Furniture Finish Damaged

Problem: Furniture has been blemished with water spots or rings, burn marks from cigarettes, or minor scratches.

Background: Almost any furniture that is used regularly suffers an occasional nick, scratch, burn, or water spot. Though a number of commercial products are available to correct minor defects, furniture-finish ex pert Homer Formby suggests many alternative home remedies, many which use products you probably al ready have in the house.

What to do: To treat water spots and rings caused by moisture trapped underneath wax, try applying tooth paste. Squeeze it onto a wet cotton rag and buff the spotted area. For stubborn areas, combine toothpaste in equal parts with baking soda, an other gentle abrasive. Buff until the spot disappears. Then with a clean cloth continue buffing until you can see yourself. For burn marks, such as those caused by cigarettes, try using nail polish remover. Dip a cotton swab into the remover and rub it lightly across the burn mark. This dissolves the black residue. If any burn mark remains, scrape it gently with a small knife. If a slight hollow remains, mix equal parts remover with clear nail polish and apply 1 coat at a time with the nail polish brush. Let each coat dry between applications (it might take up to 8 coats or so).

Special advice: For minor scratches or other mars on furniture, try using a color crayon which matches the finish. Melt the crayon over the scratch until it flows over the mar, let it cure for half an hour, then gently shave off the residue with a credit card. You can melt the crayon with a soldering iron. Or if you don’t have a soldering iron, tie a nail to a pencil, heat it over a flame, then put the nail to the crayon.

Helpful hint: To mask the musty odor in antique furniture, you can use red cedar shavings (not western cedar). Put the shavings in the toe of an old pair of nylons, tie the end, and cut off the excess. Then tack the sack along the back of the drawer or, if there are no drawers, on the back of the furniture or underneath it.