How to Clean & Care for Antiques: Grungy Furniture

Hi everyone! When shopping for vintage and antiques, I always try to look for items that others overlook, for example, the tables and stands that merchandise often sits on. You have to look “below” the surface to discover them and often, they are quite reasonably priced. Case in point. I went back to an estate sale on day #2 and noticed a table in the basement holding a big pile of true junk. I slid it all off into a box and decided that while the box 0’junk held no interest, the table did.

how-to-clean-and-care-for-antiques-grungy-furniture-at-adirondack-girl-heartI promptly found a salesperson who quoted me a price of $10.00. Sold!

Grungy old white farm tableThis is the table that came home with me that day. You can probably tell that she’s a small farm table, but the top would repel a lot of people.

surface-of-grungy-vintage-wooden-tableI felt she just needed some TLC to restore a little life to her, so I decided to give her a special spa treatment.

brushes-soapy-water-finishing-waxI gathered up my tools of the trade–a couple of different brushes, an old towel, wax, cheese cloth, and a bowl of warm, soapy water.

stiff-brush-for-brushing-chipped-paintFirst I  removed some of the dirt and loosely attached paint chips with a stiff bristled brush.

soapy-water-and-brush-for-scrubbingThen I gave her a good scrubbing with the hand brush and soapy water.

widget-razor-blade-tool-for-scraping-gunkSome of the crud that the scrubbing failed to remove, I scraped off with my handy widget. The razor blade slid under the caked-on goo and broke it free from the table top.

cleaner-surface-of-grungy-table-after-cleaning-and-waxingHere you see a much cleaner surface, after all the scrubbing and scraping and a coat of wax. I like to use wax because it both cleans and finishes off the surface, making it look “healthier,” and helping to prevent more paint from chipping off.

grungy-table-after-cleaning-and-waxingHere she is after her spa treatment–yeah, she’s still a bit of a hot mess, but she won’t flake all over the floor, she passes the white gray glove test, and she smells better, too(!).

So, after I went through all the effort of taking this [lovely] series of photos, it all seemed a bit obvious. Of course you’d clean something dirty and polish it up a little to make it presentable. And truth be told, I even wondered if it would sell. Was it really the awesome little piece that I thought it was? Well, shortly after her spa treatment, this lovely lady headed up to my antique booth and sold in just a few weeks. I had her priced at $62.00 and she sold for $55.00. I was pretty pleased.

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  1. Great find Diana and that’s awesome that it sold so quickly. Did you clean and wax the whole table or just the table top? What kind of wax did you use?
    Thanks for the reminder….you really have to keep your eyes open at these sales and look beyond the obvious (or underneath it in this case).

  2. I would have wanted that table, too! Great cleaning tips. I got a reeallly rustic small farmhouse table from the roadside, I loved it but my family thought I was nuts! It’s in storage now but this makes me want to get it out! xoKathleen Charm Bracelet Diva {At Home]

  3. Dear Diana, I can sure see why it was snatched up so quickly-nice bones as we say. It is important to mention that chippy furniture should never be where babies, small children, or pets may consume some shabby leavings that may land on the floor. I have often stabilized an old surface with a several coatings of matte or satin polyurethane varnish on any item that might be used where children are. The poly’s transparent skin will keep chips from lifting much like your wax.

    Cute table and great ideas for cleaning. Thanks, Sandi

  4. Saving to my Handy Tips board 🙂 I thought you might like to share with us at my To Grandma’s house we go link party, it just opened this morning, thanks!

  5. Nice shabby table! Those do tend to sell quickly I’ve noticed. After the good cleaning, it was perfect. Never thought of using wax for that application, but makes sense since you weren’t planning on painting or sanding.

  6. I, like you would not let grunge scare me away. Love her now that she’s all cleaned up! Thanks for sharing with SYC.

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