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Holiday Cheers and Smears

wood finishing

by Alan Noel
Professional Wood Finisher


You have a house full of people and a good time is being had by all. And then afterwards, when you are cleaning up, you start to notice that evidently some had a much better time than others and left without a word. Candle wax on a table top, wine dried up on another along with the proverbial water rings and greasy fingerprints.

Here are some tips to help you get through the holiday season.

  1. Candle wax usually does little to no harm to most finishes with a wax finish being the exception. First, gently scrape off as much as you can with a credit card, being mindful not to scratch the finish. Next, wipe the area with a soft cloth dampened with a little mineral spirits. This will melt the remaining wax residue allowing it to be easily wiped off. Then clean the entire surface with a soft cloth dampened with dish detergent and water. Finally, wipe the entire surface again with a soft cloth with just clean water and then dry.
  2. Grease and other food residue can be gently wiped off with a solution of warm water with just a touch of dish detergent. Follow up with another water-dampened clean cloth and then wipe the are with a dry cloth.
  3. Removing wine stains from finished wood can be very difficult. If the wine spill only happened a few minutes ago, it's much easier to deal with. Wipe off as quickly as possible with a soft cloth and hopefully you've caught it in time. If the spot has set in for a day or two and the stain is large and is located in a very obvious place, consider talking with a wood care professional before trying to clean it.
  4. Water rings are another problem, whatever the season. Most of the time, water rings appear like clouds trapped in the finish. This is exactly what they are. On the other hand they sometimes appear to be very dark or even black. When dark rings are present this means that the moisture has migrated down to the wood surface itself and chemically changed the color of the wood. White rings can sometimes, but not always, be removed in the home. First, try a light coat of mayonnaise applied to the area. Leave it spread on for about 12 hours and then gently wiped off with a soft damp cloth. If this doesn't do the trick try Vaseline Jelly in the same process. Still no luck? Use a hair dryer set on low and gently heat the surface to "release" the cloud by causing the finish to expand thus allowing the cloud to evaporate. Be sure to hold the dryer at least 12 inches away from the finish and keep it moving back and forth over the area. If these efforts fail or the rings appear very dark it's time to call a professional.



Visiting Atlanta? Attend one of Alan's upcoming highly informative Highland Woodworking wood finishing seminars:

Finishing the Finish, December 15, 2010

Finishing the Finish, January 5, 2011

Antiques Show and Tell, January 29, 2011

Visit Highland Woodworking's Online
Wood Finishing Supplies Department




Alan can be reached directly via email c/o Alan Noel Furniture Refinishing at anoelfurniturere@bellsouth.net.


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