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.
As someone who hates the process of sanding and staining or painting furniture, I spent years thinking I’d just have to live with banged-up furniture thanks to my rambunctious kids and pets. I like a “shabby chic” item or two in my home, but by the time my youngest was four all of our furniture had a distressed look, and 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 scratches in wood furniture easily, quickly, and inexpensively. Today I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned and have been using to keep my furniture looking great.
How To Fix Scratches On Wood Furniture
Are You Sure It’s Scratched?
I know this sounds crazy, but I’ve found that many times what looks like scratches on wood are scratches in the wax buildup. That was the case with an old dresser I bought at a local antique store: the previous owners had diligently waxed and buffed it once a year to keep it in good shape, and the store had used a commercial furniture spray to spiff it up before sale. I pointed the scratch out to get them to knock 25% off the price, then came home and removed all of those layers to reveal perfectly smooth wood underneath.
If you suspect this might be the case, or 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.
Color In Very Light Scratches
Very light scratches are those you can see with your eye but, when you run a finger across it, don’t feel. These just need a little cosmetic fixing which is, fortunately, very easy to do. For many kinds of wood, rubbing the meat of a nut (walnut, pecan, etc.) along the scratch will work as the oil from the nut darkens the wood and makes the scratch disappear.
Other options to try: coffee grounds for dark wood, iodine for mahogany, and fireplace ash mixed with a little water for ebony-finished wood.
Color and Fill Deeper Scratches
If you can feel the scratch when you run your finger over it, you’ll need something that both colors and fills. 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. 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, even though they’re little more than expensive Crayons.
Heat + Warmth For Dent-Like Scratches
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.
2. Place it over the dent.
3. Run a hot iron continuously over the dent for 30 seconds, move the cloth to a new damp spot, and repeat.
4. If the dent remains, wait 24 hours then repeat.
The first time I did this, it didn’t work, but before I went to the hardware store I decided to give it another try. The second one did it, and the only reason I can think why it worked is that waiting overnight let the wood grain loosen and expand. 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.
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