How to Clean Old Wood

In phase two of the Great Wire Organizing of 2012, I'm working on a storage unit for all of our media components. So much technology. So little space.

Tim saw some great crates at Embellishments (my new favorite vintage store near 1825 South Coast Highway, Oceanside, but nowhere to be found on the internet...) and thought they would make a great custom bookshelf. At $35 for the pair I was completely on board.

BUT... we're talking old crates, which means we're talking DIRTY crates. These bad boys needed a scrubbing.

So here are some before pictures. A lot of the rough spots are age (ie paint drips, scuff marks, and chips in the finish), but you can also see dust, dirt, and a little water damage (hello mildew, get the heck out of my house!).

The wood finishes are a combination of painted, finished, and raw wood, which I love, but which also doesn't lend itself to a simple cleaning solution...

After a little research, it seemed like a combination of Trisodium Phosphate and white vinegar would be best.

If you want to try it yourself you'll need:

Trisodium Phosphate (you can find a small box at Home Depot)
Distilled White Vinegar
Clean Rags (I used 2)
Spray Bottle
A container

1. Mix the Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) with water following the instructions on the box. I used 1/4 cup of the TSP with 1 gallon of water.

2. Scrub your wood with your TSP/water mixture. If you have any stubborn spots, you can use a scrub brush. Just be sure not to scrub so hard that you scratch any finished surfaces.

This isn't really a step, but dang that wood was dirty! Seeing this when I was finished made me SO glad I decided to thoroughly clean the wood.

3. Fill your spray bottle with white vinegar and liberally spray it all over your wood.

4. After the vinegar has sat for 5 minutes, wipe it off with a clean rag and water. Let your wood dry completely in full sunlight if possible. (I highly recommend starting this process in the morning so your wood can sit in the sun all day.)

The results are VERY difficult to show through photographs, especially because these crates are really banged up to begin with. You can take my word for it though, they look so much better and now I feel completely comfortable having them in my house.

In fact, they look so much better that Tim and I decided not to do anything more to the wood finish, whereas before this cleaning process we were planning to apply a coat of polyurethane or tung oil. Hooray for time-saving discoveries!

Next up on the docket: make some faux old wood we'll need to assemble these badboys into respectable media storage. So close to wire control!!