"Refreshing" a Finish On Site

Start with a mild cleaner, and use a light hand. September 18, 2012

I have a client who's asked how the finish on his maple veneered kitchen island may be "refreshed". It has some black marks from the bar stools and some scratches, but nothing through the veneer. I don't know what the original finish is. I could probably rub out the black marks with some oil and steel wool, but that will polish the surface in those areas too much. Does anyone have any ideas?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
Use very fine sand paper (around 400 grit) to sand out the marks. Then rub out with your steel wood just enough to match the surrounding sheen.

From contributor H:
Letís not get too crazy with the steel wool yet! Naphtha should always be your first chemical of choice. On a soft rag it will pull off 90% of your damage, food, shoe marks, vacuum cleaner marks and most hand grease and oils. It that does not work, then break out the artillery. My local supplier is carrying a Wood Kote product called Lin-soap. It works well as a substitute for naphtha.

From contributor B:
I agree with Contributor H. Easy does it. What does refresh mean? Do they just want it cleaned? Rubbing/sanding it out you would definitely change the sheen and weaken the finish to some degree. I'd tread lightly here. If it's ambered from the original finish you can't change that and will go over the deep end trying. A refresh should just be clean up visible marks and re-topcoat once or twice.

From contributor J:
Contributor H is on the right track. Always start with the weakest cleaner or solvent that will get the job done and then move up to the next strongest thing if that does not work. I start with water, then mineral spirits, then naphtha, and etc.

From the original questioner:
Thanks to everyone for their responses. I think the client wants to go beyond cleaning. He's decided to try a refinisher, which I'm happy with. It's not a job I really wanted to take on.