How to Care for Salvaged or Unsealed Wood Furniture

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Many readers wanted to know more about how I stripped the cabinet in my kitchen and how to care for it now that it is unsealed or salvaged wood with questions like:

-Do you leave the wood as it is?

-Did I put a clear polyurethane over it?

If you missed the post on how I stripped the cabinet, you can find it here, Furniture Stripping Basics.

How to protect salvaged or unsealed wood furniture

To answer the questions, I did a little research.  For now I am leaving the cabinet unsealed as it is a piece that does not get too much use.

How to Care For Salvaged or Unsealed Wood Furniture

-If it is a piece that will get a fair amount of use – like a tabletop; apply a coat or two of soft beeswax based paste wax to protect it.  This will condition the wood, keeping it looking very natural with a matte finish while enhancing and protecting the wood grain.

-You can always add a sealant later, or experiment on finishes and sealants like a clear or tinted polyurethane on the underside of your piece to determine your favorite look.

-There is a risk of stains from spills or oils if the wood is left unfinished. Sanding with a combination of first 100 grit and then 220 grit sand paper will typically remove them and restore the look and feel.

– Even though the imperfections in the wood add to its allure, using coasters and placemats will help prevent unwanted stains and marks.

– The best method for cleaning is simply soap and water.  You can also create a solution with a few tablespoons of white vinegar diluted in spray bottle of water. It works well to get off the finger prints and smudges.

I love how the cabinet came out and will consider stripping more furniture in my future.  When my budget allows, I may even end up buying a piece of furniture made from salvaged wood.


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  1. You can always add a sealant later, or experiment on finishes and sealants like a clear or tinted polyurethane on the underside of your piece to determine your favorite look. This is correct, after adding sealant it must be hard and moistures will not go through cracks.

  2. I was given a pair of unfinished wooden rocking chairs that had a green algae , and a grayish whitish look on the surface. I power washed it and found a reddish wood underneath. After I sand it, what should I do to rejuvenate the wood? My mom says cover with linseed oil, then maybe a urithane?

    1. Hi Sandy – The finish you choose for your chairs is up to the look you want and where they will be. Will they be inside or outside? Do you want sheen or a subtle finish? Using Linseed Oil will bring out the beauty of the wood. Let it dry completely so it cures. Once cured you can add a poly or urethane over it in the finish you want. Once dry you will have a very pretty and durable finish.

  3. Andy Everett says:

    Thanks for giving those helpful tips on this books. That is really amazing. Everyone has the need for these tips, this is really helpful for everyone.

  4. Allen Stillinger says:

    I appreciate it when you said that the wood grain will be enhanced and protected if the person uses beeswax paste on a wooden furniture that gets a fair amount of use. I will talk to my mom about this as she intends to have the cabinetry in the kitchen replaced. Since she loves storing every single thing in the cabinets, then I am pretty sure she needs to wax it in order for it to last longer than the last one. Thanks!

  5. Chrisitne says:

    Hello there! I came in via Pinterest.
    I’ve recently fallen in love with raw wood pieces. I started when I was able to suck the stain right out of old furniture using Citristrip. Imagine my antique doors no longer battered white, but gorgeous, antique heart of pine that looked like it had never been touched!

    That said, I wanted to share a finish choice with you I figured out and canNOT believe what it does. I use paint base. You know. The can of stuff they put the pigment into? FLAT Latex, Exterior (for UV and waterproofing) dark (BM is a 4 or 5) paint BASE. It goes on white (oh no!) and dries so invisible you cannot tell there’s a finish on the wood. Gone. I defy anyone to figure it out! A bonus: It’ll also glue down chippiness without looking gummy like other finishes. Again, invisible, but you cannot pick the chips off.

    Anyway, you do such nice work I thought you would find this (a miracle) totally cool.
    I also laughed at your advice to use watered down vinegar to get finger prints off the wood. I must wonder how many people out there oxidized raw wood and it grayed or ebonized from the vinegar? Depends upon the wood…
    Thanks for sharing all your hard work.

  6. Hi, just a question, before you applied the beeswax paste, did you sand down the wood?


    1. Hi Jenny –

      If you sand well after you strip you may not have to do anymore sanding, but to make sure the surface is smooth you can go over the surface with very fine 220 grit sandpaper before applying the wax.

  7. There is something to be said about wood that is left looking natural. The simplicity of natural wood that is unsealed makes your home feel wonderfully rustic.

  8. I’ve just started refinishing a headboard. My next project will be a dresser as soon as I find one that meets our needs and budget. I’d love to win to learn more!

  9. Would love to win this book!

  10. I am just getting into furniture redo and would love to have that book to learn the tricks of the trade.

  11. I am painting a few things and would love to have the book to be a guide and inspiration.

  12. Tamra Hamlett says:

    Have been transforming furniture with paint for years, would love to have
    this book! Love how you do a piece over and over !

  13. I have a garage full of furniture I’ve collected over the year to rehab while on summer break. HELP!

  14. I loved your furniture makeovers. I had 4 pieces of furniture that I want to do, but I’m afraid to mess them up. Help!
    The book will help ;)

  15. You did an amazing job. We just completed a renovation on our house, and some of my furniture needs to be updated. A book like this would really be helpful. Thanks for sharing as well as a chance for some blog candy. Kim

  16. Hi Diane, thanks for the tips! I just started renting a little booth in a local antiques mall- this book looks like it be a lot of great inspiration! I’m crossing my fingers. :-D

  17. I’m always impressed by how beautifully your pieces turn out. I have the enthusiasm, but alas not nearly the skill. Perhaps this book would help?

  18. I love books, and much more if the are about furniture makeovers, thank you for the giveaway.

  19. Love all your lighting ideas! I have a lot of things that need refinishing. I have old furniture from my brother who passed away 2 years ago and need some ideas .

  20. Diane, Thanks for the chance on a smart looking book. Just the thing for my retirement projects.

  21. I started stripping a table that belonged to my grandmother, but never finished because I didn’t like the way it was coming out. That was more than 20 years ago the table is in pieces under the beds in our guest room. Maybe it’s time to take it out and try to finish the project. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Katie – I say go for it, you may be pleasantly surprised how it turns out. I was a bit skeptical when I was actually in the stripping process, but once I cleaned it up, I was smitten :)

  22. I love your faux marble top, I have yet to try that one and really want to do it somewhere in my house. I would love to win that book so I hope you pick me.

  23. Stephanie says:

    I am so thrilled to have discovered your blog as a “newbie” DIY home décor lady, I am so grateful to you for your wonderful, affordable and easy to do projects!!!

  24. Thanks for all the tips. Looks great!

  25. Gwenn Townsend says:

    You have given me the confidence and knowledge to conquer my first project . I refinished my old yellow varnished pine table we bought when I was prego with my second baby over 17 yrs ago! It is now a nice smooth beautiful robin egg blue. Gorgeous ! Goodbye , sharpie , markers , and nail polish spills :)

  26. Just found your site and I am delighted and inspired! Both daughters want to paint their dressers this summer and now we wills have help!

  27. Boy, need this! Have a garage full of items that are intriguing but need work!

  28. I need this book! Love your blog…

  29. Brenda Stafford says:

    Diane, I hate to sound gushy, but I so look forward to your posts! I have just retired and am searching for a creative outlet for my new spare time and want to try some of your ideas. Thanks so much. The book sounds like just what I need to transform some old furniture that I have. Looking forward to your next post!

  30. You’ve planted so many seeds of inspiration, I can’t tell you! I several pieces that have the same ‘orange’ look of the last decade, which I think I just may strip! I love the results of your latest endeavor, and look forward to what you do next. Great job!

  31. I love the look of unfinished wood… Thanks for all the information to achieve this look!

  32. I began following your blog last year, and just love all of the different ways that you recreate things to suit your taste. I have a couple of pieces that I would love to refinish and/or paint to suit my own taste. Thanks again for sharing all of your creative and stylish ideas with us.

  33. The white faux marble is beautiful, but do you by chance have any photos of the green faux marble? Just curious about how that looked on the piece.


    1. Hi Rebecca – Before I posted this post, I tried to find a photo that showed the green marble, but could not find one. It was about 14 years ago when I painted over it.

  34. I have been wanting to start refinishing furniture and wasn’t sure how to start… Getting a copy of this book would help me out a lot!

  35. I love your cabinet! The faux marble is beautiful. We are a military family and move every couple of years, so I have always been hesitant to buy nice furniture. You blog has inspired to buy inexpensive pieces and make them beautiful myself. I think your book giveaway looks really interesting. Thanks!!

  36. I would love this book. I am currently in the process of redecorating (on a major budget) and have a few pieces that I am unsure what to do with. Thank you!

  37. I would love this book! I am in the process of redecorating (on a major budget) and it would be very helpful! thank you.

  38. Mary Alice says:

    Yours is one of my favorite blogs. I have it in my favorites list and hop over here several times a week. I learned how to slip cover an office chair from you and I smile every time I look at that chair now. Thanks! The book you are offering looks very interesting. Fingers crossed. :-)

  39. I just bought an old french provincial style dining table made in the 50’s from a wonderful woman on Craig’s List. It’s sitting in my dining room looking perfectly fine but I just want to re-do it so bad anyway. Hoping this book will be the motivation I need!

  40. Alicia Turner says:

    School is out for the summer and as soon as I ” spring/summer” clean, I will be starting to redo all the old furniture I’ve bought during the year. Have been loving your blog and your great tips. Hope to win the book for extra info on all my projects.

  41. Leslie H. says:

    I just recently discovered your website. And I’m so glad I did! You’ve answered so many of my questions. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with the world!

  42. I found you awhile back while searching out chalk paint recipes and have been following you ever since! I also love Knack Studios and the simplicity of Barb Blair’s work & photos. Keeping my fingers crossed that I might be the winner!
    Thanks for all the information and inspirations!

  43. I love your cabinet. This book would be a great help I have a couple of pieces I would like to try.

  44. Thanks for the giveaway, hope to win. I have some bedroom furniture to repair and refinish, the book would be a great help.

  45. I just love your blog, the marble top look has to be the best! Thanks for all the sharing of ideas, just wish I had the time to do some of them!

  46. I have a few old and used dressers that I want to makeover and this book would be a great help. Thanks for the giveaway.

  47. I was so intrigued by your blog post (and your own faux marble painting) that I immediately went to Barb Blair’s website to see her stuff! Anxious to own her book – even if I don’t win, will need to purchase as I have a number of pieces of furniture I would love to put a new face to. Thanks.

    P.S. love all the sharing you do with us…

  48. Diane,
    This is perfect timing! I plan to chalk paint my kitchen table and chairs but, I want to sand & wax the top of the table. This will be my first attempt at refinishing furniture & I so appreciate your great tips!!

  49. I love the way the 2 pieces have different finishes but work together beautifully to create one piece. Great job!

  50. Michele M says:

    great article, thank you for sharing. Would love to win the furniture refinishing book! I have a whole room filled with project pieces that need the help!!


  51. I would love the chance to win this book! Probably has some great ideas.

  52. Linda Southworth says:

    My hubby and I look for good buys at last day and next to last day estate sales and find assorted items. One find was a very dark library table in need of a makeover. I could certainly use this as a quick hands on reference book!

  53. My hubbie is going to use your marblizing technique on a fireplace where he is a caretaker. Very nice photos in your post.

  54. i would love to win this book! thank you for the great give away

  55. Looks like a wonderful book!

  56. I love how the furniture turned out. I need to refinish a dresser this summer and this gives me some ideas.

  57. I have learned so much from reading your blog. I look at pieces of furniture at the thrift stores and even in my own house in a brand new way! Thank you!

  58. Kathy Long says:

    This looks a very good, go to book!

  59. Love the things you do and enjoy following you. ‘Thinking’ about doing my linoleum bathroom floor with the marble technique.

  60. Margaret Potter says:

    This book would be so much fun to have. I love making something new out of a cast off! Thanks!

  61. Barbara Goodspeed says:

    Diane, I’ve been following you for just over a year and am inspired with each project. Thanks for recommending paste wax on unfinished furniture!

  62. Linda Chaput says:

    Still learning all that I can on how to transform my furniture. This book looks so interesting. Thank you for the chance to win…….

  63. Connie Haack says:

    I would love to win this book. I am always looking for inspiration to transform older pieces of furniture.

  64. Another wonderful book to have. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

  65. I love reading your tips and seeing all your wonderful projects. Not only are you inspiring, but you make it seem like anyone can successfully make old things new again. I would love to share this book with my daughters!

  66. Lara Crouse says:

    Thanks so much for passing on your amazing knowledge! I’m such a fan of all your projects – an such in awe that you can do it all plus this blog! The book looks like some great inspiration.

  67. Suree Suaysompol says:

    I would like to have the book, please.

  68. Thank You so much for a chance to win this book…. I would LOVE to win as I need to learn to do this, to work on a few projects I have in the garage…. I won’t tell you how long they have been in there… but I would love to get them on the Porch and in my home this summer…

    Thanks again,

  69. This book would be a huge help to me, as I want to redo some items which I do not believe that I can take down to their orginal wood finish, and I will instead have to paint them. I know that this book would be a massive help!!!

  70. Margaret R says:

    This would be perfect for me. I just bought a sewing cabinet and a pie safe that I want to refinish. Thanks for sharing the wealth.

  71. I bought some Critistrip today, along with a small can of walnut stain for the table top that I want to refinish using ASCP. I have never done anything like this before, and I’m slowing building up the courage to do it! This book might be the catalyst I need to take the plunge…. love the way your pieces turned out.

  72. Love this piece! I have a dining room table with a top that has more than its share of scratches and dried glitter stuck to the top. Would love this book for help and inspiration.

  73. I would love to win this book! Thanks for the opportunity.

  74. I just purchased the top of an old hutch. It is painted a light green but when pulling the shelves out I discovered there are MANY layers of paint under the top coat of green that will need to come off. I am definitely going to need lots of instruction on how to get all the layers of paint off and then once I am able to see the natural wood, whether or not to re paint it, stain it or leave it in the natural state with some type of protective finish on the wood. HELP!!!! Thanks!

    1. Hi Tedi –
      For very heavy or many layers of paint, you may need to apply the paint stipper a few times. Put it on, let it do its thing, then remove what comes loose with a scraper and scrubbing pad or steel wool. Then reapply more stain. Keep repeating the process until all the paint is gone. I have heard many good things about Citrastrip. You may want to try it first. A paint stripper that is thicker will work better on vertical surfaces since it clings and does not run off. You may be surprised – the paint might come right off. I hope it is not too labor intensive for you.

  75. Candy Thayer says:

    I’m new to painting and refinishing furniture, but love it. The book looks like it would be a gold mine of information.

  76. What a help this would be. Thanks so much!

  77. Nancy Carr says:

    I would love to win this book. Thank you.

  78. Your cabinet turned out beautifully. I have admired Barb’s lovely pieces for a couple years now and would love to be entered in your giveaway for her book. Her book looks wonderful and packed full of great info.

  79. Christy Keyton says:

    I love furniture refinishing – and I love the stripped wood on your cabinet. I may have to try that soon!

  80. Catherine says:

    Love your site! Great giveaway!

  81. Nina Todd says:

    Love your site and all your great ideas. Thanks for sharing.

  82. Painting is one of my favorite things to do!! A can of paint changes everything and can easily be painted over if you don’t like it!!

  83. That cabinet turned out awesome! I decided to go ahead and strip the desk I was undecided about and it looks amazing. I can’t wait to put on the hardware I ordered and show the final reveal. Did you also do that table in the end picture?

    1. Hi Heidi – So happy that your desk came out great! It is a smelly messy job, but worth it. I did the table first around Easter. I figured since it was a big flat surface it would be an easy piece to start figuring out how to strip furniture.

  84. Thanks for sharing the tips!! That giveaway is awesome. I am planning to refinish some furniture soon. Hope I win.

  85. Thank you very much; I would luv some inspiration and ideas with this book-:-))

  86. This sounds perfect for anyone! Thank you for thinking of us and offering this book as a Giveaway!

    I have been restoring and painting furniture for a few months now with hopes of making a job for myself in the town I moved to last July, where jobs are impossible to come by. My first ‘yard sale’ of painted pieces was a smashing hit! I would Love to have a book to learn more from! Maybe it will help me avoid further stencil failures too. I have a ton of work ahead of me to be as good at this as so many of you all, and have an event I plan to sell at coming up in July!

    Bev @ Give me a paintbrush

  87. I remember painting faux green marble with my mom back in the day. When my fiance and I move into our new place in a couple of months I’ll be redoing some of my wood furniture so I’m definitely interested in the stripping and other painting techniques you have used recently.

  88. I have been looking to painting or staining some of my older furniture pieces and this book would surely help with inspiration and “how to”. Love your blog and projects!

  89. We inherited a few wonderful pieces after my in-laws passed away this past year. One is a wood dining room table (dark walnut stain and poly urethane) with iron sewing machine legs. My husband built it with his Dad wen he was a pre-teen. I can’t wait to show him your advice so we can refinish this piece properly. The book would be a great help! :)

  90. Vicki Brown says:

    I have so many pieces that need refinishing! This book looks like the one for me!! Here’s hoping that I win!! Thanks for the give away!

  91. I painted my first piece of furniture of Memorial Day…..a rocker I purchased on Craigslist……and I am so happy with how it turned out, but must admit, I winged it and know I probably didn’t do it “right”, so learning how would be great.

    1. Hi Trudy – Sometimes “winging it” gives the best results. You should be proud that you “just did it”.

  92. Ashley D. says:

    Oooo, what a fun book. Pick me! :)