How to Clean Sticky Gummy Wood


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How to Clean Sticky Wood

Wood railings, banisters, wood church pews and kitchen cabinets come in contact with many hands, and in time, they become caked with dirt and oil from the skin. They become tacky, sticky, and dark in color.  This gummy residue essentially ruins the feel and appearance of the wood. On church pews, medicine residues in body oils and sweat often deteriorate the finish before cleaning is accomplished.  The dirty gunk can be scraped away with a fingernail, but this isn't practical. You will most likely need to have it professionally scraped away to remove the gunk.  The remaining finish needs to be stripped, the exposed wood prepped, and finally, stain and finish applied to renew the beauty of the wood. 

My advise is please don't use Murphy Oil Soap on fine furniture, or anything that has a sticky gummy surface. Water will ruin a fine lacquered finish and raise the grain of the wood.

Or you can take advice from Crystal Ray, a Yahoo! Contributor who says; "One of the best cleaners that won't harm wood surfaces is Murphy's Oil Soap. This thick golden liquid has been around for decades".

Read carefully and you decide.

Wikipedia Says; "Despite the name, oil soap does not contain oil; it contains potassium soap manufactured from vegetable oil. The other constituents of Murphy Oil Soap are sodium EDTApropylene glycolfragrancesurfactants, and water.[2]."   

Murphy Oil Soap MSD sheet states that it includes "potassium hydroxide and ethanol".

Never the less, even if the soap removes heavy amounts of sticky, gummy residue from the finished wood, it still leaves the finish on the wood dark and tacky. With the finish tacky it attracts more hand oils and dirt. The sticky residue in the finish cannot be made "unsticky" unless the finish is completely removed from the wood.

The item being cleaned still needs refinishing, most likely. Therefore, I cannot recommend this cleaner for heavy cleaning on, finished church pews or any other "finished" wood surface. We have seen it used in commercial applications on finished wood hand rails and church pews and the gummy sticky is still there on the surface after cleaning with the oil soap product.

Here are three questions you need to ask yourself:

1.  Are you cleaning raw unfinished wood? 

     Then scrub away, nearly nothing will hurt it. Cleaning with oil soap or whatever.


2.  Are you cleaning heavy thick hand oils from finished wood?

     Murphy Oil Soap cannot fix the finish on the wood, it has to be stripped and

     refinished underneath all that messy gunk.

3.  Who should I choose to restore my wood finish that can guarantee a factory finish.


This is a job for the professional wood finisher.

If you do not know the difference between finished and unfinished wood then it would be best to stop and call someone you can trust. May we suggest the stripping and refinishing experts at Wood Doctors?  You may call David Erickson 502-599-0020 if you have further questions. 


Murphy Oil Soap is a Trademark of Colgate - Palmolive Company



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