Nonabrasive cloths clean without scratching wood finishes.

How to Clean Up a Dull Wood Finish

by Jenny Harrington

Sticky fingers, dust buildup or just the normal wear and tear of daily life can leave the wood surfaces in your home dull and dingy. Surface grime is the main culprit. Layers of wax or polish eventually begin to collect dust and dirt, making the wood lose its natural luster. Cleaning the wood properly, whether it's your flooring or furniture, removes the old wax and dirt. Adding fresh polish to the finish makes it shine again.


Dust the entire piece of wood furniture with a soft, nonabrasive dust cloth. Remove any loose dirt so it doesn't scratch the finish as you clean.

Combine 2 tablespoons gum turpentine and 4 tablespoons linseed oil in 1 gallon of hot water. Wear gloves and a respirator mask to protect against fumes, or work in a well-ventilated location.

Moisten the cleaning cloth with the turpentine solution, wringing out the excess liquid. Wipe down all the wood surfaces with the solution, rubbing vigorously to remove the dull buildup of old waxes, polishes and grime.

Buff the surface of the wood dry with a clean, dry cloth. Rub firmly in a circular motion, bringing out the natural shine in the finish.


Sweep the floor with a dust mop before cleaning. Remove any loose debris so it doesn't scratch the surface.

Dampen a cloth mop in warm water, wringing it out until it's just barely moistened. Mop the entire floor, rinsing the mop as necessary, to remove the surface film of grime. Wipe dry immediately with a clean towel.

Pour a quarter-sized amount of a one-step solvent-based wood floor cleaner and polish directly onto the floor. Buff the cleaner into the floorboards using a long-handled wax applicator pad. Add more cleaner, as needed, as you work across the floor. Replace the wax pad if it becomes soiled

Buff the floor dry with a clean wax pad, removing any excess cleaner. Rub the floor until its luster returns.

Items you will need

  • Dust cloth
  • Cleaning cloths
  • Gum turpentine
  • Linseed oil
  • Bucket
  • Dust mop
  • Cloth mop
  • Solvent-based cleaner
  • Wax applicator pads
  • Towels


  • Most wood cleaning chemicals and waxes produce toxic fumes and are highly combustible. Always work in a ventilated area and dispose of cleaning rags in a container filled with water to prevent combustion. Keep your children out of the area when using these products.

About the Author

Jenny Harrington has been a freelance writer since 2006. Her published articles have appeared in various print and online publications. Previously, she owned her own business, selling handmade items online, wholesale and at crafts fairs. Harrington's specialties include small business information, crafting, decorating and gardening.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images