Fast Guide to Repairing Wood Furniture Surfaces

There are many ways to repair and restore wood furniture without refinishing the piece entirely. From commercial preparations to home brews, follow these tips for fast furniture restoration.

Polishes that blend. Several companies produce products that are made to polish wood furniture and blend in surface scratches and missing stain. These polishes are made in different shades to match most common shades of wood. Choose one that closely matches your piece. Scratches and bare spots are lightly stained with the tinted polish as it is worked into the wood.

Filling in. Large or deep scratches and gouges in wood furniture may require filling and sanding to hide them adequately. Using a small putty knife, fill gouges in with wood filler. Smooth the excess and allow to harden. Use a fine grit sand paper to sand off bumps in the filler. Stain the filled spot and surrounding area to match the rest of the piece. When dry, apply a layer of polyurethane or sealer if necessary to protect the area and match the wood surface.

Homemade scratch concealers.

  • Iodine (found in pharmacies) can be used to hide and blend scratches in wood furniture. Apply as many coats as necessary to match the color of your wood furniture. Rub gently into the scratch and let dry.
  • Scratches in light colored wood furniture can be hidden by rubbing the scratched surface with the meat of a walnut or brazil nut. Cut the nut first to release the nut's oil.
  • Vegetable oils and tung oil are also commonly used to match a newly prepared or repaired surface to an old one. This works especially well on light pines and similar woods where light and exposure has darkened the rest of the piece naturally. Use a lint free cloth to rub oil into the wood. Allow the oil to soak into the wood and reapply as needed until the desired darkness is reached. After three coats, it is best to let the piece sit overnight and allow the oil to work in before applying additional coats of oil.
  • Crayons are another fast way to conceal scratches in wood furniture. Choose a color that closely matches the furniture’s shade, melt, and rub into the scratch.


Once scratches and nicks are adequately concealed, surfaces should be regularly polished to maintain shine and beauty. There are a multitude of commercial cleansers available, or you can try an inexpensive homemade version such as those listed below.

Mix two tablespoons ammonia in a quart of warm water to clean painted surfaces and countertops. Two tablespoons of vinegar in a quart of warm water works well for a variety of sealed and painted surfaces as well.

Polished surfaces in need of mild abrasive cleansing can be cleaned with a solution of baking soda and water. Clean off dry residue with a damp cloth.

For these two cleaning options, be sure to test an inconspicuous area of your wood before cleaning the entire piece to be sure the finish can stand up to the cleanser. The vinegar and water solution should be safe for most wood surfaces.

To make a homemade wood cleanser that polishes and cleans, mix a solution of olive oil, denatured alcohol, turpentine, and strained lemon juice in equal parts. Shake the mixture well to thoroughly combine. Apply with a lint free cloth or cheesecloth. Towel-dry excess polish with a soft, lint free cloth and buff to shine with another. Variations on this polish include replacing olive oil with linseed oil or a mixture of one part lemon juice and two parts olive or vegetable oil.

As always when mixing and using cleansers, commercially produced or homemade, label bottles appropriately and keep away from children.

Wood furniture is appreciated for its natural beauty and shine, but disfiguring marks and scratches can ruin the look of you prized wood furniture pieces. With these fast tips for repairing, concealing, and polishing your wood pieces, your furniture will provide lasting beauty for years to come.