How to Refresh Wood

A little bit of elbow grease,and a few really awesome products, are all you need to bring dry, sad old wood back to life.

I found this vintage message center made of awesome at Savers for half off of $2.99. It needed a little work as you can see. The wood was dry and dingy and the cork board was lifting. It definitely needed a little TLC. In the picture below, you can see especially on the chalkboard side that it was just in need of attention. It’s hard to tell in the picture, but whoever owned this first probably had it in their kitchen, and then stored in a garage. It had an icky greasy, dusty film when I bought it. I was able to get a lot of that off with Pledge, but it it still needed an intervention. Plus, when I took out the old cork board, there was some iffy stuff behind it.

Let’s just say, it needed a good cleaning.


Here’s what I used:

Murphy Oil Soap
Watco Rejuvenating Oil
Howard Feed-N-Wax
000 synthetic steel wool
Rags from an old cotton t-shirt

I mixed 1/4 cup of the Murphey Oil Soap in a bucket of about a half-gallon of water, then used a rag first, followed by the steel wool to clean the frame. Always rub with the wood grain, and don’t soak the wood too much. You don’t want it to get water logged. I dried it off with a dry rag right away.

Here’s how it looked after the Murphey. Much better already, right?

waxIt looked so much better just with cleaning that I almost stopped there. I went ahead with the oil though. Believe it or not, the hardest part of the whole project was getting the cap off the oil can! Once I (finally) did, I put a little on a piece of steel wool and rubbed it in with the grain of the wood. The steel wool helps get the oil into any scratches or nicks in the wood. The instructions said to let it sit 10 minutes and then dry it with a rag. I was a little afraid that the oil was just going to sit on top and get all sticky, but the wood must have drank that stuff in, because after 10 minutes there wasn’t much to dry off.

Here’s how it looked after the oil. The difference wasn’t huge, but the wood just seemed healthier afterward.

oilFinally, I put a little of the wax on a soft rag and rubbed it in all over. Can I just say first that this stuff smells amazing? The best smelling cleaning product ever. The instructions said to leave it for 30 minutes, then buff it with a dry rag. I was a little surprised by what a difference the wax made, even though it doesn’t show well in the photos. The wood just glowed afterward.


Excluding waiting times, this whole job took me maybe 15 minutes. The results were kind of amazing. The oil and wax each cost about $8 each, but I only had to use a tiny bit for this project. I’ll be able to refresh several pieces of furniture without buying more. I bought them at Home Depot. Murphy Oil Soap is widely available. I bought mine at the grocery store for about $4.

I also bought a four-pack of cork board squares at Wal-Mart for $5 and cut one down to replace the warped original cork. It just popped in and didn’t even need to be glued or anything.

Overall, I spent $27 on the board itself, plus all the materials to fix it up. I was left with the vast majority of the Murphy Oil Soap, Watco oil, and the wax, plus three cork boards. I’m going to call this about a $4 project. Not bad! This little message center hangs just outside the kitchen and is used pretty much exclusively to write down what’s for dinner. Which saves me from having to tell someone what’s for dinner about eleventy-billions times a day. Bonus! (Also the world’s cutest Ruby-made octopus chalk-board eraser.)

A little TLC makes old wood shine. Some oil soap and a little wax not only cleans and conditions your old wood, it bring out it's best qualities!



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