Over the course of time, furniture that gets a lot of use starts to show wear. Before you strip it down to refinish it—or worse—get rid of it, try these quick fixes to cover up small scratches and imperfections.
Repair Scratches in Wood with Tea
Scratches in wood can make a piece of furniture look junky, even if it is an expensive heirloom. Fortunately, repairing scratches is as easy as brewing a cup of tea. Place a tea bag (use black tea, not herbal or green tea) in a mug and spoon a few tablespoons of hot water onto the bag. Let it steep for 2 to 3 minutes. The longer the tea steeps, the darker it will be, so gauge steeping time to match the shade of the furniture that needs a fix. Dab the tea onto the scratches with a cotton swab, then quickly wipe away the excess with a paper towel to prevent the wood around the scratches from being stained. If the wood is a medium-dark color, you may need to apply the tea more than once.
Repair Scratches in Wood with Iodine
Uh-oh. Someone just left a big scratch in your favorite dark-wood coffee table. Don’t spend your hard-earned money hiring a professional refinisher. First aid for a scratch in dark wood is just like first aid for a scratched finger: Break out the iodine. Use a cotton swab to apply the iodine to the scratch. Use a paper towel to wipe away the excess so it doesn’t stain the wood around the scratch.
Rub Out Surface Scratches
You can rub out surface scratches in your wooden furniture with a paste made of mineral oil and pumice (available in powder form at hardware and paint stores). Use extra-fine-grade steel wool to rub the mixture into the scratched area. Then wipe it off and buff with a dry cloth.
Sometimes you can cover up a furniture scratch rather than actually removing it. Choose a wax crayon that matches the color of the finish on your scratched furniture. Color in the scratch, then rub the spot with your finger to blend the crayon with the finish.
Another way to hide scratches is to cover them with an oil-based craft or artist’s paint (from a tube). Choose a color that’s darker than the finish on the furniture. Rub a little into the scratch, and the scratch will appear to blend in with the finish. (This will not work on furniture with a polyurethane finish.)
Blend Scratches with Paint
To hide scratches in varnished wooden furniture, apply watercolor paint to the affected area, using an artist’s brush. Once a scratch is concealed, fill it in with varnish.
Another solution for a scratch mark in wood is to “paint” the scratch with a brown felt-tipped marker. When the ink dries, cover the spot with wax or varnish.
Cover Scratches with Instant Coffee
If your scratched wooden furniture has a dark stain, use instant coffee to cover the scratch. Make a thick paste of the coffee granules and water, then rub the paste into the scratch.
Fill the Scratch with Walnut Meat
Use the oil from a walnut to conceal a surface scratch in wooden furniture. Crack the walnut and rub a piece of the walnut meat into the scratch. Polish the area with a soft rag, and the scratch should become invisible.
Polish Off Scuffs and Minor Scratches
To freshen up wooden furniture that is scuffed or scratched, sand the damaged areas lightly with extra-fine-grade steel wool. Then apply one of the oil-based colored furniture polishes available at hardware stores. Allow the polish to dry completely (so that the oil can soak into the damaged area). If necessary, sand again lightly with the steel wool to feather in or soften the color.