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Furniture-Care Tips

The Martha Stewart Show, February 2009

Follow these tips from antiques expert Christophe Pourny to keep your furniture in good condition for years to come.

To fix dings, nicks, and scratches on chair legs
Select a shoe polish that matches the piece you are repairing. Place steel wool over mark. Apply wood filler if spot is deep enough to warrant. Apply shoe polish over spot. Buff with a cloth to shine.

To clean the surface of a bureau
Mix 3 parts linseed oil with 1 part turpentine. Pour hot water into a jar and introduce the mixture of turpentine and linseed oil. Let the mixture sit; the turpentine and linseed oil (naturally warmed by the water) will rise to the top. This process activates the ingredients without the danger of heating oils on a flame.

Dip a fine steel wool into the mixture. Then, select a section of your bureau and gently rub with the steel wool, working section by section. Wipe off the residue with a dry, clean rag. Once you have cleaned an entire section, apply pure linseed oil and wipe off with a clean, dry rag. Let dry, and avoid touching the furniture for two days.

To dispose of the rag and steel wool, which are highly flammable, thoroughly soak in water and place in a container or plastic bag before discarding.

To clean difficult drawers
Vacuum the inside of furniture regularly as sawdust builds up and impedes flow. Use a dry bar of soap and rub on the drawer guides and on the bottom of the drawer.

Special Thanks
Special thanks to Christophe Pourny for sharing these tips; for more information, visit Plus, check out his technique for making a picture frame using straw marquetry. Special thanks to Maison Gerard for the 1930s straw marquetry table seen on the show. (Straw marquetry by Andre Groult Gilt; wrought iron base by Merceris.) For more innovative ways to tackle household tasks, check out these popular cleaning tips.

Comments (17)

  • DEE23 10 Mar, 2009


  • geesebgone 4 Mar, 2009

    What type of steel wool? Fine, I'm assuming. Is there a difference between raw and boiled linseed oil and which one should be used.

  • poodalina 3 Mar, 2009

    I presume that this solution can only be used on furniture without any protective finish such as a poly or that correct?

  • marjorieL 28 Feb, 2009

    Good afternoon I would like to know how much water to put into the jar with the turpentine and linseed oil. Thank you for your cooperation on this matter. Marjorie

  • Mychele 27 Feb, 2009

    Good Day,

    I would really appreciate, if the editor of the Furniture-Care Tips could put the quantity of the hot water to add with the mixture.

    Thanks Mychele

  • LisaMac 25 Feb, 2009

    It doesn't matter how much water to use since the linseed oil and turpentine will float to the top (oil and water don't mix). I'd use as much water as oil and turpentine together.

  • ozzysmom 24 Feb, 2009

    Need to know how much water to add to mixture to clean furniture.

  • CherokeeLady 24 Feb, 2009

    How much water do I mix for the furniture mixture?

  • baileyandlizzie 24 Feb, 2009

    How much hot water do you pour into the jar with the linseed oil

  • baileyandlizzie 24 Feb, 2009

    How much hot water do you pour into the jar with the linseed oil

  • merriane 24 Feb, 2009

    I have mineral spirits. Could I substitute this for turpentine?

  • Anna5 24 Feb, 2009

    Do you then pour off the hot water before cleaning the piece of furniture?

  • dominike 24 Feb, 2009

    Is it safe for any wood surfaces? My furniture is very sensitive to water.

  • Suki3624 24 Feb, 2009

    How much water do I use and do I have to make a new batch each time I clean or not?

  • SuzieY 24 Feb, 2009

    Since the mixture comes to the top and the hot water is added only to activate the ingredients, i would think it doesn't matter how much water you add. Looked like they used a small jar, about 8 to 16 oz, so i'd add the mixture then the hot water. let it come to the top and then proceed with the steel wood application. that's what i plan to do.

  • santabride 24 Feb, 2009

    How much hot water to pour into the jar with the linseed oil

  • santabride 24 Feb, 2009

    How much hot water do you pour into the jar with the linseed oil