How do I clean these old chairs without messing them up?

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I bought four of these chairs today from a local junk store and they are perfect for a project I am working on. I'm not sure how to clean them without possibly messing them up though. The seats are great and they are sturdy chairs so all they really need is cleaning. I'm not looking to make them appear new but do want clean. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
how do i clean these old chairs without messing them up, cleaning tips, painted furniture, The chairs
The chairs
how do i clean these old chairs without messing them up, cleaning tips, painted furniture, This is a closeup of the upper back and where most of the cleaning needs to be done The rest of it just needs some mild soap water
This is a closeup of the upper back and where most of the cleaning needs to be done. The rest of it just needs some mild soap & water.
  13 answers
  • Irish53 Irish53 on Feb 02, 2014
    excellent find. Yes you have it right mild soap and water. Maybe some Dawn on any grease. Just add time and elbow grease to gently remove the dirt while being careful not to let the wood get soaked with too much water.

  • White Oak Studio Designs White Oak Studio Designs on Feb 02, 2014
    I'd start with Murphy's Oil Soap. This is made for cleaning wood. Follow the directions on the container. Test a spot underneath to make sure it doesn't change the wood too much. Then go very slow on the decal/paint to make sure that nothing is lifted. I'd personally tape off the raffia seat and not touch that. My husband says that Mineral Spirit is what he uses in the shop but I use MOS.

    • Z Z on Feb 02, 2014
      Thank you@White Oak Studio Designs! Murphy's Oil Soap. I was trying to think of the name of that product last night and couldn't for the life of me remember it. I agree, that's the product I would use too.

  • Howard Feed n Wax! This is a great product to bring back the luster.

  • Marlene Wilson Marlene Wilson on Feb 02, 2014
    I used to use Murphy's Oil Soap years ago,now I use Polmolive Oxy.It is even better than Dawn and I never thought I would say that.LOL.You might try the Murphy's first. Like the other people said try not to get it too wet.And easy on the painted parts.The chair is a keeper.

  • Julie Gibson Julie Gibson on Feb 03, 2014
    Thank you!

  • Debi McCoy Debi McCoy on Feb 03, 2014
    DO NOT USE MURPHY'S!!! As an antique dealer the only thing you want to use is New Life Furniture Masque. Cleans and restores in very short order.

  • Grandmaquilts Grandmaquilts on Feb 03, 2014
    I am not a fan of Murphy's either. We used it to give our church pews a good cleaning years ago and it left an ugly film. Is the seat rush" If so, it could survive a good sponging off as well. At least a vigorous brush and vaccum.

  • Carrie Carrie on Feb 03, 2014
    Hi Julie. I am a trained art conservator, and one of the most important lessons that I have learned is that less is more when it comes to caring for antiques, and commercial products do NOT follow this rule. Begin by wiping the surface with a clean microfiber cloth to remove any loose dirt and dust. Then, work in small sections with a piece of cotton that has been dampened (damp, NOT WET) with distilled water that has JUST A DROP (I promise it will be enough) of mild dish soap. Dab- do not rub- the surface with the soapy cotton, and then clear any soap residues by dabbing with a piece of cotton with just water. If you start to see any of the paint or something yellow that looks like it might be varnish or finish (the dirt will be gray or black, not yellow), please STOP and contact your local museum to get in touch with a professional conservator. Do not use any waxes or finishes on the wood without consulting a professional.

  • MJ MJ on Feb 03, 2014
    Reproductions of period chairs have a charm of their own. I hope you don't 'clean' too vigorously. Nice set.

  • Julie Gibson Julie Gibson on Feb 03, 2014
    These chairs will accompany a table I just built from wood salvaged from our 100+ y/o barn. The lived in and loved look of these chairs is what drew me to them so I'm definitely not looking for a new chair look, just to get some of the grime off. I'll start with a little soap & water. Thank you so much, everyone, for your suggestions!

  • Luba Luba on Feb 03, 2014
    I agree with Debi McCoy.....New Life Furniture Masque is absolutely the best to clean, moisturize and revitalize old furniture.

  • Letitia Letitia on Feb 03, 2014
    What ever soap Murphy's or new life use 00 steel wool, gentle circular motion to loosen and remove the dirt. Wipe down with wet towels, let dry. Use 0000 steel wool and Old English dark furniture oil to polish and buff. The steel wool will take years of grim off. It will also polish out small scratches. Good luck.

  • Tina H Tina H on Feb 03, 2014
    Where can I find the New Life Furniture Masque? I just purchased a vintage sideboard that needs a little cleaning, and I don't want to ruin it.