The allure of an antique dresser can’t be denied, but the upkeep? Well, that’s another matter. Thankfully, caring for an antique dresser isn’t as hard as you likely think. To help, we’ve created a quick breakdown of all the steps you need to take to keep your dresser looking youthful and delightful. 

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1. Know Your Dresser’s Finish

Before embarking on any sort of cleaning, it’s wise to know what kind of finish that you’re working with — shellac v.s. lacquer, polyurethane, varnish, or oil finish. Generally, shellac finishes will require refinishing at some point, and until then, they’re best cleaned with the utmost care. How do you figure out what finish your dresser has? Do a denatured alcohol test. Rub denatured alcohol in an inconspicuous spot. If the finish is removed, you’re in camp shellac. If the finish remains untouched — celebrate! — you have a lacquer, polyurethane, varnish, or oil finish.

2. Do Regular Dusting

When dust is allowed to collect on a wood surface, it can eventually lead to scratches, especially if something heavy is set atop the dusty surface like a plate or book. Prevent these scratches by dusting your antique dresser regularly. Use a soft microfiber cloth or the brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner. Avoid using water to dust your wood furniture, whether you have a shellac finish or al lacquer-based finish.

3. Moderate their Environment

Antique wood is susceptible to extreme heat or cold. Keep it away from heating sources, including vents, radiators, or fireplaces, as well as cooling sources like AC vents. If excess moisture is a concern, bring a humidifier on board. Treat your antique wood with the care you’d normally invest in a living plant, and you’re likely to yield the best results. 

4. Do a Deep Clean Every now and then 

If your furniture has a lacquer, polyurethane, varnish, or oil finish, use an oil soap to clean and moisturize the wood. Create a 1-6 cleaning solution with water. (1 part soap to six parts water.) Dampen a cloth with the solution and wring it out. Use circular motions to clean the dresser from the top to the bottom. Once done, go back over the piece with a dry cloth to ensure it’s entirely dry.

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Design by Kati Curtis Design / Photo by Brittany Ambridge


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September 24, 2022

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