Clean and Protect the Wood in Your Home

Time: 1 day

In most parts of the country, winter's icy blast means turning up the heat in your home. You'll be toasty, but your HVAC system could dry out the air, wreaking havoc on your woodwork as boards shrink and separate. Being stuck inside is the perfect time to protect your home's wood accents, which will help them weather another year of wear and preserve your home's unique character for future generations.

What's in it for you?

  • Cleaner, brighter woodwork
  • Better protection against dirt and rot
  • Better seal against drying winter air
  • Increased protection from wear
  • Preserving historic accents and character

How to Care for Your Wooden Accents:

  1. Take inventory of your home's woodwork. Make a list of all the wood surfaces, including baseboards, window and door trim, crown molding, railings, banisters and newel posts. You may even have solid hardwood doors, built-in cabinets or additional columns between rooms.

  2. Clean natural wood with oil soap. For wood trim protected with wax, oil or varnish, dilute Murphy's Oil Soap with equal parts water and wipe onto wood surfaces with a soft cloth to buff away dirt build-up. Use a bucket of clean water and a second rag for rinsing.

  3. For years of grime, add paint thinner. If your wood trim hasn't been cleaned in years and plain soap isn't effective, try adding equal parts paint thinner and Murphy's Oil Soap to your rag. This combination will likely remove a layer of varnish or paste wax along with the dirt, which you'll need to replace to protect your wood. If you suspect your woodwork has been stained, apply a small test patch in a discreet area to make sure the color isn't affected first.

  4. Protect wood with oil or wax. To enhance the grain and color of your wood trim, apply a coat of tung or linseed oil to seal out dirt and add shine. (Note that it may take a few days for the scent to dissipate.) Use a soft, blunt paint brush to apply oil with the grain, and allow it to soak in for several minutes. Finish by wiping away the excess with a soft cloth. Paste wax can be applied in a similar manner, but it's more difficult to rub in and wipe off evenly. Oil offers better protection to moisturize wood and prevent wear than paste wax, and it's easier to use.

Pro Tip: Use a toothbrush for detailing carved pieces and scrollwork to get in hard-to-reach areas.

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