Monday, June 17, 2013

Recipe for Cleaning Up an Old Rocking Chair

Definitely the most sentimental piece of furniture in the churro's room is this rocking chair, which my mom drove down to Illinois when she visited us in March.  It's been around for nearly 27 years, as it was originally purchased as the rocker for my mom to use in her nursery for me!  It's a beautiful, sturdy piece, and I was so, so glad when she pulled up in the driveway with this poking out of the trunk; it's going to be a perfect place to perch with our little man in just 6 weeks.
It needed a little TLC, though, before it was really set to go.  Although it's in miraculously good shape for being used on a near-daily basis for a few decades, there was a lot of grime built up on the arms, and it just needed a general good scrubbing.  I'm no expert on wood care, though, so thought I would share the info I learned along the way to putting this chair back in tip-top shape.

I wish I had a better 'Before' photo so you could really see how this chair cleaned up, but I didn't really think about dedicating a whole post to this until it was already underway.  Regardless, here's the chair a step or two into the process.  As you can see, there are no major cracks or repairs that had to be made- yay!  As you can imagine, there was 27 years worth of hand oil and dirt on the arms, which I sanded down with some medium-grit sandpaper and hand sander.  It took about 30 minutes to do each arm, keeping each evenly worn and focusing on the edges, which seemed to be dirtier.

You can see the area in the middle of the curve still needs a little work, but the edges are roughly the same color as the rest of the chair without being oiled yet.

Once the sanding was done, I mixed a cleaning solution with boiled linseed oil, turpentine, and water to   get the rest of the chair in good shape.  After reading a gazillion websites about the best way to clean wood (like this one), I decided on this method because a) the materials were cheap (less than $15), b) I knew we could use these products again because JP's gotten really into woodworking lately and c) this method offers the deep clean I was hoping would combat the years of use this chair has going for it.  Like I said, it's not in horrible shape, just needed some deep cleaning.

I used a cleaning solution of 1 Tbsp. turpentine and linseed oil in 1 pint of warm water, put on some rubber gloves, and started rubbing.  It was a cloudy day, so I just opened the garage door to get some air circulation without getting rained out; you can also do this outside or in any well-ventilated area.  The turpentine does produce a lot of fumes, so don't get too close and definitely take a break if you're a pregnant lady and start feeling woozy (didn't happen with me, but we can't be too careful!).
You can see in the picture above that the wood did soak up a bit of the cleaning solution, which is inevitable, but you don't want to oversaturate the furniture.  Wipe up any drips, and use plenty of elbow grease to get into the crevices.  This part of the cleaning process took me about 2 hours, which I had to break up because hello, my arms get tired.

The next day, I finished the wood with some tung oil, rubber gloves, and clean rag.  This doesn't clean the wood, but gives it a nice shine and lubricates it just a bit.  It took about one hour to get the whole chair done, and I let it dry in the garage overnight before bringing it back inside.

And now here this chair proudly sits, one of the first things you see when you open the door to the nursery.  I'm not a woodworking expert, and got all of my information from online resources, so this may not be the perfect way to restore a wood chair.  However, I can attest that the rocking chair has not yet disintegrated beneath my fingers and looks better now than it did before any work was done!


  1. It looks marvelous! And I have several photos of people holding you and Haley in that chair - I'll pull them out one of these days.

    I did resemble the Beverly Hillbilly's when I was driving down with the chair sticking out of the trunk - but it was worth the humiliation!

    I can't wait to rock my little grandson in that rocker. xo

    1. He's going to look great in your arms, Grandma Hein. xo Abbi

  2. I have a rocking chair just like it as you know. It is my favorite chair to sit while talking on the phone and/or conversing with whomever while sitting in the loggia. I am going to follow your recipe for a good cleaning. Hopefully, I can rock the churro in it when you come down next time.
    aunt nesi

    1. I just know the churro would love to be rocked by his Great-Aunt Nesi at Christmastime!

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