Cleaning Wood Furniture With Mineral Spirits

There’s always that nagging fear when restoring that furniture or antique piece that holds so much memory. You can’t afford to mess it up. So the fear becomes overwhelming when you’re unsure if mineral spirits or other solvents can do the job. 

You can easily clean furniture with mineral spirits. Furthermore, it’s mild enough to preserve the original wood finish and effectively removes wax, dirt, and other debris or stains.

This article will explore a step-by-step guide for cleaning furniture with spirits.

Will Mineral Spirits Remove All Stains from Wood? 

Let’s face it: we all desire that one-in-all solvent for all cleaning solutions. It’s the reason we go for solvents with a wide range of cleaning applications. 

Mineral spirits are effective for cleaning a wide variety of stains from wood. For example, mineral spirits can clean off stains like paint, wax buildups, grease, and dust particles. It’s also a mild solvent that won’t damage the original varnish or finish

Note: You need mild solvents like mineral spirits to avoid destroying the varnish when cleaning antique furniture. 

wood coffee table

Common Stains You Can Remove with Mineral Spirits

As a DIYer, here are some of the common wood stains you can remove with spirits:

Wax or Sap Buildups 

Wax secretions are secretions from plant cells as they dry up. Woodworkers often apply varnish or finishes to prevent wax secretions from leaking out. However, wax secretions often leak and accumulate on vintage furniture. 


Grease and oil stains gradually accumulate on kitchen cabinets and furniture. With time, they become dark, sticky, and attract more dirt. 

Paint Stains 

Paint residues on woods are pretty common after a paint job. Removing paints from wood is quite tricky since spirits work only on oil-based stains. 

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Clean Wood with Mineral Spirits 

It’s no surprise that every DIY and professional woodworker often stocks up on spirits. Regular dusting or soap and water are usually insufficient when cleaning wood surfaces. 

As a DIY, you need a more potent cleaning solution to wipe off wood stains without compromising the quality of the wood. It’s also essential to learn how to use spirits to clean stains effectively:

Step 1: Get Your Supplies

The first step is to get all the necessary materials for cleaning. Bring out your list and see if you have these materials:

  • Mineral spirit 
  • Clean rag
  • Face mask (for indoor use)
  • Small container

Also, cover the unaffected parts of your furniture before applying mineral spirits to the stain. Place a large tarp on the floor when working indoors. 

Don’t forget your face mask since spirits emit toxic fumes. I’d always advise you to use it in a well-ventilated area or outdoors. 

Step 2: Soak the rag in mineral spirits 

Pour a portion of mineral spirits into a small container. A disposable Tupperware or stainless steel bowl will do the job. Next, dip the rag into the spirit; let it soak it up. Remove the rag and squeeze out excess liquid. 

wood cabinet door

Step 3: Test the soaked rag on a small area 

Do you have doubts about using mineral spirits to clean that wood surface? Test it on a small area, preferably an inconspicuous spot. Some high-grade spirits can soften the wood finish and make it easy to scratch. 

So, wipe it on a small spot and wait for a few minutes. Stop using if the finish becomes dull or blotchy after applying mineral spirits. 

Step 4: Clean the Affected Area 

Most DIY-ers think they need to use spirits to scrub the stains vigorously. Don’t be one of them. 

A gentle scrub will remove even the toughest stains on wood. Mineral spirits are pretty effective in cleaning tough stains. Furthermore, don’t scrub in a circular motion—instead, move the rag in the direction of the wood grain. 

You should see the dirt finally fading away. Continuously change to a clean portion of the rag while scrubbing.

Step 5: Clean Off the Residue 

You’re not done cleaning yet. Immerse a cloth in water and clean all mineral spirit residue on the wood. Switch to a clean part of the damp cloth and clean again. 

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Cleaning Antique Wood Furniture with Mineral Spirits

Cleaning antique furniture is a whole different ball game. You need a less abrasive approach when cleaning antiques or vintages. Follow our how-to instructions below for the best cleaning method for antique furniture.

Step 1: Get the Supplies

  • Superfine grade steel wool (preferably, #0000 grade) 
  • Gloves 
  • Mineral spirits 
  • Face mask
  • Clean lint-free clothes. 

Step 2: Use a lint-free cloth to remove dust and debris. Remember, scrub gently. Move the antique to an outdoor or well-ventilated area. 

Step 3: Wear protective gloves to pour mineral spirits into a lint-free cloth. Now, apply it to a small area to see if it affects the finish. Generally, spirits are not strong enough to remove most varnish or finish from the wood.

Note: Rou may need to reapply the varnish after cleaning with spirits. 

Step 4: After the initial test, search for the areas with wax buildups, darkened spots, or grease. Apply mineral spirit to a ball of steel wool and gently rub against the stain. This step removes all the polish or stains that dull the antique’s original finish. 

Step 5: Finally, wipe it down with a clean cloth. Once the cleaning process is complete, properly dispose of the steel wool and other materials that have come in contact with spirits. 

Mineral spirits are highly flammable and toxic to the environment. So, call your nearest hazardous waste facility to dispose of it. 

Here’s an extra tip: use water sparingly when cleaning antique furniture. 


Yes, you can clean a piece of wood furniture with mineral spirits, and it’s not rocket science. You need the right equipment to transform your antique furniture, wood panels, or floors back to their glory days.