Do It Yourself: Fixing Scratches In Wood Furniture And Trim

Scratches in wood can often be repaired easily with products found at home or at home improvement stores.

Scratches can happen all too easily to furniture and woodwork. Take heart! There are many things you can do to repair these unsightly marks.

First, determine if the scratch is into the wood, or only in the finish. If the scratch is not discolored, or can only be seen from certain angles, it is in the finish. This is good news with most finishes. There are several things that will restore your finish.

Wax - A fresh coat of paste wax is often all you need to repair these minor scratches. Spray polishes may work, but are less effective at concealing scratches.

Lemon - Mix equal parts lemon juice and vegetable oil or olive oil. Apply a generous amount on a clean lint free cloth, rubbing firmly in the direction of the scratch, until it disappears.

Oil Finish - Some companies, such as Old English, make a specific oil to use on scratched finishes.

If your surface is coated with urethane or polyurethane, scratches are more difficult to repair. Try carefully sanding the scratch with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. Moisten the sandpaper with water or lemon oil and sand gently. When you have removed the scratch, buff with 0000 steel wool and paste wax to bring back the shine.

If your woodwork or furniture is finished with shellac or lacquer, you can remove scratches by painting the area with an appropriate solvent. Use alcohol on shellac and lacquer thinner or nail polish remover on lacquer. Paint the thinner on with a brush until the finish softens and fills the cracks, and then let the piece sit overnight for the finish to harden again. Your scratches should be gone. This technique also works for cracking or alligatoring of the finish.

If the scratch appears lighter in color than the surrounding wood, it is through the finish and into the wood. In this case, you will need to color it to make it disappear. There are a number of items that you may have at home, which will do the job, as well as several commercial products.

Nuts - Nutmeats will often hide scratches. Rub the meat of a Brazil nut, a Walnut, a Pecan, or an Almond into the scratch. Be careful to rub in the direction of the scratch, and only in the scratch, as the nutmeat will darken the surrounding wood as well.

Eyebrow Pencil - Eyebrow pencil comes in many colors, and will often conceal small scratches. Match the color carefully, and follow the direction of the scratch.

Crayons - Children's crayons can also be used to fill a scratch, if you happen to have the right color. You have a bit more leeway with these, as they are wax, and can be removed if needed.

Shoe Dye or Shoe Polish - Shoe polish comes in a myriad of colors these days. Either the liquid, or the paste forms can be used to fill a scratch. If using liquid, use a fine brush to apply. If using the paste variety, a cotton swab can be useful.

Iodine - If you have mahogany woodwork or furniture, iodine often works well to hide scratches. For brown or cherry mahogany, use iodine that has turned dark. For lighter woods, such as maple you can dilute the iodine with an equal amount of denatured alcohol to cover scratches. In each case, paint the iodine carefully in the scratch with a fine brush and allow to dry. If it is too light, apply another coat. Always err on the side of lightness, as it is easy to darken an area further, but more difficult to lighten it!

On the commercial side, there are a number of different products available.

Stain - First of all, you can buy a small can of liquid stain to match your furniture and apply with a fine brush or cotton swab. Wait for it to dry, and add a second coat if needed.

Markers - Many companies, such as MinWax, sell wood stain packaged in a marker, especially for touch-ups. These are easy to use, simply color in the scratch and wait a minute for it to dry. If it is too light, repeat.

Pencils - Companies also sell special pencils or crayons which match wood colors and can be used to camouflage scratches. Ask at your local home improvement store.

Once you have darkened the scratch to match the surrounding wood, all you need to do is wax or polish the wood, and the scratch will be gone.

If all your efforts fail, do not give up hope! Contact a professional wood refinisher. Chances are, a professional can make your wood furniture look as good as new, sometimes even better.

A scratch in wood furniture or woodwork doesn't have to be a disaster. With these simple tips, you too can once again have beautiful wood in your home.

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