“Small bumps have appeared on the surface of my wooden coffee table due to drink spillages over the years. What can I do?” – A Home and Decor reader asked.

We turned to furniture retailer Journey East, best known for their expertise in refurbishing Southeast Asian teak wood furniture, for some tips on repairing and smoothening swollen wood furniture:

How to smooth swollen bumps on wood?

If small bumps are appearing on your table surface as a result of moisture, it might be that your furniture has a wood veneer surface.

“Bumps wouldn’t normally appear on the surface as a result of water spillage – it should result in a water mark instead. If it is a veneer top, it means that water has seeped beneath the top layer and caused it to distort,” says Terence Teh, marketing manager at furniture retailer Journey East.

Try fixing small bubbles or blisters by placing a damp cloth over them and going over the spot with a hot iron. This might reactivate the glue which no longer bonds the veneer to its base.

How To Smooth Bumps On Wood: 10 Tips To Clean Wood Furniture (Photo Pexels Elements Digital)

The most common cause of bumps and swelling on wood furniture? Cups, water, coasters, and… cleaning!

When you use a wet cloth or kitchen rag on wood furniture, it’s easy to leave water trails behind – all of which the wooden furniture may absorb and swell.

So, what is the best way to clean wood furniture at home? Read on for Home and Decor’s ultimate beginner’s guide to cleaning and maintaining wooden furniture and hard wood floorings:

  • How to clean wood furniture?
  • Daily care: wood furniture
  • How to clean hard wood floorings?
  • Daily care: hard wood floorings
  • How to tell what type of wood floor finish I have?
  • Wood table & floor scratches: How to fix?

How to clean wood furniture?

Water is the worst enemy of wooden furniture. Use too much when cleaning, and you’ll cause the wood fibres to swell and the surfaces to change shape.

1. Varnish your wood furniture

Varnish helps protect wood against moisture and dirt, making it particularly easy to care for. A quick wipe with a damp cloth is enough, says Mareike Hermann from the German DIY Academy. “You don’t need to use much water.”

2. Don’t use microfibre cloth to clean wood furniture

Microfibre cloths are not recommended, as particles can get trapped in them and cause scratches. Hermann’s advice? “Use an old T-shirt or cotton bedsheet.”

“A soft, dry, lint-free cloth is best,” says Hermann. “A soft brush or a soft vacuum cleaner nozzle are also suitable.”

Severe damage such as traces of frequent touching can be rubbed off with abrasive fabric, explains Ruf. “This removes the upper layer of oil or wax, which usually contains the dirt.”

3. Don’t use supermarket wood cleaner detergents or sprays

The following also applies to all wood surfaces: “Only use products recommended by the manufacturer,” says Andreas Ruf from the Pro Solid Wood Initiative. “We advise against using commercially available cleaners as they can contain substances that harm the wood.”

How To Smooth Bumps On Wood: 10 Tips To Clean Wood Furniture (Photo Pexels Pixabay)

Small stains or discolouring can often be removed with a non-aggressive detergent or some lighter fluid.

“If this doesn’t work out or if the damage is larger, the varnish has to be sanded down and revarnished,” says DIY expert Hermann.

Small scratches or dents can be filled with hard or soft wax. Very fine scratches or marks disappear with an abrasive pencil in the right shade.

4. Get a professional wood craftsman to sand down the wood furniture

“To get rid of deeper scratches or dents, you’ll need to sand the furniture down,” adds Ruf.

Wipe the damaged area with a damp cloth, then use an iron on a low setting. Finally apply a new layer of oil or glaze.

Read Also: Should I get real wood flooring for my house? How much does it cost?

5. However, if your wood table is natural and untreated…

“Untreated furniture can be rubbed down with a damp sponge and a mild natural soap,” explains Hermann. It is important to dry the furniture immediately afterwards.

If you have scratches and stains, they can be removed relatively easily by sanding the furniture down.

However, it’s best to avoid damage in the first place. “Always place a coaster underneath glasses, vases and flowerpots,” says Hermann.

6. If you have wood veneer furniture…

How To Smooth Bumps On Wood: 10 Tips To Clean Wood Furniture (Photo Pexels Maksim Goncharenok)

Wood veneer furniture can be treated just like solid wood, depending on whether it is varnished, glazed or oiled. “Veneer is extremely sensitive,” explains Ursula Geismann from the Veneer + Nature Initiative.

Veneer is thin sheets of wood, 0.3 to 6 millimetres thick, glued onto a base material such as chipboard or plywood. Water, heat and soap are poison for these thin woods. “Too much moisture and the veneer will swell and the thin layers peel away,” Geismann explains. “If this happens, call a specialist.”

Caring For Your Wooden Furniture

Finally, read up on these dos and don’ts to help you keep your wood furniture in good condition so they’ll last the decades:

  • Always lift your wood furniture when moving around. Pushing your wood furniture around stresses and strains the wooden joints and joineries.
  • Always cover outdoor wood furniture with waterproof tarps. Dampness and humidity will cause wood furniture to swell, get bumps, and eventually crack and peel.
  • Always set heavy decor and items, such as potted plants, on felt or a non-abrasive protective mats before placing them on any wood surface.
  • Do not place damp, wet, or cold glasses and jugs directly on a wooden dining table or countertop as moisture might seep into the wood, causing water stains, swelling, and bumps. Always use absorbent coasters!
  • Do not place untreated, natural wood furniture in direct sunlight or wet areas. The UV rays actually result in bleaching and discolouration, while moisture can cause the wood to swell and contract.
  • Do not place colognes, perfumes etc. on unprotected wood surfaces such as products containing alcohol and other harsh chemicals can damage the finish. 

How To Clean Hardwood Floors?

How To Smooth Bumps On Wood: 10 Tips To Clean Wood Furniture (Photo Pexels Emre can Acer)

If you’re renovating your home, you would know that replacing your flooring tends to take up a bulk of your renovation cost.

Hence, there is no question that the maintenance of your flooring should come up high on your list of priorities.

Hardwood flooring is one of the most versatile types of flooring for the home. Whether you’re going for a modern contemporary theme, or quirky and ecclectic one, hardwood flooring can be sanded down or refinished to suit your decor.

While they are hardy, they do require regular maintenance to retain its original look.

It’s all about the floor’s finish, not the type of wood!

Before committing to a wooden flooring, understand that there are two broad categories of hardwood finishes — surface and penetrating. When you’ve identified the finish of your flooring, you’ll realise that different care is required for each type of finish.

Maintain your hardwood floor according to its finish — not the type of wood. There are generally six types of wood floor finishes:

  1. Surface Sealed Wood Floors
  2. Penetrating Seal Treated
  3. Oil Treated Wood Floors
  4. Lacquered Wood Floors
  5. Varnished Wood Floors
  6. Shellacked Wood Floors

Surface Sealed Wood Floors

Surface-sealed floors are finished with urethane or poly-urethane, which appears glossy like there was a layer of clear plastic placed on top of the wood. They make the floor stain- and water-damage resistant.

If you’d like to DIY the sealant yourself, water-based urethane is a good option for a DIY job because it dries fast and emits less odour than the oil-based surface sealant.

  • Do Use: Floor cleaning product recommended by the floor installer; otherwise, opt for plain water and mild, pH-neutral soap (like dishwashing liquid).
  • Do Use: A microfiber mop and wring it out completely (damp or nearly dry) before using on the floor.
  • Don’t Use: Oils, waxes, acidic products (such as vinegar) or furniture sprays, which can dull the finish.
  • Don’t Use: A soaking-wet mop.

Penetrating Seal Treated, Oil Treated Wood Floors

Penetrating-seal-treated, and oil-treated floors have oil-based finishes that soak deeper into the wood and harden.

A wax is then applied to give the floor a matte, low gloss sheen, or satin finish.

If you can feel the wood grain when you run your hand across the surface, the floor probably has a penetrating finish treatment. Wax needs to be reapplied periodically on floors with this finish.

  • Do Use: Paste wax or liquid wax designed for wood floors once or twice a year.
  • Do Use: Buffs regularly to maintain shine.
  • Don’t Use: Damp mops, just sweep or vacuum.
  • Don’t Use: Acrylic or water-based waxes, which can discolour the woodwork.
  • Don’t Use: Don’t over-wax your wood floor. If the floor loses shine, try buffing first.

Lacquered, Varnished, Shellacked Wood Floors

Lacquered, varnished and shellacked floors are technically considered as surface-sealed wood floors as well. However, they are actually not as resistant to moisture, spills, and wear.

Treat these floors like you would with the above oil-treated wood floors!

Caring For Your Wood Flooring

Being made of real wood, hardwood flooring is prone to scratches, marks and dents caused by footwear, furniture and pets.

For cleaning, first use wiper mops fitted with microfibre sheets, which can pick up fine dust and hair. Then, either vacuum with a floor-brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner, or clean witha slightly damp mop. If using a cleaning solution, check that it’s suitable for wood floors. Harsh chemicals might remove the finish on the floor or discolour it.

How To Smooth Bumps On Wood: 10 Tips To Clean Wood Furniture (Photo Pexels Pixabay)

If your mop is too wet, the water might seep into your flooring and cause damage. If you do see water residue on your floor after mopping, use a dry mop or cloth to go over the surface again. Make sure the room is well ventilated so any moisture left will dry quickly.

There are also cleaning systems specially made for hardwood floors. Do a basic cleaning every week to prevent any build- up of dust and dirt, and your floor will always be in good shape!

Not sure how to care for your new wood flooring? Here are some daily care tips for your wood flooring:

  • Avoid walking on newly coated floors for the first 24 hours
  • Avoid dragging furniture over coated wooden surfaces
  • Use dirt-trapping mats at entrances to prevent dust and grit from entering the home and scratching the floors
  • Sweep wooden floors with a soft bristle broom
  • Fit furniture legs with protective pads or socks to reduce risk of scuffing
  • If children play on the floor, place a rug in the play area to prevent toys from marking the floor surface
  • Don’t use strong chemicals or abrasive floor cleaners and detergents

How to tell what type of wood floor finish I have?

Not sure what kind of floor finish you have? Using a sharp blade, scrape off a bit of the finish in an inconspicuous area. If you scrape up a clear material, the finish is likely a surface seal. If the floor smudges but no clear material is scraped up, it is likely a penetrating finish.

Wood Table & Floor Scratches: How to fix?

Wood, being a natural material, is prone to scratches and dents, especially for tabletops and flooring.

Layering more varnish isn’t going to help – you’ll only hide the natural beauty of the material. Light scratches are easy to remove, and you’ll be surprised at what you can use!

To cover scratches on darker-coloured wood, dip a cotton swab in moist coffee grounds and apply to the scratches. Wait 10 minutes and wipe the surface with a dry cloth.

For light-coloured wood, rub a shelled walnut over the scratches, leave it for a while, then wipe with a dry cloth.

For deeper scratches, Jodie Low from Mountain Teak suggests using a wood repair stick, which can be found at local hardware stores.

“Choose a shade that is closest to the colour of your furniture and run it along the scratch. Finish with a layer of varnish. Do note that the effectiveness of this method depends on the type of stain and varnish on your furniture,” she says.

Easiest DIY home remedy to fix a wood table or wood flooring scratch? Rub in a crayon similar to the colour of the wood. Then, buff the crayon in for a nice sheen. Voila!