How To Clean Cracked Finishes on Wood
Wood whose surface finish has aged and cracked can have an attractive patina, or you simply might not be up for stripping and refinishing the entire surface. Even so, the issues of removing dirt that has slipped between the cracks, and the challenge of cleaning wood whose protective surfaces has partially fractured, can both be approached in a way that will yield attractive results. Keep in mind that wood types and surface finishes can vary widely so even the simplest methods should be tested prior to use in a wider area. Also, beginning with a clean work area, clear of extraneous objects and loose debris, is the best way to approach any cleaning situation.
Because of the fine cracks that can appear in older finishes, liquid cleaning solutions are not necessarily suitable. These can actually cause the dirt to spread beneath the surface of the finish, worsening the overall appearance. Instead, we can use a poultice - a cleaning remedy with the consistency of paste, containing absorbent material and a suitable solvent. The paste will help lift away dirt and other contaminant, while it will remain too thick to disperse and spread beneath the finish.
A good all purpose cleaning poultice for older surfaces can be made with equal parts rottenstone and cornstarch, with several drops of lemon oil added to make a soft paste. Apply to the wooden surface with a clean soft cloth, in the direction of the grain. Allow to dry, then brush off or vacuum away residue. Follow with a light overall cleaning with the appropriate wax or polish compound applied with a clean soft cloth. Older surfaces that have already fractured extensively will require gentle treatment and minimal pressure.
Caution: Never mix cleaning agents or chemicals, the result can be dangerous or deadly. Before cleaning, always test the agent on an inconspicuous location to determine its suitability and to make certain it does not damage the material. Wear appropriate clothing such as gloves and protective eyewear, and work in a well-ventilated area. Accidental inhalation or ingestion of cleaning agents can be hazardous and even fatal, particularly to pets and children.