How to Make Minor Repairs and Remove Scratches in Furniture

I’m cleaning my desk today, and noticed that it’s showing its age. Not two minutes ago, I shouted at my cat to stop scratching my furniture, and over the weekend I moved and dusted my kids’ bunk beds and noticed scratches, dents and mars in the wood. Which begs the question. When will we ever have nice things? By all accounts, the sofa and the kids’ beds are the first “real” furniture my husband and I purchased (having just thrown away our last bookcase of cinderblocks and boards, and our very last milk-crate chair).

Sure, furniture isn’t what it used to be. My great-great-uncle built our kitchen table shortly after he married his wife who arrived by wagon train in Oregon (not exaggerating!). It looks nearly new, still. But my modern mid-range furniture and kids’ beds are starting to show their age already. I guess they don’t make things like they used to. But admittedly, much of my “mid-grade” furniture was packed flat and assembled with hex wrenches.

But there is good news. There are ways to fix cosmetic damages and wear to your “in-between” furniture. (All that furniture that came after pizza boxes, bricks and boards, and before the furniture you hope to will to your children or grandchildren).

A Few Tips for Repairing Minor Furniture Flaws

Scrapes in Faux Leather

My cat like to ride “co-pilot” on the back of my faux leather chair. But every now and then he surprises me, and I give him cause for alarm. And he gives me small holes in the back of my chair. But to my wonderment, the brown Sharpie pen matches the material perfectly, and obscures the little snags. For larger tears and snags you can buy a leather repair kit that creates a patch.

Real Leather

For small cat scratches and snags on real leather, you may be able to find a shoe polish that matches. If you can, take a needle, and very carefully push the snags back into place. Next, smooth a light coat of the matching shoe polish over the area, and heat it with a hair dryer. Repeat the process several times until the snags are concealed. (Be sure to test your shoe polish on a hidden section of leather to ensure it is a good match first!)


Red wine, dark chocolate, blood, cat vomit, melted crayon, and ice cream: All things I’ve successfully removed from my pale beige sofa!

The melted crayon—it was bright orange, and fully melted. A small child left it in the sunshine on my patio, and brought it in positively dripping with moist wax. He came to show it to me and dragged it across the back of my chaise at the same time! It left a .5” orange gash across the back of my sofa. After contacting Crayola, we discovered that WD-40 would remove molten crayon from the sofa. Sure enough, it did. WD-40, followed by a wash with dish soap to remove the residual oils, and there was no stain left at all. (We raced outside and cleaned the green crayon from the back seat of our car next!)

For other stains, we try to follow the old fashioned chemistry rule of “like dissolves like.” We usually pre-treat with dish soap, and then follow up with a soft scrub brush (even an old toothbrush) and some oxygen bleach. We’ve never had an issue of bleaching, and nothing has ever stained. It helps that we own a steamer. Sometimes, after scrubbing, we put an oxygen bleach or vinegar solution in the steamer and run that over the affected area.

For cat snags, if you’re handy, you may be able to use a needle around the affected areas, and pull individual threads to weave the spot back in. If that doesn’t work, get some clear nail polish, clip the snag and nail polish it in place (be careful to use only a tiny bit, or it will be obvious). The idea is just to provide enough texture that the thread can’t slip back and create a run.

Bashes/Scrapes on Wood

I have a lovely dark walnut colored desk. It sits in my little corner of my living room and serves as my “office.” The downside is that this really is a “discount” desk, and is made of rubberwood. While it’s heavy and stable structurally, if you even lean on it wrong, you leave a ding that goes through he finish and it looks like heck.

For low-frequency injuries, I cover it with a product called Old English Scratch Cover for Dark Woods. It is an oil base, and soaks right into the wood, and it looks beautiful. But for high-damage areas, like the front of the desk, where my chair rubs on the edges, I once again rely on my trusty Sharpie pen. There are also wood and floor markers designed for this sort of thing, but my sharpie is on my desk already, and it was cheap.

Deep Scratches, Nail Holes and Kid Carvings

Yes, kids are ever so cruel to furniture. Our church has recently had an epidemic of kids “carving” things into the walnut pews. You may think that this damage will require a full sand-down, but there’s a pretty good repair available. Minwax makes a wood-toned soft wax fill, that blends beautifully. You smash it into the scrape or gouge, smooth it off, and put a coat of furniture polish over it. Contractors use this to cover nails used to apply finishes like beadboard, and mop boards.If the surface is painted, it’s a good idea to keep a little bit of touch-up paint on hand in matching colors. Most hardware stores can mix small sizes from a sample (even part of the furniture!)

“Ruined” Pots and Pans

Unless you’ve melted a pot or pan to your range, it is likely salvageable. (Note: don’t use scratched, flaking non-stick products, it’s not believed to be safe!) For bad burns, broiled-on-food or the remnants of a stovetop popcorn fire, try some warm water and a product called “water softener.” You can usually find water softener at the hardware store, or a pool/spa store. A couple of tablespoons of it, plus some warm water and soaking time, and you will be able to scrub off almost any messy cookware.

Let me hear it — what was your best home fix?

The home fix I feel most victorious about is still the crayon on the sofa. The sofa was brand-new and the giant swath of molten crayon was so shocking to see, I was sure it could never be salvaged.


By , on Feb 17, 2012
Jessica Ward Jessica Ward is a full-time writer and adoptive mom to two wonderful children. She writes to support her parenting/adopting habit. For frugal family tips see The PennyWise Family or @jessc098 and my google+ profile.


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  1. renee:

    Water stains on wood from a glass left out all day can be fixed by putting a generous amount of mayonnaise on it for an hour. Wipe it off and the stain is gone.

  2. Wondering if your suggestion for scratched wood furniture could work on hardwood floors. Any idea?

  3. Purchase Wisely:

    For upholstery snags, use a teeny metal crochet hook (00 or smaller) and push it under the fabric about an inch away from the snag, bring it up at the base of the loop hanging out, grab the loop with the hook, pull it back through the fabric, then twist the hook about 1/2 way over to slide it out of the loop and bring the hook back out where you pushed it in (take care not to create another snag!). This also works on snags in sweaters and other knits, too. With two cats, I have to go over my sofa and chair about once a month, but you can’t tell when I’ve finished!

  4. I think the trick is to buy better stuff — consignment shops, antique malls, estate sales, or even Craigslist — will get you higher quality furniture, no hex key required!

  5. I will use just about anything until it is completely useless. I have done the walnut on wood trick before and love it. My favorite trick for blood or wine stains is hydrogen peroxide. A little dab on a cotton ball lifts it right up (make sure to do both sides if possible). We have dogs that sometimes get scratches and bleed on our sheets, this gets the stains out everytime!

  6. Jarhett:

    One trick my mom showed me when I was a kid, I still use to impress Homeowners when I’m on a handyman call. If ever a screw pulls out of some wood and the wood is just too gone to get the screw to re-thread, take some toothpicks or bamboo skewers and dip them in wood glue, pack the hole where the screw USED to go, and you can just put the same screw back in! Give the glue a while to set before really putting it to the test. I’ve used this trick on cabinets, chairs, tables, you name it!

  7. Angelsong:

    My husband scorched one of my late grandmother’s saucepans so badly, he was about to throw it into the trash. I stopped him, and told him to please scrape away as much burned food as he could, then put two fabric softener sheets in the pan, covering the scorched areas, and add just a little water. He was skeptical, but he did it. After leaving the pan to soak overnight on the counter, he was shocked to find that the scorch wiped clean, without a trace. A quick wash and rinse as usual, and the pan was once again ready to use.

  8. Leanne14:

    The best way to clean dirty burnt pots and pans is to cook some rhurbarb in it. Lifts all the burnt muck off and leaves the pots and pans so shiny.

  9. I heard a tip about a year ago for fixing scratches in wood furniture. I forgot about it, until i put a big scratch in the top of our dining room table. I tried pledge, but that would hid it for about 5 minutes, and then the scratch would come right back again. Wracking my brain, I remembered that I had heard of rubbing walnuts on scratches in wood furniture. I decided to give it a try.

    It worked SOOO well, that I started running around the house looking for scratched furniture to “fix”. It has been about a month now, and I still can’t see that scratch in the dining room table!

    Thanks for the post! Lots of good ideas here! If you get a chance, please check out my website for a few more ideas. Maybe we can share!

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