Is there a way to revitalize a dull wood finish without completely refinishing the wood?

Q: I’ve picked up a couple of furniture pieces at yard sales. Their finish is intact, but pretty dull at this point. Is there a way to revitalize a dull wood finish without completely refinishing the wood?

A: To breathe a little life into an old dirty or dull wood finish, try a simple cleaning followed by a coat of wax. First, wipe down the item with a cloth dampened with naphtha to remove any oil-soluble residue. To remove water-soluble grime, clean the finish with a mixture of warm water and dish detergent. Use a damp (not soaking) cloth, so as not to cause water damage to the wood. Wipe away excess water from the finished surface. Next, lightly sand the surface with P400-grit sandpaper, followed by P600. Do not sand all the way through the wood—the idea is to scuff up the top layer of finish for better adhesion of the wax. Use a cloth dampened with naphtha to remove the sanding dust (using water may raise the wood grain). Then, to restore the luster of the finish, apply a wax paste in your choice of color tone according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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