I found this amazing antique headboard on Craigslist for the amazing price of $125.  For one, I love antiques, and for two, the ad mentioned that it needed to be painted- oh, the horror!  It needed to come home with me, if only to rescue it from a chalk paint-giddy crafter.  After obsessing over it for about a week and begging The Man to let me be so frivolous, I bought it.  It wasn't in the greatest shape, needed some tightening and definitely some major cleaning.

It looked like it may have been in a barn for quite some time, collecting a repulsive mixture of sticky black goo and fuzzy... hair?  I don't have a closeup of that stuff, but I think you'd thank me for that if you'd seen one.  Aside from that, the form and lines were absolutely beautiful and the wood was in pretty good shape overall.

I researched extensively before I cleaned it, wanting to be sure I didn't do any of the kind of damage that Antiques Road Show hosts publicly shame people for.  What I learned from the Fiske and Freeman website was that it's best to leave the patina "grunge" on a piece, especially American pieces, but to remove the "grime".  Well, this piece certainly had the "grime" part down!  All those sticky, gooey, fuzzy bits just stuck to the surface, along with black mildew lingering near the top of the piece- these are not what you want.  However, it did have some of that dark brown-black bit of stuff that hides along the edges and is the real version of the dreaded "black wax" of shabby chic furniture.  This stuff is good stuff.

Upon closer inspection of the piece, I found that, sadly, someone had done a slap-bang polyeuretahne job on it.  Drips here and shiny spots there, I knew the original finish was far from salvageable.  That said, I felt it was safe to proceed with a more intensive cleaning than usual.  Basically, the goal was to clean the sticky goop and mildew off without removing too much of what remained of the patina. 

I started with some all-natural dish soap (no harsh nasties) and plain old hot water.  If it starts to get murky while you're cleaning, change your water. I changed the cleaning water at least ten times.  I srubbed the piece down with a soft rag dampened with this mixture, wiping with a dry towel frequently.  You don't want the wood to get soaked and try to avoid doing this on any veneer pieces.  This was not enough.  I resorted to a toothbrush and "0000" steel wool, which worked very well.  I only used the steel wool on the dirtiest parts, being sure to rinse frequently and dry with a towel frequently as well.  I started from top to bottom and then wiped it all down again with the soapy water rag.

I then let the piece sit for 48 hours in order to let it dry out again.  Next, I waxed the entire piece with Minwax paste wax.  I'll keep reapplying wax in the future so that it builds a lovely sheen and keeps the wood protected.

*Note, if you have an heirloom or something that you paid a lot for/is worth a lot, you should consult a professional!  I only did this level of cleaning because the piece was already compromised by the mold, mildew, fuzzy goo, and mainly the poorly applied polyeurethane finish.


1 comment:

  1. It needed to come home with me, if only to rescue it from a chalk paint-giddy crafter. Demir Leather