A few weeks ago, I found a wonderful tip from Rebekah of Potholes and Pantyhose about using oil and vinegar to revive and clean old wood. This is one of those tips that sound really cool, but I was pretty skeptical. It may be the kind of thing that makes a piece look good long enough to snap a picture and then, when it dries, it looks like crap again. Well, this solution is the real deal…and I used it on just about every piece of wood within walking distance to test it out.
Check out the before and after on these croquet mallets. I purchased them at an auction and used ONLY oil and vinegar on them to clean them up and bring out the patina of the wood. Obviously, the one on the left is the before, right is the after.
I purchased this gorgeous dresser at a yard sale for $60. It seriously felt like consensual theft. This piece is almost 100 years old, solid wood, custom made with the original tag and mirror, and was in almost mint condition. The wood was dried out in some places and looked like there may have been some minor water damage. The people who sold it to me thought it needed to be refinished.
Do you see the lighter spots? I figured I’d try to oil and vinegar mixture before I sanded and refinished this piece. Look at the picture below…you will be amazed.
This is the same spot on the same dresser, treated with nothing, but oil and vinegar. It’s been over a month since I used this solution on the dresser and it still looks rich and beautiful.
Now, I recently tried it on a pair of end tables I purchased at a yard sale for $5.00/piece and it looks a lot better, but in the end, these pieces needed to be refinished. The before is on the left, after on the right. You can still see the scratches and water damage.
I also found that this also does not work well on furniture that has a glossy finish. It works best on old wood that is dried out, dirty, and has minimal water damage.
So, for a super cheap, super effective way to bring out the best in wood, mix three parts oil to one part vinegar. (Example: if you use 3/4 cup of oil, add 1/4 cup vinegar.) Go try it on that old wooden dresser that’s sitting in your garage waiting for a paint job. You may be surprised!
PS - Man, I did a lowsy job explaining the details! First of all, I’ve used white or apple cider vinegar and vegetable or olive oil…whatever I had on hand. Second, you simply mix it in a jar, dip a clean cloth into the mixture, then rub it into the wood. You don’t need to wipe it off; the wood just soaks it in. That’s it! Sorry for not being very specific.
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