Re: Cleaning an Antique
On Jan 26, 2:54 pm, Sonny <cedarso...@xxxxxxx> wrote:
Someone recently told me a formula for cleaning antiques (the finish
in good shape, but needed good cleaning) is equal parts mineral
spirits, linsed oil, turpentine and water. Applied with steel wool and
gently rubbed onto the piece. I was not informed that this is good for
all appications, though it seemed to be implied that it was.
I've never heard of this formula and I sense this formula's chemistry
Sonny - in my business I have done a lot of finishing and
refinishing. That on occasion has included a bit if cleaning and
"leaving it alone" instead of a refinish.
Not to be too blunt, but just about everything is wrong with the
method and cleaner.
NEVER clean with steel wool. You will destroy the polished patina of
the surface at worst, and leave buffed scratches in the finish that
can be seen a mile a way at best.
Steel wool also leaves behind the oil it is treated with to keep from
rusting, potentially fouling your new finish or restoring mix. Worse,
if you use a gunk mixture like you described, it will encapsulate the
fibers into the finish when the linseed oil finally cures.
Clean with a soft rag and warm water first. Jersey cotton first to
see if you can clean satisfactorily with it. If not, step up to a
painter's rag, the ones that look like small hand towels made from
As for that mix of solvent... ouch! If you use non-natural
turpentine, it is a petroleum product, not unlike the mineral spirits/
thinner. Why bother having two. Best of all, don't use either of
They can melt the waxes, treatments, accumulated dirt etc., that are
on the piece and adhere them to bare spots on your piece. You will
wind up darkening the bare spots by depositing the dissolved
particulates in them. And now of course, you have to clean them.
Additionally, you can actually dissolves some of the older finishes
with either of those two. It won't be like a stripper, but if the
finish is really old and deteriorated, the resins will break down with
almost any petroleum based solvent.
Toss the linseed oil. No matter what anyone tells you, this is not a
restorative finish. The metallic driers in BLO can melt the existing
finish as well. And the oil will certainly darken any bare spots, pin
holes, scuff marks, etc. It will also have the effect of gathering
dust and grime to gather in corners and crannies. It provides almost
no protection (skip the crap about nourishing wood - it's already
dead), and does more harm than good in the long run.
It IS however, a trick that they "antique" furniture guys use to push
their lesser pieces as it can appear to even out the finish in the
Water?? Why would you mix oil, water, and petroleum? To raise the
grain of the piece?
Water used as a cleaner can cause your finish to blush if it is a
deteriorated lacquer or shellac. With the older finishes, a blush
spray (usually L2 lacquer thinner) will not fix a blush. And if you
have micro cracks in the finish and you use your "cleaner/restorer"
liberally, you may cause the entire surface to blush.
You are at the point of refinishing if that happens.
So, do this:
Get some TSP from the super market or big box hardware. Mix a small
batch of a warm, weak solution. Dip the rag into the solution and
squeeze out all the excess cleaner.
Gently clean the piece with that. Work in small sections, using only
the amount of pressure needed to remove the dirt. In the nooks and
crannies, use a brass bristle brush for the tough stuff, and a "firm"
tooth brush for the rest. Use no more solution or pressure on your
rag or brush than you need.
To finish, wipe down the piece with a clean rag, soaked in warm water
and wrung dry as above. Wipe the piece carefully and change the face
of your cloth frequently. Use a few rags. You are finished when the
rags start coming back from the surface pretty clean.
Don't put any wax on the piece. Commercial carnauba wax is dissolved
with petroleum distillates, and will go into the bare spots, cracks,
tiny holes, etc., and foul the finish later if you need to refinish.
And anything with silicones in it is poison to wood, so no polish
If the piece you started with is in good shape and the finish is just
dirty and not seriously damaged, it is likely the wood will be just
fine with no additional finish on it. Assess the piece as it is after
you clean it, and decide to leave it or refinish it.
If you wind up refinishing after cleaning or later down the road, that
witch's brew you posted will cause you nothing but grief if you use it
on your piece.
There are a lot of good books out there on this subject, and some not
so good. But I would look at a lot of them before I jumped in if
this was a valuable piece.
As always, just my 0.02.
- Cleaning an Antique
- From: Sonny
- Cleaning an Antique
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