Proper Drying Repair Keys To Salvaging Furniture Damaged By Water

News Release Distributed 09/03/04

Wooden furniture damaged by water from a storm or flood can best be salvaged by slow drying and proper repair, according to LSU AgCenter housing specialist Dr. Claudette Reichel.

"First, take the furniture outdoors and remove all movable parts," Reichel says, adding, "Drawers and doors will probably be stuck tight – particularly if there was a lot of water.

"Do not force from the front. Remove the piece’s back and push out the drawer. In some instances, the back may have to be cut away to remove the part."

After all movable parts have been removed, the LSU AgCenter specialist says to clean and brush off mud and dirt, using a hose stream if necessary. Then take the furniture indoors again and store it where it will dry slowly.

"Furniture left to dry in the sun will warp and dry out of shape," Reichel cautions.

Some furniture, especially that made of solid wood, may be salvaged by regluing, according to Reichel. But remember special equipment and clamps may be needed for some pieces, she says.

Repairing veneered furniture requires special skill and tools, so it should be done by a cabinetmaker. "If insurance allows part value on flood-damaged furniture, it may be more worthwhile to apply the allowance to new articles than to pay for repairs on damaged items," Reichel says.

White spots or a whitish film may develop from dampness on furniture that has not been submerged.

"If the entire surface is affected, rub the area with a cloth dipped in turpentine, camphorated oil or a soft pad dipped in mayonnaise. Wipe dry at once and polish with furniture wax or polish," she advises. "If the color is not restored, dip 3/0 steel wool in either boiled linseed, olive, mineral or lemon oil and rub lightly with the wood grain. Then wipe with a soft cloth and rewax."

Small white spots may be removed by treating with a few drops of ammonia solution or one of the oils, according to Reichel, who says cigarette ashes rubbed into white spots with fingertips also may help remove them.

"If spots still remain after all your efforts at removal, the piece may have to be refinished," she says.

Upholstered furniture that has been submerged in floodwater needs special attention.

"Fillings and stuffings should be discarded unless the material can be removed and sterilized," Reichel says, adding, "Springs may need to be cleaned and oiled and the frames cleaned. And many pieces will need to be completely reupholstered."

Furniture that has not been submerged but became damp or water-spotted may be spot cleaned and aired to remove musty odors," Reichel says. "Upholstery cleaners can be used to clean slightly soiled pieces or for some spot cleaning. Just carefully follow the directions on the cleaner for best results."

The LSU AgCenter specialist says moldy articles should be taken outdoors and cleaned with appropriate substances designed for wood or upholstery.

“If stain remains after cleaning, try dabbing with denatured or rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide in an inconspicuous area to test colorfastness and effectiveness,” Reichel advises, saying further cleaning with those materials may be tried if those tests are successful.

“The best solution for musty odors is ‘clean and dry,’” the LSU AgCenter specialist stresses, adding that you should avoid overwetting an item when cleaning it. “After thorough cleaning, air or fan the articles outdoors. Then place them in air-conditioned space to dry.”

For more information on recovering after a flood or storm, visit the Family & Home section of the LSU AgCenter website at or contact your local LSU AgCenter Extension office.


Contact: Claudette Reichel at (225) 578-6701 or

6/11/2005 1:31:18 AM
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