How to Clean Sticky Residue from a Wooden Table


Peg asked: How can I remove the sticky residue from my oak kitchen table? I have a 10-year-old oak table which is used daily. Over time, a sticky residue has developed. I rarely polish this table and usually clean it with warm water and soap. There is an extension for the table which we rarely use and it is now slightly lighter in color and not sticky at all. I have tried straight vinegar, Windex and even Fantastik, but nothing really lasts. Thank you.

Over time, the finishes that are applied to protect and beautify wooden tables can become worn, which leads to a sticky surface and sometimes discoloration. As the wearing down continues, it can reach a state of “gumminess” on the surface of the table that can easily leave scratches and other marks. There are a couple of different applications that work as mild varnish cleaners and can minimize and sometimes remove the sticky residue.

You Will Need:

  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Dishwashing detergent (mild)
  • Murphy Oil Soap
  • Bucket
  • Sponge of soft cloth

Steps to Remove the Sticky Residue:


  1. By offering a thorough cleaning of the surface, it may be possible to remove some of the worn-out varnish, which will remove the sticky residue. To accomplish this, we will utilize a slightly acidic cleaner (white vinegar).
  2. Begin by mixing a solution of one part water and one part vinegar.
  3. Use the solution to wipe down the table completely. Scrub lightly, but avoid applying so much pressure that it leaves scrub marks or streaks on the surface.
  4. Rinse by wiping down the table with clean water and a clean cloth.
  5. Allow it to dry completely.
  6. If no vinegar is available, or a slightly stronger cleaner is desired, repeat the steps above but add a mild dishwashing detergent to the water in place of the vinegar.
  7. For more serious residue, Murphy Oil Soap is a wood cleaning product that can be safely used on any wooden surface. Dilute it in water for mild cases, or apply it straight to the table for stickier residue.
  8. Wipe the table with a soft cloth to remove the sticky residue.
  9. Rinse with clean water and a clean cloth.
  10. Allow the table to dry completely.
  11. Once the sticky residue is removed, apply a wood wax that repels water and stains to the surface for protection.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • More caustic varnish cleaners are available at most hardware and home improvement stores. They are often located with the paint and furniture restoration products. Apply the product following the manufacturer’s instructions and when completed, finish with a wood wax for protection.
  • If none of the methods above resolve the sticky situation, it may be necessary to refinish the table completely.
  • Though wood cleaners are sometimes avoided because of the waxy build-up, they offer a level of protection that is beneficial in protecting the surface and varnish. To keep your tables from becoming sticky and worn, apply a wood cleaner/polisher weekly.



  1. Connie says:

    When washed with equal parts of water and vinegar, now that it is dry, it is even “stickier” than it was before.

  2. Lorry says:

    I used full strength Murphy Oil Soap and got rid of the sticky residue on my maple tabletop. I let it set for about five minutes, then washed it off with hot water.

  3. Lorry says:

    My hard wood table had a sticky residue, so I used full strength Murphy Oil Soap, then rinsed with hot water. It did a great job!

  4. Laura says:

    What type/brand of wood wax should I use after using the Murphy Oil Soap?

  5. Marsha says:

    I applied some sticky Velcro to a cherry cabinet to put a plaque up, however when I removed the plaque and the Velcro, a sticky imprint remained. What is the best way to remove this?

  6. N. Malloy says:

    ‘Goo Gone’ is best to remove the sticky residue from the velcro. You can get it at major department stores and hardware stores (some grocery stores even carry it).

  7. Jane says:

    Like an idiot, I washed a maple dining set with a Murphy Oil set, then let it dry, then put maple stain on it to cover the scratches. Now, the stain will not dry; it is tacky. Help; what do I do???

  8. Toni says:

    I have an old wood radio that was sticky, and I didn’t want to sand it down, so I used GOO GONE straight on a paper towel and then I rinsed it with hot water. I dried it with a soft towel and when it dried, it was like new.

  9. Carol says:

    Have a coffee table that has a slightly sticky raised stain of some sort which does not clean with polish or other usual methods. Have no idea what caused it, but with children, it can be anything. Suggestions that won’t cause damage to the walnut finish?

  10. Dottie says:

    Something sticky dripped through the small slit of my wooden kitchen table onto the leaf of the table that was stored below. Goodness only knows how long it was there before I took out the leaf to use to extend my table for a party. Nothing would budge it. I tried full-strength Pine-Sol and VOILA; it took it right off.

  11. Cookie says:

    I have a brand-new wood bed frame. I sat an alcohol bottle on top of it with a blanket under it. I removed the alchol bottle and blanket. A little of the blanket stuck to the wood. How do I remove the blanket lint from the wood?

  12. Jon says:

    I read this advice and I’m sorry it didn’t work for my large oak table in the kitchen. I resorted to using sugar soap, the ready prepared stuff from Homebase. It has worked. The table is slightly paler, but I have got some wax ready to finish it off.

  13. Susan says:

    My maple table top is 15 years old [or more]. Within the last 2 years, brown marks have begun to appear on the surface; they’re not sticky and appear to be under the varnish? No idea what is causing them, and they are multiplying. They look like burn marks, but they definitely are not. Any ideas on how to repair this weird phenomenon?

  14. Sara says:

    I just built a shelf out of Spruce and stained it. Now it has a sticky sort of feeling. Is it absolutely necessary to apply polyurethane or another finish? How do I get rid of the tacky feeling?

  15. Stac says:

    I have new wood dining table. I put a plastic cover on it to protect it from daycare kids and my kids. I recently took plastic off and plastic was stuck to table, and there is sticky residue now on table. I tried Murphy Soap, dish soap and water and then added a little vinegar. Nothing is working to remove sticky residue. Please help!!

  16. Melanie says:

    Here are some other things you can try:
    – Baking soda (sprinkle some on a damp sponge. Don’t scrub too hard; it’s slightly abrasive and could damage the finish if you do.)
    – Cooking oil (olive oil, vegetable oil, etc. You could even try baby oil. Only use a drop, then clean it off immediately afterward with dish liquid.)
    – Goo Gone
    These items tend to work well on stickiness in general.

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