NEW! Faster Search Option

Loading

Cleaning mold/mildew off old furniture

kemo's picture

I recently inherited some old furniture from my mother's estate. Her home was closed with no air circulating for more than three years... Mildew & mold seems to be a part of the finish. I have tried some household cleaners and mineral spirits, but nothing seems to work. HELP! The finish is quartersawn oak veneer and was made circa 1907.


Any help will be appreaciated


 


Thanks


Kemo

Floss's picture

(post #112106, reply #1 of 17)

I use vulpex soap.

It is soluble in water or mineral spirits.

Just google vulpex and you can find it.

However it is not cheap. About $100 liter.

Although you probably only need a little.

F.

ASK's picture

(post #112106, reply #2 of 17)

Gretchen's picture

(post #112106, reply #3 of 17)

You might try a cleaning solution of a quart of very hot water, a couple of tablespoons each of BLO and mineral spirits. I'd use a terry cloth rag or even scrub iwth a soft kitchen brush if the finish isn't smooth (as with the oak not being filled--pores). Keep the mixture very warm, use rubber gloves for the heat. Wipe it down as you go with a clean dry cloth. 
And it may be that it really is in the finish and will need to be stripped.


As a last resort you could make a dilute solution of bleach and wipe it down.


Gretchen

Gretchen

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #112106, reply #4 of 17)

Nix on the BLO for a "cleaning agent" on finished furniture.  To the extent the BLO stays on the surface it attracts dirt and turns the finish black.  Yes, this sort of thing used to be widely recommended--BLO/vinegar mixes for example, but they have proven to be the bain of museum conservators, and beloved of furniture refinishers, since it keeps them in business.  For a reference see Jeff Jewitt's Hand Applied Finishes, p. 168.


 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

Gretchen's picture

(post #112106, reply #6 of 17)

I guess for museum conservators it could be a problem. I have used it with  good results, but the OP can certainly take your admonishment into consideration. In bygone days when I waxed my furniture yearly I used this to remove the surface dirt and then re-wax. It isn't left on the furniture, and it is a very small amount.


Just my take on it from my experience.  I don't believe vinegar would be a good choice.


Gretchen

Gretchen

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #112106, reply #7 of 17)

As far as cleaning, the mineral spirits will do as much as the mix, I'd think, I don't think the boiled linseed oil would contribute to that.  The positive side of the BLO is that it might darken and thus make less visible scratches that went to the wood.   As far as vinegar, I fully agree, but it is in one of the most common classic recipes. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

YesMaam27577's picture

(post #112106, reply #5 of 17)

There are two problems with mold and mildew, as related to furniture.

First, you have to kill the mold, and prevent it from recurring. Since you have used mineral spirits, it is quite likely that the mold is dead. Preventing the recurrence involves keeping the piece clean and dry for the rest of its life.

The second problem is much worse than the first. Mold and mildew leave permanent stains in most surfaces (not just 'on', but 'in'.) Removing the stains from furniture usually involves removing the finish (and any upholstery), then bleaching the wood with oxalic acid. Then, of course, you sand and finish the piece again.

Good luck.

Politics is the antithesis of problem solving.
. . I can't live proud enough to die when I'm gone, So I guess I'll have to do it while I'm here. (Phil Ochs)
bones's picture

(post #112106, reply #8 of 17)

You could try a solution of TSP diluted. I used this on many a painted surface with no issue, but I would try it in an unobservable area i.e. bottom of a chair to make sure it does not harm the finish.  Use gloves, as it does not like prolonged contact with skin. I'd cut it at least 50% water. 

Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:
If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it.
And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

...For that old machine lovers:  http://vintagemachinery.org/home.aspx

forestgirl's picture

(post #112106, reply #9 of 17)

Kemo, what are you seeing after you used the household cleaner and mineral spirits? -- what does the surface look like, what seems to be left behind?

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

kemo's picture

(post #112106, reply #10 of 17)

I see somewhat of a "clouded" look. Much like a film, but one that will not come off with additional rubbing. I have been somewhat reluctant to do much more "cleaning" until I recieved some expert advice from someone (ones) who know more than I do.


I appreciate the comments thus far and will be following them as time permits. My kids and I have a considerable amount of items to contend with, and, I had no idea how much mold and "crud" could accumulate over a relatively short time.


thanks again to all.


 


Kemo

forestgirl's picture

(post #112106, reply #11 of 17)

A clouded look......I wonder if that's not water from the cleaning. 


I used to run a vintage and antique furniture store.   Don't have much experience with moldy furniture, more with just extreeeeemly dirty furniture.  80- and 90-year-olds don't clean much, LOL.  


Given that the furniture is very early 1900's, it's almost sure to have a shellac finish on it.  Totally experimental, I'd pick a small, hidden area and wipe it down with a rag with denatured alcohol on it (not sopping wet, squeezed but not wrung out).  Let it sit for a few seconds, then fold the rag, wipe, refold, wipe.  Your goal is to soften and remove the top bit of shellac without messing with the stain.  Let it sit for 10 minutes or so and see if you've made any progress. 


It's similar to a "reamalgamation" approach of mixing laquer thinner with DNA and rubbing to melt and redistribute the finish.  I'm think by doing the above, you might be able to remove the mold with some of the shellac, then you can add more shellac if you want.  A stab in the dark, but it might work.


forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

SteveSchoene's picture

(post #112106, reply #12 of 17)

Forestgirl makes sense here and it is worth a try. 

Test your finish on scrap, FIRST, or risk having to scrap your finish.

forestgirl's picture

(post #112106, reply #13 of 17)

Ahhhh, I love making sense.  It's not a constant, LOL.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

kemo's picture

(post #112106, reply #14 of 17)

Your suggestion sounds like just the ticket, unfortunantly, I can't try iy b-4 the weekend-blasted day job ya know! I'll be sure to report back afterwards.


Thanks for sharing your time & knowledge.


Kemo

forestgirl's picture

(post #112106, reply #15 of 17)

I hope it works for you, Kemo.  Start conservatively, if it feels like it's working, you can use a little more DNA.  It's a balancing act.

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

kemo's picture

(post #112106, reply #16 of 17)

I only had a short time to try your DA suggestion, but it worked like a charm! The old Victrola will look like new very soon. I also found another new use for old toothbrushes... Pretty soon, my wife will start hiding hers.


Thanks again


Kemo

forestgirl's picture

(post #112106, reply #17 of 17)

"I also found another new use for old toothbrushes..."  Too funny!  Congrats, Kemo, so glad it worked!

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-) 

forestgirl -- you can take the girl out of the forest, but you can't take the forest out of the girl ;-)