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Expert Wood Care

Photo by Mint Images/Bill Miles/Getty Images

Dinged dining room table? Ring around the guest-room nightstand? Revive wood pieces with these tips.

Buff out White Spots

Photo by William Wright

White rings result when water droplets form on the outside of a glass and aren't caught by a coaster. To buff out these marks from wood surfaces that have a clear-coat or an oil finish, use a cloth barely dampened with denatured alcohol; wipe just once to open up the finish, releasing the moisture. Take care not to apply too much or you will remove the finish, leaving dull areas, says Michael Dresdner, author of The Woodfinishing Book.

Repair Surface Scratches

Photo by John Gruen

Rub a shelled walnut gently across superficial marks; its natural oils will conceal any discoloration. For deeper scratches, use a wax wood-filler stick that closely matches the color of the finish. Overfill the area, smooth with a credit card, and wipe off excess with a clean, dry cloth.

Recolor Worn Edges

Photo by William Wright

In spots where wood stain has worn away, opt for a felt-tip stain pen, being careful not to color over neighboring areas where the finish is intact. Apply a coat of clear paste wax over both the repair and adjacent surfaces; buff to an even sheen.

Keep It Clean

Photo by Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Strong ammonia-based cleaners can damage a furniture finish, so use a gentle cleanser made for wood, such as Murphy Oil Soap. Dust regularly with a just-damp cloth or microfiber duster to keep grime from accumulating and attracting grit that can scratch the surface. Skip aerosol polishing and dusting sprays; many contain silicone, which creates buildup that will need to be stripped down the road.