How To Fix Scratches On Wood Furniture

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Tired of looking at your scratched wood furniture? Here’s how to fix it without sanding, repainting, or breaking out heavy tools.

At a reader’s request, I’m sharing my tips on how to fix scratches on wood furniture. By “fix,” I mean without sanding, without scraping, and without using those awful smelling chemical stripping solutions.

Easy Ways to Fix Scratched Wood Furniture

A pencil sits next to light and deep scratches in a wood tabletop waiting to be fixed

I hate the whole process of sanding and staining or painting furniture. So, for years I figured I’d have to live with banged-up furniture thanks to my rambunctious kids and pets. I put runners on tables to hide scratches and artfully arranged our decor to disguise dents.

Now, I like a “shabby chic” item or two in my home. But, by the time my youngest child reached toddlerhood, all of our furniture had a distressed look. So did our bank account. Since buying new furniture was not an option, and I had neither the time nor energy to refinish everything myself, I started researching how to fix our scratched wood furniture easily, quickly, and inexpensively.

Today I’m going to share with you the easy no-sanding, no refinishing steps I learned to treat scratches in wood furniture. Is it what a professional furniture restorer would do? No, but you also won’t have to pay one. It’s what a frugal homemaker does, and it works well enough that I haven’t had to take my furniture to a restorer yet.

But, as always, if it’s a valuable or sentimentally irreplaceable item, you should take it to a professional.

Are You Sure It’s Scratched?

Many times, what looks like scratches on the wood are just scratches in the wax buildup.

That was the case with an old dresser I bought. The previous owners had diligently waxed it yearly, and the antique store had used a commercial furniture spray to spiff it up before putting it on display. I pointed out the scratch to get 25% off, then came home and removed all of those waxy layers to reveal perfectly smooth wood.

So, if you’re dealing with buildup in addition to scratches, be sure you remove the wax buildup from your furniture before trying to fix the scratch.

How to Fix Minor, Light Scratches

Very light scratches are those you can see with your eye but, when you run a finger across it, you don’t feel them. These just need a little cosmetic fixing, which is very easy to do.

Scratches in Light Wood

  1. Rub the meat of a nut on the scratch. The nut’s oil will darken the exposed wood and make the scratch disappear. Walnut and pecan both work to hide wood scratches.
  2. Set the oil. Once you’ve rubbed the nut on the scratch several times, run your fingertip over it. The heat of your skin will help the nut’s oil sink into the wood.
  3. Repeat until you can’t see the scratch.

Scratches in Dark Wood

  1. Position the item of furniture, so the side with the scratch is horizontal. You may need help to do this.
  2. Rub a coloring material on the scratch. For mahogany or cherry wood, use iodine and a cotton swab. For darker woods like rubberwood and acacia, use damp coffee grounds.
  3. Using your fingertips, firmly press the coloring material into the scratch. Let this sit in place for an hour or so.
  4. To finish up, wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth apply homemade furniture polish to set the color.

Scratches in Ebony Wood Furniture

  1. Combine fireplace or wood ash with a little water to make a paste.
  2. Rub the paste into the scratch with your finger.
  3. Wait 2 hours, then wipe away any excess.

Fixing Deep Scratches on Wood Furniture

If you can feel the scratch when you run your finger over it, you’ll need something that both colors and fills.

  1. Chances are you’ve already got the right tool in your child’s Crayon box: just find a color that matches your furniture and rub it well into the scratch.
  2. Remove any excess Crayon with the edge of a credit card and polish your furniture to give it a glossy shine.

Rather not use a Crayon? There are blendable scratch repair sticks that do the trick, too.

Use Moist Heat to Get out Dents

Deep scratches and dents are tougher to fix without using wood filler and sanding, but not necessarily hopeless. I was able to pop the dents out of a shelf where my son routinely threw his backpack after school, but it did take a bit of time and effort.

Before trying a wood filler, give this method a shot:

  1. Wet and ring out a thick white towel. Place it over the dent.
  2. Run a hot iron continuously over the spot for 30 seconds, move the cloth to a new damp place, and do it again.
  3. If the dent remains, wait 24 hours then repeat.
  4. Let the surface dry another 24 hours, then rub it with olive oil or an oil-based furniture polish to remove any haze.

If this method doesn’t work for you then you’ll want to pick up a tube of wood filler and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Then use one of the coloring methods above to blend the filler with the rest of the furniture’s surface.

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