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.