Learn How to Clean a Wood Table and Preserve Your Furniture for the Long Term

A well-made wood table is a real investment and to keep it looking good for the next generation, it’s important to know how to clean wood tables. While that holds for any wood furniture, learning how to properly clean wood is particularly important for dining tables. They get a lot of use and, when properly cared for, can keep their good looks or develop even more character over the years, depending on what kind of wood table you have.

how to clean wood table

To make this easy, we’re outlining the steps you need to take to maintain your beautiful table as well as how to clean a wood table, including periodic deep cleaning and polishing. Before spelling out the supplies you’ll need and the full process, it’s critical to talk about maintenance. Sure, properly caring for a wood table on a regular basis makes things easier, but prevention is key because wherever wood is concerned, damage can be costly to repair – or even ruinous to the table’s finish!

Dust Regularly

Dust may not seem like a big deal, but when it builds up, it can scratch the surface of the wood. It’s a good idea to dust every week. You don’t need any special tools – a soft cloth that is lint-free, like a microfiber cloth or an old t-shirt will do the trick. You also don’t need any spray-on products, which can build up on wood. Just wipe down the wood with a dampened cloth or a dry microfiber cloth.

Consider the Placement

A sunny breakfast nook is certainly a cheery spot but it’s also not the best place for a wood table. Just as textiles can fade in direct sunlight, so can wood. Don’t place your table next to a radiator, over a heat vent or in another spot that can be affected by big changes in temperature, because this can cause the wood to warp or split.

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Humidity Hurts

Similar to temperatures, extreme levels of humidity can damage wood too – and not just your table, but any wood pieces in your home. Too much humidity on the air and wood can swell and warp. If the level of humidity in the house is too low, wood can crack in the dry atmosphere. Ideally, humidity in your home should be around 40 to 45 percent, which can require using air conditioning and/or a humidifier, depending on the season.

Daily Prevention

Try to develop good habits to help protect your wood table.

  • Use coasters under beverages to prevent rings from moisture.
  • Use placemats under tableware to protect the surface.
  • Always put hot platters and dishes on trivets and never directly on the wood.
  • Use felt pads or silicone bumpers on the bottom of vases or other centerpieces to avoid scratching the table’s surface.
  • Dry up spills immediately to prevent moisture damage.
  • Wipe down the table after every meal, snack or other use.
  • Clean up grease spots with a solution of mild dish soap and water.

How To Clean a Wood Table

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Even with daily care, you need to clean a wood table in a more thorough way a couple of times a year to keep it in the best shape. When you’re ready to do this, gather up the supplies and tools first. You’ll need:

  • Dish detergent
  • Warm water
  • White vinegar
  • At few microfiber cloths
  • Bowl or small tub
  • Plastic scraper (optional)
  • Semi-solid or carnauba wax

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Mix up a Cleaning Solution

First, combine some warm water with a little mild dish soap, or water with white vinegar. About three tablespoons of vinegar mixed with a cup of water is a good proportion to use.  For dish soap, just a drop is all you need.

Dust Then Wipe

Wipe dust from the table – and the chairs too if they’re made of wood – using a cloth. Next, dunk microfiber cloth into the cleaning solution, wringing out any excess. Working in sections, start wiping down the table. Don’t use too much water because you don’t want to soak the wood. Then, use a second, dry cloth to wipe up any water.

Deal With Dirt

If there’s still food build-up or a mark left on the table after you’ve cleaned it. You’ll need to do a little extra work. In this case, what not to do is equally important as what you should do when it comes to how to clean a wood table. Never use abrasive products on wood, or rub using an abrasive sponge or scrubber. This will definitely mar the surface of the wood. For stuck-on food or other types of build-up, use a plastic kitchen scraper or even the edge of a credit card to remove it.

If you’re still left with sticky spots, marks or other problems in the finish, you’ll need to consult with a professional and ultimately may have to consider refinishing the table, depending on the extent of the problem.

Banish Water Stains

Not everyone is good about always using a coaster, so it’s not uncommon to find a water stain or ring on your wood table. The good news is that it’s not the wood, just the surface finish that is affected. There are many ways you can find online to get these out of the finish. Two of the most popular remedies for how to clean a wood table that is marred by a water ring are:

  • Vinegar and oil. Mix up equal parts and use a soft cloth to rub the ring spot, working in the direction of the grain. Buff with a soft cloth.
  • Yes really, this works because of the oil in the recipe. Use it the way you would use the vinegar and oil.

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Protect and Restore the Finish

Now that your table is clean and dry, it’s time to break out the wax to protect the table and bring back the original warm glow of the wood. (If your chairs are also made of wood, you’ll want to polish them too!) This will take a little time and definitely some elbow grease.

Working in sections, use a microfiber cloth or other soft cloth, apply the semi-solid or carnauba wax, to the table. Next, buff the wax into the wood using a circular motion, working until the surface has a nice luster. If you prefer not to use wax, or if you don’t have any, the homemade route is fine too: Just mix a tablespoon of vinegar with three tablespoons of olive oil. Apply it to the surface and buff as you would with wax.

Protect your wood table keep it clean and you won’t have to do much upkeep at all besides a good polish once or twice a year. This makes it really valuable to know how to clean a wood table.