How to Restore Dry or Brittle Wood Furniture

Knowing how to restore wood furniture that has gone dry, and brittle, lets you bring this furniture back to life and enjoy it for a lifespan.






Wooden furniture is an investment that can last a lifetime and more. There are pieces around that are more than 300 years old and still look as good as the day they were manufactured. But there are plenty of other items of furniture and decor that haven't quite fared as well and these often end up in auction sales or second-hand stores and all they need is some TLC and a bit of elbow grease to bring them to life and bring the beauty of wood into the home.



Any piece of wood furniture that isn't taken care of, that isn't given moisture to replenish the cellular structure of the wood, is eventually going to become dry and brittle. A common example of this and one that many can relate to is that of reclaimed pallet wood. Everyone is using pallet wood these days to make furniture for indoors and outdoors but the one downside of using this type of wood is that it is already dry and brittle unless you manage get your hands on pallets that are not so old.




If you have wooden furniture that is desperately in need of some care, it doesn't matter if it is indoor or outdoor furniture, use the tips below to restore the natural beauty of the wood.


Restoring Wooden Furniture

The tips shared below are not just for wooden furniture for in the home, you can also use these methods for outdoor furniture that has been left uncared for, for fittings and fixtures in a home, and even architectural detailing of a wooden nature.



1. Use Boiled Linseed Oil

Boiled linseed oil is a method used for centuries to restore and enrich the finish of wood furniture. This deeply penetrating oil is absorbed deep into the cell structure of wood to moisturise and plump up the surrounding wood fibres, strengthening and filling the cells to bring any species of wood back to life. Boiled linseed oil is available at Builders as well as hardware and timber merchants.




Boiled linseed oil

Rags or soft cloths

Drop cloth or floor covering

Safety glasses, dust mask and rubber gloves




When first applied, the wood make take on a yellow hue, but this will darken over time as the wood absorbs the oil. This non-toxic and 100% natural treatment is not waterproof and not intended for outdoor use but can be used to initially restore dry or brittle wood in preparation of application of a sealer or varnish.


Pour a small amount of linseed oil onto the wood furniture and wipe over with a rag or soft cloth. The idea is to flood the surface with oil and then give it time to soak into the wood. Cover the entire surface with linseed oil and leave for approximately 30 minutes to an hour before wiping away any excess oil.


After 3 to 5 days, the oil will be fully absorbed into the cellular structure of the wood, and you can then apply more oil to the surface by pouring the linseed oil onto a rag and wiping this over the wood. Repeat this process on very old or dry wood until the wood is unable to absorb the oil. Finally, wipe away any excess and leave the furniture to stand for 7 to 10 days to allow the oil to be fully absorbed.








Boiled linseed oil is not a finishing treatment but rather one that will rehydrate the wood and bring it back to its natural beauty. As you apply the oil and the more it is absorbed into the cell structure you will start to see the wood appear plumper, the grain will be more visible, and the natural colour shine through. But before you do anything else, you need to apply a varnish or sealer to protect the finish.



After rehydrating wood, the next step is to apply a protective finish, but this should be left for at least 3 to 4 weeks to give the oil a chance to dry. If you apply a finish too soon it might not bond properly with the wood fibres or may peel or flake off at a later stage. Have patience.



Ongoing Care for Wooden Furniture

An old trick that woodworkers, carpenters, and cabinet makers use to refresh wooden furniture is to use mayonnaise, olive oil and lemon juice. Might sound a bit weird for applying to wood furniture, but make no mistake, it does a good job or moisturising the surface. This wood hack will also remove water spots and rings on the finish, so why not give it a try yourself?


Here's the recipe:


200ml each of mayonnaise, lemon juice and oil mixed together well. Use this natural polish with a rag to rub into the surface of wooden furniture.





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