How to Remove Scratches from Wood Furniture

Kathy asked: How do I remove a scratch on our dining room table top? I just noticed a scratch on top of my kitchen table. It is about 12’’ long, and unfortunately, when I rub my fingernail over it, I feel an indentation. Is there anything I can do myself to remove it, or do I need a professional?

Wooden furniture comes in contact with a variety of objects, that over time will damage the finish with light scuffs and scratches. There are many ways to remove these. The method you choose will depend on the depth of the scratch and the type of finish.

Surface/Finish Scratches

These scratches are small and do not penetrate the wood underneath the finish. Look at the scratch at an angle. If there is no discoloration, then the scratch is only on the surface. Choose one of the methods below to fix it.

You Will Need:

  • Paste wax
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive or vegetable oil
  • Lint free cloth

Steps to Remove Surface Scratches:

 

  1. If the surface is waxed, it is easy to remove the scratches. Simply apply a paste wax over the surface and buff. The wax will fill in the scratch grooves and make them disappear.
  2. You can also use lemon juice and oil. Mix one part of each in a small dish.
  3. Moisten a lint free cloth with the mixture.
  4. Rub the cloth firmly over the scratched area until it is no longer noticeable.
  5. If you furniture has an oil finish, look for a product designed by the manufacturer to remove scratches.

Removing Surface Scratches from Polyurethane or Urethane Finishes

You Will Need:

  • 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper
  • Water
  • 0000 steel wool
  • Paste wax

Steps to Remove Surface Scratches:

  1. Moisten the sandpaper with water (lemon oil can also be used).
  2. Carefully sand the surface where the scratch is located. Follow the direction of the scratch. Do not oversand the area.
  3. Once the scratch is removed, apply a paste wax and buff with #0000 steel wool to bring back the shine.

Removing Surface Scratches from Shellac or Lacquer Finishes

You Will Need:

  • Rubbing alcohol (for shellac finish)
  • Lacquer thinner or nail polish remover (for lacquer finish)
  • Small brush

Steps to Remove Surface Scratches:

  1. Dip the brush into the appropriate thinner.
  2. Gently brush the surface of the scratch. The thinner will cause the surrounding finish to soften and fill in the crack.
  3. Once the crack is filled in, allow the area to sit overnight. The finish will harden, and the scratch will be gone.

Fixing Scratches that Go Through the Surface and Into the Wood

When the scratch is discolored (usually lighter than the surrounding wood), it means that the wood itself was penetrated and needs to be recolored to make it disappear. Below are several home remedies as well as commercial products you can consider.

You Will Need:

  • Nut meat (Brazil, almonds, pecans, walnuts)
  • Shoe polish/dye
  • Markers
  • Colored pencils
  • Wood stain
  • Small paint brush
  • Cotton swab
  • Furniture paste wax or polish

Steps to Remove the Scratch:

  1. Choose the method above that provides the best color match to the existing color of the furniture.
  2. Dip a small paint brush or cotton swab into the desired coloring agent. Some commercial products will come with their own applicator.
  3. Follow the direction of the scratch and apply the color.
  4. Repeat applications until the color matches the rest of the piece.
  5. Once the scratch is colored, apply a wax or polish to the surface to restore the finish.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If you are unable to remove the scratch yourself, if may have to be professionally refinished.
  • Check your local hardware or paint store for a variety of products designed to fill in scratches and replace color.

 

Comments

  1. shirley says:

    How can I get scratches off my table and refinish it to make it look nice again?

  2. Regina says:

    If I can’t fix the scratch, I use table runners to hide them. I use a table cloth on my dining room table, and runners on my end tables and coffee table. Runners come in all different sizes and designs, and enhance the décor of the room.

  3. Nichole says:

    I have thin scratches on my dining room table from my three-year-old. The table appears to be varnished and I purchased it from a good furniture store. The color is dark cherry wood. How can I get the scratches out and make it presentable again?

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