Restoring antique bar furniture: tips from the pros

By its very nature, antique bar furniture has been around for a while, so it is no surprise that dirt and oil build-up can end up marring its appearance. Cleaning and restoring must be a delicate task, however, in order to maintain the look and value of items.

Restoring antique bar furniture

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There is no finer sight than venues boasting beautiful antique bar furniture in London and around the country, but these pieces need care and attention to get them to display state and maintain their appearance.

A clean approach

The key to successful cleaning is removing grime without harming the finish, which is why it is important to test cleaning methods on an inconspicuous area before beginning and to avoid any gilted areas. The latter should only be dusted lightly.

Experts in antique bar furniture, such as Victor Hall, will tell you that cleaning such pieces involves the removal of both accumulated dirt and oily residues that are left behind through touching.

Dealing with water-soluble dirt

Try using a basic mix of soapy water, made from washing up liquid and a couple of soft cotton cloths. Do not use too much water and avoid any cracks or areas where water could soak into the wood. Use circular motions with a soft cloth to lift the dirt and dry immediately with another soft cotton cloth.

If this does not work, try using phosphate-free TSP as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional Trisodium Phosphate. The latter has been commonly used to restore antique bar furniture but has sparked concerns as a result of its environmental impact and potential risks to human health, such as those described at

If the lacquer has been damaged over time, the finish may need to be replaced. You should be aware of signs of this when cleaning an area. If it seems that sticky lacquer is being removed along with the dirt, it may be time to stop.

Oil and wax removal

A proven method of removing oily residues and wax build-up is naphtha, as described at Basic safety precautions must be followed. Nevertheless, it is relatively harmless to most surfaces despite being strong and effective.

If in doubt, it is always best to seek professional advice to prevent costly mistakes that can prove difficult – if not impossible – to put right.

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