, you can use a wax specifically designed to “feed” the timber and enhance the grain.

TIP 4: Cotton polishing cloths work best. Soft fabrics like tea towels or old singlets are ideal.


Other questions?  Come in and see Greg The Timber Guy at YDG, and he can talk you through your project, or email us your question.