Cleaning 'real' knotty pine paneling

Page 1 of 2  
While visiting my sister-in-law in Suffolk, Va. a couple years ago, she asked if I knew of a good way to clean or brighten up the paneling in her kitchen and dining room. It just looked too darned good to give her an off-the-wall answer. (read as I didn't have a clue)
The house was built approximately 1965 and I'm sure she has used lots of TLC because the paneling looks great, but I'm sure it has darkened considerably over the years. Because of waxing, cooking, or cigarette smoke I've no idea. I suspect all of the above, and maybe more.
We are planning another trip 'back east' this year and I thought it would be nice when we drop in to see her to have an answer to her question.
The only thing I can think of offhand is TSP. Any hints or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Thermo
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 3/4/2010 6:34 PM thermo102 spake thus:

TSP is a really good cleaner, but unfortunately it will probably de-gloss whatever finish is on the paneling (I'm assuming the paneling is either varnished or lacquered and not just raw wood). This would be OK if you were planning on putting more finish on it, but otherwise it probably wouldn't be a good choice. I'd try to find something a little less aggressive, like probably any good household cleaner. (My own favorite is Simple Green, which can be used on just about anything and can be mixed in various dilutions depending on how bad the dirt is.)
To get off things like sticky grease that may have accumulated over the years, you may need some kind of petroleum solvent, like naphtha, mineral spirits, paint thinner (thinner, not stripper!), etc. Can be used when you can open up doors and windows to air out the room.
By the way, none of this is going to affect the darkening of the paneling. That's due to darkening of both the wood and the finish over it, and cleaning it isn't going to lighten it.
--
You were wrong, and I'm man enough to admit it.

- a Usenet "apology"
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

For knotty pine, the finish is almost certainly orange shellac. Test with an alcohol-dampened rag.

Shellac won't darken. The shmutz is either wax or pollution, probably cigarette smoke. Remove with detergent or petrol solvent.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

The house I grew up in had knotty pine T&G boards on the walls. When you say "real" knotty pine paneling I'm assuming you don't mean plywood. TSP is a good start and it may take several applications to remove 45 years of kitchen grime. Use plenty of elbow grease and don't worry about damaging the wood as it isn't just a few thousandths of an inch veneer. Be aware that TSP will likely dull the finish. I don't remember polyurethane being available back then so your finish is likely to be lacquer (Deft was readily available) or varnish. If you have to strip the finish, lacquer can be removed with lacquer thinner and a cloth. If it's varnish you will probably have to use a commercial stripper. The usual precautions apply. If you are expecting to get the appearance to look like it was when new you will have to sand or plane the surface of the boards to remove all traces of the finish and the oxidized wood surface. Art
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Wood Preen may do the job... I used to use it to clean floors, chair arms, etc., that tended to get dirty and need waxing too. It will remove the existing dirty wax. If the surface is really built up and dirty it might take a bit of rubbing to keep it wet long enough for the cleaners to work ....
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
John
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"thermo102" wrote:

------------------------------------- Some questions.
How "clean" is "clean"?
1) Do you want to take this back to bare wood?
2) Do you only want to get the grease and the smoke of 45 years off the finish?
3) Do you want to keep the change in color of the wood that has developed over the last 45 years?
TSP and lots of elbow grease will accomplish #2 above; however, in the process you may find the finish needs to be redone which opens up another can of worms.
TSP will also allow #3 above.
Questions, questions.
What is the over all game plan?
What ever is done, it is going to be a lot of work.
Lew
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I would not use TSP - it, essentially, dissolves oils.
First, try the least aggressive method. I recommend Murphy's Oil Soap:
http://www.colgate.com/MurphyOilSoap/products/original-formula
We've been using this for a long time.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 4 Mar 2010 20:47:29 -0800 (PST), the infamous

MOS is what I used to clean my 1939 naughty pine in the old house. It lightened it considerably, probably by removing half the old oxidized finish, all the dust, and a thick film of tobacco smoke. I resealed it with blonde shellac after a week of drying.
-- An author spends months writing a book, and maybe puts his heart's blood into it, and then it lies about unread till the reader has nothing else in the world to do. -- W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge, 1943
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

the REAL TSP (Tri-Sodium-Phosphate) will do the trick. It will likely have an adverse affect on whatever finish is on the wood, however.
First thing I'd try is one of the 'citrus' cleaners, like "Simple Green". These are amazingly effective against lots grime and accumulated gunge..
My preferred 'next stage' weapons are difficult to locate these days. Second is powdered "ethoxylated alcohol". There used to be a product available regionally (upper Mid-West) called "Perfex", that listed this compound as the only ingredient. White 'powder' -- actually 'slivers', about 1/4" long. Dissolve in water and 'go'. Good for cleaning *anything*, with only slight differences in the strength of the solution. Worked a *lot* better the hotter the water. Safe for bare-hands use at any rational concentration (as long as you could tolerate the temperature) -- the solution feels 'slick' (alkaline) -- chemistry research says it's a high-grade "surfactant"; aka wetting agent. (One caveat: Do -not- use at high strengths on enamel paints, it will cause the paint to chalk continually!! There's a story *still* told in our family about how somebody did that to a painted picnic table, circa _60_ years ago. Got all the bird sh*t off (it had lived under a big tree), but 'left it's mark' on everybody that sat on the benches, _days_ later :)
History: Invented in Shenandoah Iowa, during WWII as an alternate to phosphate- based cleaners, as phosphate was a strategic war material for building explosives. Acquired by Tidy House Corp., who was subsequently acquired by the maker of Air Wick Air fresheners, who pulled the product off the market.
Rumor mill has it that 'somebody' in Shenandoah, IA is making the product again, but I've had no luck finding a name or reference -- I''m no longer in the territory.
[Note: if I had a source to recommend, an ethoxylated alcohol powder would by my _first_ recommendation! But, I don't, so I suggested something 'obtainable' first. <wry grin> ]
Thirdly, there's a petroleum-jelly based product -- sold in a "big" tooth-paste- like tube, called "Off!" (yes, it even looks similar to the insect spray logo). This is a degreaser, sold for getting oil-based stains out of laundry, but works wonders on other oil-based problems. As good, if not better, than 'Goo Gone' for cleaning oil-dirtied hands, for example.
About the only thing I've run into that one of those three items wouldn't take off was dried on oil-based wiping stain on my hands. For -that-, a _Brillo_ pad was _the_ weapon of choice. didn't take much scrubbing, seems like it was mostly the soap in the pad. Note: Other brands did _not_ work nearly the same. I found _that_ out the hard way. *ONCE*!!
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 3/4/2010 8:34 PM, thermo102 wrote:

My old house had the same pine paneling and here's what I did:
Use any all purpose household cleaner that contains "orange oil". Put damp sponge in microwave for 30 to 40 seconds, apply cleaner to paneling with hot sponge. For tough areas leave cleaner on for a minute or so.
Rinse sponge, reheat sponge, repeat.
You will want to wear gloves with the hot sponge.
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 10/22/08
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ok boys... schooch over and let a woman do the cleaning.
First NO SCOTCH BRITE OR STEEL WOOL. They will scratch, and you'll be sorry.
As mentioned above, Murphys Oil Soap. Great for cleaning wood, will not damage the finish or your hands.
Use a bucket of hot water with a good glug or three of the cleaner in the water and scrub with a microfiber towel. The microfiber towels are great for cleaning. Something about them has a little more grip than terry cloth when it comes to crud. Sams has/had a big pack of them for around $10 awhile back. Harbor freight has them too. If you shop around you can find them pretty cheap.
For areas that have buildup of grime on them, apply some to the rag full strength and let it sit for a little while.
If that doesn't get the crud off, get some Greased Lightning. (Home Depot, Wally World) That stuff will clean anything. I've never had it damage a finish yet but I haven't used it on a varnished surface. Test on an inconspicious area first.
Sometimes cooking grease will soften a finish or paint making it gooey. If that's the case, it's going to be a huge project having to strip the finish off and refinish it.
The wood and finish may have darkend with age. No way to reverse that without a complete refinish. Nicotine will stain too. No way to remove the stain without refinishing but what is on the surface can be cleaned up to make a big difference..
Kate
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 3/5/2010 9:03 AM Kate spake thus:

[snip]
You know, I'm ready to get on board with all your suggestions except for the one about Murphy's.
What the hell *is* this stuff, anyhow? It seems to have an almost cult-ish following, but it's not clear at all what it actually is. Is it soap made from oil? Does it contain oil?
I've used Murphy's, and it seems like mediocre soap at best. Certainly no better than my preference, which is Simple Green. Or really any soap for that matter. In my experience, the type of soap doesn't really matter: it's pretty much all the same stuff, whether it's dish detergent, hand soap, or whatever the most highly-marketed stuff in a spray bottle (409, Mr. Clean, etc., etc.) happens to be.
Speaking of cult soaps, does anyone else here remember Fels Naphtha soap? I remember my mom using this stuff, which was some of the worst-smelling soap I've ever been around. Do they still make this stuff?
(Huh, whaddya know: it looks like it's still being made.)
--
You were wrong, and I'm man enough to admit it.

- a Usenet "apology"
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 3/5/2010 11:36 AM David Nebenzahl spake thus:

Still being made: http://www.felsnaptha.com (and I misspelled it, although really *they* misspelled "naphtha", although it doesn't contain any of that stuff ...)
Ingredients:
Soap (sodium tallowate*, sodium cocoate* (or) sodium palmate kernelate*, and sodium palmate*), water, talc, cocnut acid*, palm acid*, tallow acid*, PEG-6 methyl ether, glycerin, sorbitol, sodium chloride, pentasodium pentetate and/or tetrasodium etidronate, titatium dioxide, fragrance, Acid Orange (CI 20170), Acid yellow 73 (ci43350)
*contains one or more of these ingredients
--
You were wrong, and I'm man enough to admit it.

- a Usenet "apology"
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"David Nebenzahl" wrote:

-------------------------------------- Yep. Like you, my mom used it for "the tough jobs".
Lew
I remember my mom using this stuff, which was some of the

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
"Lew Hodgett" wrote

It was also used for medical purposes. I don't know if that was a carry over from frontier medicine or not. I knew several people with skin diseases that had to use Fels Naphtha soap with various other topical treatments.
I remember this stuff. My grandmother used it. It burned. Not for tender skin.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I've used Murphy's, and it seems like mediocre soap at best. Certainly no better than my preference, which is Simple Green.--
--

I have to agree with you about it being mediocre, but it won't harm the
finish and that seems to be the issue.
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 3/6/2010 5:14 AM Kate spake thus:
>

But neither will any other standard household cleaning product, except for really strong and caustic ones like TSP.

I agree about the smell: it's not disgusting, but not pleasant either. (Ackshooly, even Pine-Sol smells better than Simple Green, and it ain't no perfume either.) But I disagree about its cleaning power. As I said earlier, you can mix the concentrate at any dilution you like. A strong solution of Simple Green will cut just about any grease you can throw it at.
But it doesn't really matter in the end, because soap is pretty much soap, chemically speaking.
--
You were wrong, and I'm man enough to admit it.

- a Usenet "apology"
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

TSP would be a good choice in preparation for painting, is that the plan? Mineral spirits is usually a good solvent for cleaning wood, because it will not cause the fibers to swell like a water-based cleaner. Put a fan in a nearby window before you begin cleaning, dispose of rags properly. My second choice would be Murphy's Oil soap, but never soak the wood.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On 3/6/2010 7:38 AM Phisherman spake thus:

How in the world do you get from the OP's post? They said they want to "clean or brighten up the paneling", not paint it.
--
You were wrong, and I'm man enough to admit it.

- a Usenet "apology"
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Okay y'all my think I'm crazy but I'm going through the same thing & have t ried EVERY household cleaner possible! I have no idea why I tried this (I g uess I was desperate at that time) but cheap Dollar Store window cleaner w/ ammonia has been a godsend & my walls are finally looking great! The 1st t ime I sprayed the wall you could see all the nicotine, dirt, grime & smoke soot (had a wood-burning stove when the house was used as a camp) running d own the walls leaving a trail where the cleaner had touched! Needless to sa y I started cleaning right then & there, called my husband & told him to gr ab 10 more bottles on his way home. He thought I was crazy until he saw the difference. My entire 3bdrm/1bath house is all wood, walls & flooring so I was looking for something to clean plus brighten up this place w/o coverin g the walls & this is the only thing I have found that works. I hope it hel ps them as much as it has me.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.