My dad gave me two very old Winsted, CT (where I was born) made chairs, very similar to Hitchcock, and an old Gilbert clock (also made in Winsted). They've all been in the attic for a very long time, and are pretty dirty, not just surface grime. Someone mentioned applying a good layer of Gojo, the handcleaner stuff, letting it sit for a while, and then cleaning gently with a fine steel wool. We're still nervous about doing that, especially on the stencilled areas of the chairs. Anybody heard of this technique, or have any suggestions for us? Thanks!
I use mineral spirits. Mineral spirits will not remove paint but will remove grease and dirt. Do not use orange cleaners some of the more potent ones will strip paint off of wood!! I have and old house built in 1865. I use mineral spirits on my old wood, walnut banister, chairs, etc., to clean them before I either lemon oil, paste wax, or I use Gardsman sometimes. I have used it for 20+ years never any harm done. But you will see years of dirt come off onto your cloth.
Never use a harsh cleaner. GoJo is kero and sand. On painted design go in with mineral spirits on a just damp Q-Tip. The dirt will come up. Watch that Q-Tip closely. If you see any color stop immediately. When you have tested "all" color or black lines without finding color you may move up to a soft cloth still only damp to treat larger areas over the different colors you have tested. Be very carefull on greens and browns. Greens often turn brown. All greens are touchy so be light handed and move into larger wipes very gently and carefully. In the color mix...red and green is what makes the browns. Black has the mix of all colors. If no color comes up you most likely are working over a piece that was protected with varnish. Old varnish comes up too. It releases a tan to brown coloration. Rule of thumb would be to remove most but not all the varnish and then consider re-varnishing to protect the item. If possible use an oil based varnish. It can always be removed. The modern finishes should not be used on valued old wood surfaces.