Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

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michaelskis
Posts: 94
Joined: Fri Jan 08, 2010 10:12 pm

Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by michaelskis »

We are very lucky that most of the wood trim in our house has never been painted. However some of it has not been cleaned in 100 years. Now I am sure it was wiped down many times, but in many cases it looks darkened dirty. The closer to the floor, the worse it it. The are also several areas where they did something and now it looks worse than ever.

Here is an example.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/26499004@N ... /lightbox/

Do I need to strip this down to the wood and refinish it or is there a way to freshen it up, clean it, and make it look nice and clean again?
1890 Edmund Barry House
Heritage Hill Neighborhood
Grand Rapids, Michigan
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cadrad
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by cadrad »

check to see if it is shellacked by testing with some denatured alcohol on an inconspicuous area. If it dissolves the finish it is shellac.( it probably is). use 0000 steel wool and denatured alcohol to gently clean. wipe away the dirt with a rag. This will lighten the finish slightly. Then re-coat with amber shellac. It will look like new. just be careful to remove only the dirt and to not scrub too hard so that the color stays consistent.
Steven R.
muskegon MI
Charles E. Johnson house
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jeepnstein
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by jeepnstein »

Once you start working on the trim with the alcohol and steel wool there will be no turning back. Personally, I think the woodwork is gorgeous as it is. It's patina, not filth.
"Pure Stinking Genius, that's what that is. Hey, can someone get me a fire extinguisher?"

Neighmond
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by Neighmond »

Kotten Klenser will cllean the wood and leave the old finish pretty much alone, is used according to instructions.
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lovesickest
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by lovesickest »

That is patina. Please leave it alone.

Tom and Jada
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by Tom and Jada »

As long as there is no significant finish loss, I wouldn't use alcohol unless it needed to be stripped. Shellac will dissolve in alcohol.

I would start with some #0000 steel wool dampened in naphtha. For the areas with a lot of buildup, you can use #000, but I wouldn't go any coarser. Make sure to rub with the grain instead of against it.

Once it is clean you can get a better idea of what kind of shape the finish is in. We had several doors that had so much crud on them that when we got it off we saw the finish was ruined. Still, there were other doors just as dirty that were fine underneath the grime. You never really know until you clean it.
Tom and Jada
Current project: Circa 1915 Georgian Colonial Revival
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sooth
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by sooth »

To me, that looks old and gorgeous. I would simply go over any small nicks and scratches with a tiny bit of matching stain, and leave it exactly as-is.

If you do want to clean it, there are several methods and products you could try. You could use vinegar and a rag (and a lot of elbow grease), you can do a light scrubbing and polishing with #0000 steel wool and wax (though once you use wax it's hard to remove all the traces if you change your mind and want to varnish over it later, which could be nearly impossible), you could re-coat over it with a light coat of the same varnish (shellac, lacquer, poly, something that is compatible with your finish). This would make it more glossy, but it would not change or improve the colour variances/dirt.

There's dozens more options.

I love it as-is.
JC
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lovesickest
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by lovesickest »

I think a really common error that people make with old things, including houses, is the desire to refinish everything so that it looks like it is brand new.

Yes, clean the wood trim, gently. No, don't strip it down to the raw wood to fix all the minute imperfections.

It is almost impossible to refinish the wood to match the appearance of how it originally looked, and so labor intensive, and for what end ? So it looks like you had new reproduction trim milled ?

On the Antiques Roadshow they endlessly repeat "If this was in the original finish it would be worth 10x what the item is worth now". Not that mass produced victorian wood trim in a house = early 18th century furniture made by an important maker in US design history but...

Lynners
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by Lynners »

lovesickest wrote:I think a really common error that people make with old things, including houses, is the desire to refinish everything so that it looks like it is brand new.
Uh huh. When we first moved into our house I made removed all the hardware off of every door. The cast iron stuff cleaned up great with no damage. But the oil rubbed bronze mortise lock set on our french doors? Ugh. I definitely screwed up.
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lupinfarm
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Re: Cleaning and restoring dirty wood trim.

Post by lupinfarm »

Beer and a soft lint free cloth is good for cleaning wood and as a bonus you can always drink what you dont use. :)
putting the 18 back in my 1872 Victorian farmhouse.

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