How to Clean Your Painted Furniture

So you went to one of those shops and found that PERFECT painted piece of furniture.  You buy it, take it home, and set it up where you want it to go, then decorate!  Doesn’t it look GREAT!  One of the questions I get a lot when selling my painted furniture is ‘how do I clean it, what do I clean it with?’  I’m going to give some tips of some very easy cleaning and maintaining that newly painted furniture.

First I’d like to note that because painted furniture is a growing industry, everyone re-finishes differently.  We all seem to have our own opinions and concepts on how and why something should be finished in a particular way.  These tips are only my opinions and from my own experience!

Before you buy the piece, it’s important to think about how the piece will be used.  If it’s a table that will be used very often and there’s paint on top, keep in mind you’ll be wiping it down A LOT and possibly using chemicals to clean it.  Or a cute dresser right by your door way that you’ll drop your keys or purse on, there will be a lot of wear and possibly tear.  Ask what kind of finish is on it??  Did they use a polyurethane, wax, lacquer??  I don’t mind telling people what type of finish they’ll be working with.  It’s to help ensure that you know what’s on there so you know how to take care of it.  If they say NOTHING is on there other than paint and it’ll be used a lot, feel free to either ask them to add something to it, or take it home and you can do it yourself.  Trust me!!  Adding a little something over it at home is very quick and easy.

Below are my steps on cleaning up a wooden, painted garbage ‘box’.  We use this a lot and it does need to get wiped down almost weekly.  I bought this a few years ago, I knew it was top coated with a polyurethane.  I bought it like this so I do not have the paint, nor is matching paint ever easy.  So my method below is to show how to clean it up, and put another top coat on it to protect it in the future.


1. Wipe down with a towel or vacuum out  You don’t want any sand, dirt, food etc on it, then start to wipe it down only to scratch the paint.  For my garbage, I vacuumed it out then wiped down with a dry towel to ensure that all scratchable items were removed.

2. With a clean damp cloth, Wipe down to clean the piece  You can either wipe it down with a damp cloth, or mix a little water with a dish detergent (not much!) or with this garbage can, I had to use a little disinfectant.  If using a disinfectant, don’t spray directly onto the piece, spray a little on your towel and wipe down a little as you go.


You can see dirt here.  Make sure this is all cleaned up as well.

You can see dirt here. Make sure this is all cleaned up as well.


Wear and Tear over the years.  Paint coming off.

Wear and Tear over the years. Paint coming off.

Dirt and Paint coming off.

Dirt and Paint coming off.

Be sure not to scrub too hard.  That can cause the paint to come off as well.  NEVER use a scrub pad, scraper or anything else that could accidentally scratch the paint off.  (NOTE: Once the paint it wet, it CAN wipe off very easily.)  Just keep trying to scrub gently with a towel and warm water to get dirt removed.

3. Time to add a top coat to help protect  Here I decided to use polyurethane to put over the top, being that’s what it already had on it.  I personally feel that poly dries harder to better protect surfaces that get used more often and that may be more prone to scratching as well.


Here I am using a Minwax WIPE ON POLY.  I have my gloves and part of an old T-shirt for application.


I dab a little poly onto my rag and rub a THIN coat all over the garbage can.


I start from the top and back and work my way towards the front and then to the bottom.  NOTE: Wipe of poly goes on VERY thin.  Do not try and put a thick layer on with the wipe on.  If you want a thicker and fewer applications, use a brush on poly.  The brush on comes in a quart (or smaller) cans.  I just prefer wipe on due to less lines/streaks in my finish, not a lot of accidental puddles that I missed, and less yellowing look.  It also doesn’t have a very high gloss look once it’s dry where as the other stuff goes on so thick that sometimes it looks a little shinier to me.  If you want that look, then go for it!  It’s personal preference.

4. Let it Dry  Depending on how the temperature is that you’re working in, make sure to follow the instructions to ensure it dries completely.  Other wise it can be sticky and you’ll put something on top of it and it’ll leave a mark.  If using the wipe on poly, I usually put at the least 2 coats on.  You can do more, it’s up to you.  On my garbage can, I put 3 coats on.  Letting a day for each coat to dry.  Then after I was done, I like to let it sit for at least a week to dry completely before using.

5. Done and Enjoy!

Nice and clean.

Nice and clean.

Time to Enjoy it!

Time to Enjoy it!


If you don’t need to put a top coat over it, just wiping a painted piece with a damp cloth is really all it needs.  I’ve used pledge before or a wood oil.  But I always read the directions of the product first.

Hope this helps you enjoy your beautiful furniture pieces a little more!









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