How to clean water and surface stains from antique furniture

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Say goodbye to dark circles and water spots on your vintage furniture, with expert advice from a Mount Vernon master restorer.

Our dog spilled a scented diffuser on my antique desk and my husband cleaned up the spill with a damp cloth. The wood is dark and easily watermarked, so the sad result is a large dull stain about 10 inches in diameter. I have tried applying mayonnaise (a suggestion I found online) and lemon oil, but the dull stain remains. Is the finish spoiled? Is there a way to fix it without stripping it? — Lynn H., High Falls

Aniello Imperati, owner of straightforward Furniture restoration center in Mount Vernon, has been in the finishing business since the dot year (aka 1969) and has taken a priority approach. “Let’s get her husband off the hook saying that if he hadn’t wiped it off immediately, the petroleum-based perfume would have melted into the finish,” he says, obviously being a strong believer in solidarity between men and women. an expert in the matter. what’s in scented diffusers.

“The finish is most likely a varnish or lacquer, and what happened is that the petroleum-based fragrance coalesced on the surface of the finish and caused it to lose its luster,” continues -he. “This can be easily fixed by using a very fine polishing compound, like a white automotive polish such as Turtle Wax Ice, then a cream polish to restore shine.”

OK so. Polishing creams recommended by Imperati: “Weiman, Guardsman or Oz, as in The Wizard of [by Behlen]. Anyone with good furniture should have it in their repertoire to keep it clean and polished. All three can be found in many supermarkets and hardware stores, he adds. Or, you can buy them online. The 8 ounce size from Oz or Weiman is about $6; 16 ounces of Guardsman (which comes in “wood scent”) costs about $7.

The technique, as Imperati describes it, couldn’t be simpler. “Step One: Go over the entire top of the desk with the white polishing compound, then go over it again with the cream polish.” Use a soft cloth. If the dull stain is still there, it means the scent substance “has penetrated the finish, and therefore it would be best to take it to a professional to be repainted with a new finish,” says Imperati. The surface would probably not need to be completely stripped, so the patina would be protected. He can also subtly add what he calls a “counterfeit” patina to furniture that might need stripping on just one part, “so it doesn’t look like a fly on a cheesecake.”

Imperati’s workshop takes care of refinishing or repairing everything from a valuable antique to “a folding chair from Ikea,” he says. If you want something stripped, but prefer to redo it yourself, he’ll tell you how to do it right. If you have a distressed piece of furniture, email photos to their website and they’ll do an appraisal for you. Free? “Of course,” he replies cheerfully. “I gave up making money doing this years ago. I became a philanthropist. He also recans chairs and can sand and repaint your metal patio furniture. Visit his website and listen to “Weeping Willow Rag” by Scott Joplin as you browse.

Full disclosure: the naughty dog, the stained desk, and the husband wielding wet clothes are all mine. The happy ending: I bought the polish and some Guardsman, followed step 1, and my desk is lovely again

Read more: How to remove stains from hardwood floors

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