7 Little Known Tricks That Will Clean Any Piece of Furniture

By on February 26, 2015
7 Little Known Tricks That Will Clean Any Piece of Furniture

Do you get so excited that you want to shout when you discover that special old dresser, entry table, or kid’s toy chest at garage sales and thrift stores?

Of course you do! You love this stuff!

It’s not perfect, it definitely has some flaws. You know what I’m talking about right? Those stickers that kid’s lovingly applied, spilled candle way, glue or the stains and dirt that look impossible to remove. You know you want to bring new life to the fantastic piece of furniture but you aren’t quite sure what the appropriate way is to clean it without damaging the surface or failing miserably at removing it at all.

After reading my little known tricks for cleaning any piece of furniture you will never again doubt that you can resurrect any table, chair, or cabinet. You’ll even be ready to tackle that rusty old metal cabinet in the garden shed that you figured was too far gone.

If you’ve been reading my projects for any length of time, you probably know I get insanely happy when I start a new DIY furniture project. There’s a special place in my heart for saving “would be trash” and making it beautiful again.

Together we are going to save plenty of neglected pieces of furniture as you follow along here on DIYHomeInterior.com and with this quick little guide you’ll learn how to clean mistreated furniture.

7 Little Known Tricks That Will Clean Any Piece of Furniture

Trick #1 – Cleaning Mild Stains and Dirt in Fabric

Unless you cover all your furniture with plastic as Marie Barone was known to do in the television sitcom “Everyone Loves Raymond”, the fabric will endure a number of incidental accidents. It happens in every home.

When these accidents take place with my own furniture time is of the essence, I always attempt to clean the spot with mild soap and water immediately by blotting not scrubbing or soaking the area – that tends to deepen the stain.

When the stains and dirt are in one of my garage sale finds, the remedy is not so easy. If I can identify the chair or sofa manufacturer I first check their website for any specific upholstery cleaning tips for attacking their particular fabric.

When I’m working on furniture that is not my own but instead is one of those discovered furniture gems, I’m faced with not knowing the true cause of the stain. This presents a real challenge so I start out cautiously.

  • I always start by vacuuming the upholstery fabric to remove the dry dust and dirt not yet lodged deep within. I’m careful to clean down in the nooks and crannies, along any seams, zippers, and ribbing using the vacuum attachments. I also make sure to remove any cushions or chair pads so that I can vacuum out dirt in hidden areas. You can use your normal household vacuum but if you do this a lot you may want to consider getting a dedicated hand-held vacuum to keep in your work area.
  • Next I look for the labels and tags, which hopefully have not been removed. Don’t under estimate these tags – the code printed on them holds the true secret to proper cleaning. When the tags have been removed and I’m not sure of the origin of the stain I have a couple of homemade upholstery cleaner solutions to consider.
  • When trying any new cleaning agent on an unknown fabric, I typically select a less visible area such as the side of a cushion and attempt to blot out the stain in a basic manner using a clean white cloth. For an easy homemade cleaning solution that tends to be pretty gentle on fabric mix together a solution of two cups of distilled water, one tablespoon dish soap, and one tablespoon vinegar. This tends to work really well, but if you have a really stubborn stain, you can try blotting the stain with rubbing alcohol after wetting it a bit. I also have a few commercial cleaning products that I use, which I will list at the very end of this article.
  • My third option, which I use only in cases of extreme damage to fabric and really can only be used on non-colored fabric and for small stains that aren’t in a very visible spot is to apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide to the stain and then blot it dry. This is not ideal because it will change the color of your fabric but it does tend to remove the stain.

Trick #2 – Cleaning Grease from Furniture Fabric

Cleaning grease from furniture fabric can be a real challenge because of its oily nature whether it’s grease from cars, salad dressings, hamburger drippings, or beauty products. I’ve found a couple of tricks that work surprisingly well using everyday household ingredients.

  • First I grab a box of cornstarch (talcum powder works too) and sprinkle a good amount on the greasy stain. I let the powder sit there for several hours upwards of 3-4 hours, sometimes more in order to draw out the grease. I then gently vacuum up the powder so as not to push it back in the fabric and then say goodbye to my ugly grease stain.
  • Another option I use is to rub 2 or 3 drops of Dawn dishwashing soap on the stain with my fingers.  I don’t know exactly what they put in Dawn but it works better than other dishwashing soaps at cutting grease. Just rub the spot gently and allow it to sit just a couple of minutes working its magic. If it’s a stubborn grease stain I’ll use a clean scrub brush or tooth brush to work the stain out of the fabric. Then I softly blot out the soap with a damp white rag and then blot out the moisture with a dry white rag.
  • Another solution for stubborn grease stains is to use a mixture of ¼ cup warm water and one teaspoon ammonia. Using a clean toothbrush (I always come home with some from dentist visits or dollar store) and gently brush the mixture, this pulls the grease to the surface so I use a damp rag to blot the residue away and then a dry rag to remove any moisture.

Trick #3 – Cleaning Dirt and Grease off Glass

Usual culprits where you’ll find dirt and grease on glass are in the kitchen on the oven glass, over the stove microwaves or the frying pan lids. I’ve found that some of the same tricks worked when I picked up an old set of coffee tables with glass insets. These tables must have seen far too many pizza parties.

The good news is that I’ve found cleaning dirt and grease off glass to be pretty easy. Again I use everyday household products or inexpensive solutions if I need to buy something.

  • Olive oil works wonderfully well and it doesn’t even need to be the extra virgin variety. I read something about oils being the best item to remove oil and gave it a try. It wasn’t something I first thought of but it works the best. Don’t use vegetable oil though, I’m not sure why but it makes more of a mess.
  • Cigarette lighter fluid works great for sticky dirt and grease on glass. I’ve found that it does an awesome job of breaking down the grease into a thin substance so that I can then wipe it up with a rag.
  • Similarly, rubbing alcohol does the trick. I pour a small amount on the glass and slowly spread it around with my fingers, then let it sit for a couple of minutes and rub the light scum off with a rag.
  • For really nasty grease I use a mixture of one cup baking soda with ½ cup warm water and blend it into a paste-like consistency. Then wearing rubber gloves I spread the mix onto the greasy glass, allow it to set for roughly 15-20 minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp cloth.

Trick #4 – Cleaning Tape and Stickers off Glass

I once found this adorably cute mirror for hanging over my daughter’s dresser but it had a number of those kid stickers stuck to it. The price was right and I knew she would love it so I took on the challenge of removing the stickers. It actually proved to be easier than I thought.

  • If you want to stick to what you may have already, grab some nail polish remover from under your bathroom sink and give it a try. I was amazed at how easily it came off with just a bit of this. You could get the same results using rubbing alcohol, acetone, or lighter fluid.
  • If you want a more commercialized product to keep on hand, get yourself some Goo Gone Multi-purpose Cleaner. This stuff is simply amazing and I highly recommend keeping a bottle of it on hand at all times.
  • When removing tape and stubborn stickers that won’t work with the other options, I will typically add a razor blade to my strategy. A little vegetable oil and a razor blade to scrape away the tape, gets it every time!

Trick #5 – Cleaning Stickers or Paper Stuck to Wood

Paper can get stuck to wood in so many ways. I once found pages of a newspaper stuck to a table and then there was this gorgeous table I wanted for my entry but there were these partial pieces of stickers someone had applied for decorating – I knew they had to come off.

  • The best way I clean paper, cardboard, Christmas wrap, and even stickers off wood is with baby oil or olive oil. I apply the olive oil to the paper towel and then spread it around on the paper or sticker in a circular sort of manner, the stuck on paper comes right off and the oil is actually good for the wood and helps to treat it.
  • When I use the baby oil I add a few drops directly to the stickers, rub gently with my fingers and then pull away the stickers.
  • I’ve also used mayonnaise to remove some very stubborn paper and it worked like a charm. Simply apply some mayonnaise to the paper, let it sit for a few minutes and then it comes right off.

Trick #6 – Cleaning Stains on Marble

Marble is a gorgeous stone material that works beautifully as countertops, flooring, and furniture accents. As heavy as it is you would think it would be difficult to damage but it is a soft stone which makes it susceptible to stains. Removing the stains from marble, granite, and any of the soft stones requires that you create a poultice.

Borrowing from Wikipedia, a poultice is a soft moist mass filled with solvent to remove stains from porous stone such as marble. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds.

  • I make a poultice by mixing baking soda and water to make a paste-like mixture, the amount you mix depends on the size of the stain. Spread the mixture all over the stain and then cover with plastic wrap. Tape the edges of the plastic wrap with painters tape (it doesn’t stick as hard) and let it sit for roughly 24 hours.
  • Remove the poultice and the stain should be gone. If not apply the mixture again and that should do the trick. I have also heard that cornstarch or a flour / salt mixture can be used but I like the baking soda trick.

Trick #7 – Rust Removal from Metal Furniture

When the metal cabinet in the shed or the patio furniture starts to show signs of rust many people consider it time to simply buy new, but not you, the DIY pro. This is a challenge you gladly take on.

If the rust is pretty extensive it may need to be sanded or burnished but if you have just basic to moderate surface rust, the tricks below should get you going to a rust free piece of furniture.

  • Start out using a wire brush with medium to heavy bristles to scrape off the rust, looking for areas where the paint is chipping away and allowing rust to build up underneath. I then make up a green-friendly mixture of lemon juice and vinegar which cuts through most light rust.
  • I spread this natural acidic mixture with an old rag all over the rusted surface until the rust is removed. When necessary I alternate scraping with the wire brush and spreading on the lemon and vinegar mixture.

Final Words

My hope is that you were able to take away at least one little known trick to make your furniture cleaning easier. I look forward to helping you with many, many DIY table, chair, dresser, and toy box refinishing projects in the future.

Furniture Cleaning Products Mentioned Above:

Goo Gone Multi-purpose Cleaner

Resolve Multi-fabric Cleaner

Zippo Lighter Fluid

Wilmar 3-Piece Wire Brush Set

Black & Decker Dustbuster 15.6-Volt Cordless Cyclonic Hand Vacuum

About Misty Spears

I absolutely love all things DIY, especially when it comes to decorating my own home. I’m a thrift store junkie and my head just explodes with ideas to repurpose old junk into something practical and beautiful when I come across that perfect treasure. I’m a wood furniture rebel and try to paint every surface I can to bring color into my life. My life revolves around my family and enjoying every moment that life serves up to me. You can connect with me on Twitter @diyhomeinterior, Instagram @mistyspears and see my pins on Pinterest for a sneak peak into all the DIY projects I am working on and crazy life happenings.

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