Asked on Aug 31, 2017

Your ideas and help regarding this cedar chest will be appreciated.

April McBride
by April McBride
I just received a cedar chest that is at least 60 years old. It was covered and stored in a non-climate controlled storage facility for the past 30 years. In spite of this it is fairly good shape. It is structurally sound but has some scratches, mainly on the top of the lid. After a thorough cleaning I will use it in my home. I have not yet decided if I want to refinish it. I would prefer not to as there is some sentimental attachment to it the way it is. I like the original finish, but would like to do something about the scratches (they are not deep). At this point I need to get it cleaned and inside quickly. I normally use Murphy's Oil Soap to clean. Any suggestions on cleaning are appreciated. I have read a number of things that help with scratches but have no first hand experience. Suggestions on this are also appreciated. I remember climbing on this chest as a young child so some of the scratches I may have caused. Thank you for your assistance!
  18 answers
  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Sep 01, 2017

    Product to by would be Scratch Cover (Medium) . Home remedies include: Mayonnaise - Vinegar - Teabag - Metal Polish..........

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    • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Sep 01, 2017

      You are most welcome...................

  • Ebbjdl Ebbjdl on Sep 01, 2017

    Murphy's oil soap is the right kind of cleaner for this project, which you have done. Now, the scratches, Old English has stain that comes in two shades. Buy the one for light furniture color, and put a few drops in the spaces where the scratches are. Put enough to cover them. Let sit for 2 hrs, then wipe off with a paper towel till the paper towel comes out clean. For scratches on the sides use a Q-tip. Pour a little on a jar cap and soak the Qtip and then fill in the scratches. Wipe with paper towel several times until the towel is clean. Good Luck!

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    • April McBride April McBride on Sep 01, 2017

      Thank you! Glad the vanity turned out so well. Enjoy!

  • Revive Revive on Sep 01, 2017

    I would sand with very fine sand paper (start @ 100 grit and finish with 300 - 400 grit) and then use "tung oil" or similar product to finish and bring out the natural glory of cedar. Cedar itself is a beautiful wood.

  • Paul Seymour Paul Seymour on Sep 01, 2017

    Mix gum turps with linseed oil 2/3 gum turps rub with the grain with cloth if it is still dirty or has vergi on it use fine pot scower if more is needed oooo steel wool don't be impatient let it dry wipe with soft dry cloth if it looks ok then spray it with Howard's bees wax oil and polish to the gloss that you want do not use anything that drys the timber it needs feeding, Cedar is beautiful but it is a soft timber

    • April McBride April McBride on Sep 01, 2017

      Thank you! I was unsure what polish I was going to use. I used another brand on another piece of furniture and was unhappy with it. I have heard of Howard's, but did not know much about it. I appreciate the recommendation.

  • 512181 512181 on Sep 01, 2017

    Or try Howard's Restor A Finish.

    I have had luck with the product.

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    • John Biermacher John Biermacher on Sep 03, 2017

      I have had good sucess wth Howard's. i think it wil do great on the exterior, but don't use it on the interior. it will defeat the idea of a cedar chest. Reactivate the cedar smell with some light sanding.

  • Franny Monaghan Lathe Franny Monaghan Lathe on Sep 01, 2017

    Try wiping it down with a little denatured alcohol

  • Emily Emily on Sep 01, 2017

    April, my advise does not have to do with the refinishing of your cherished cedar chest but rather the interior of it. I took a course called "saving things" which dealt with how to clean etc, valuable items (we used a book to follow along with the classes) anyway in that class we were told NOT to use cedar chests for storing valuable items. It seems the cedar exudes something that while being a bug repellant is also harmful to fabrics.

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    • Hollie Hollie on Oct 04, 2020

      I know this post is from 2017, but, what about storing antique bone china and other antiques in a antique cedar chest? safe to do?

  • Rat5187999 Rat5187999 on Sep 01, 2017

    My husband used Howard Restorafinish on our kitchen cabinets and it covered the scratches perfectly and breathed new life into them.

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    • Deb Deb on Sep 03, 2017

      I used it on some old furniture my husband inherited. It works beautifully on minor blemishes, and helps conceal/camouflage bigger ones. There is a 1/4" scuff mark (not deep) that thankfully is much less noticeable. I used Dark Walnut, but you probably won't need anything quite that dark.

      It's really as easy as wiping it on and off. IDK if I would use a cleaner with any oil in it first, as it may interfere with the wood soaking up the Restore product (JMO).

  • Deanna Nassar Deanna Nassar on Sep 01, 2017

    My Grandmother had mostly cloth items stored in her cedar chest. They are still in good condition. I'm 65 now and I'm sure a few are older than me. She always laid a blanket over the top for protection or used a pretty piece of material.

    • April McBride April McBride on Sep 01, 2017

      Deanna, I found my Mother's wedding gown preserved in a specialized bag in this chest. It was placed in there in 1955 and I was amazed at how good it looked

  • Deb Ward Deb Ward on Sep 01, 2017

    I have a similar chest that has some heat damage to it, but it was my grandmothers and like you, I have sentimental attachment to the pure look of the cedar. Don't paint it!

    • April McBride April McBride on Sep 01, 2017

      Deb, I know you are pleased to have your Grandmother's chest. It is wonderful having special family items. This chest was my Mother's. She had it before she got married in 1955. It has been in storage for about 35 years. A wonderful neighbor and his daughter helped me get it home today. His daughter was amazed, as I was, at the surprisingly good shape it is in. I am so excited about it! I am having to completely rearrange the room it is going in, including getting rid of items that do not have much meaning. When my husband and I unearthed it in the rear of a storage building I told him it needed a little work and absolutely no way would I paint it. Best wishes!

  • Sch27257268 Sch27257268 on Sep 01, 2017

    Restore a Finish!!! It's a FABULOUS product!!

  • Nancy Nancy on Sep 02, 2017

    Part of the charm of something old are the dings dents and scratches that come with it. Just like the lines on our faces, each has a story! If this were mine, I would clean it with Murphy's and then put a coat of paste wax on it. Wait 15 minutes and buff. If the top is really bad, either buy or make a cushion that fits on it. It can be removable or tack it down. Good luck?

    • April McBride April McBride on Sep 02, 2017

      Nancy, you are so true about the charm of something having it's scratches and dings. I will not do anything to compromise what I call the "integrity" of the item. I also have the rocking chair my Mother would rock me in. As I starting walking I would love to stand in the chair and hold on to the back and rock back and forth. Over time the seat got scratched. A friend of my Mother's wanted her to get it professionally refinished to "fix it". She never did understand why my Mother said it was perfect the way it was. My mother tried to explain that each scratch was a wonderful memory. My mother is gone now and I proudly have the chair with the wonderful memories. You and I apparently think alike. Thank you and best wishes.

  • S S on Sep 02, 2017

    olive oil and vinegar solution will cover the scratches and make it look like new. Look on Pinterest for directions to make the solution.

  • Nancy Nancy on Sep 02, 2017

    the look of "old" tends to keep those memories alive! Great minds think alike!

  • Susan K Mullins Susan K Mullins on Sep 02, 2017

    I have used Old English for years. It has served me well. Good luck with your new found treasure. I too, have a few passed down family pieces. I wrote a note and placed it in each one so my children would know the stories behind each piece.

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    • Hollie Hollie on Oct 04, 2020

      Anyone have suggestions for starting points for cleaning a antique, hand carved, Japanese cedar trunk?

  • 62q10370829 62q10370829 on Sep 03, 2017

    Use very fine steel wool & clean with a damp cloth then stain with a light stain that matches, go over the whole top with stain when dry put a few costs of top clear coat on it. Good luck

  • Ginny Ginny on Sep 04, 2017

    There restorative products available at big box hardware stores and Ace Hardware that will help you bring this chest back to life. DON'T paint it.

    • April McBride April McBride on Sep 04, 2017

      Thank you. After a good clean the chest looks much better, but I will check out the restorative products. I agree, there is NO way I will paint it.

  • B. Enne B. Enne on Sep 04, 2017

    Be careful. This looks like a cedar chest we have. If it is, it's an Art Deco, waterfall chest. Although it is solid wood, the V pattern is veneered. Ours has a few pieces which have ripped off. If yours has been improperly stored, I wouldn't recommend sanding it, even lightly. Don't over wet it with polishes either.

    Ours is similar to this one:

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    • B. Enne B. Enne on Sep 05, 2017

      You're welcome! I'm sure it will turn out beautifully.