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Maple table and chairs getting sticky - Printable Version

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Maple table and chairs getting sticky - TDKPE - 09-13-2020

Kitchen table and matching chairs are almost 20 years old.  Places where hands and forearms usually touch are now getting sticky.  And dirty.  I was able to clean the dirt, but the stickiness remains.  

Dish detergent seems to work the best for the initial cleaning, and doesn’t seem to damage the finish on the underside (where you can’t see unless you go looking for it), but something is pilling when rubbed with a paper towel or cloth, and the finish remains sticky.

Before trying something nasty on it, which is likely to damage the finish even more, does anyone have any ideas what could be happening here?  Is the finish deteriorating?

I know next to nothing about finishing, other than certain finishes I’ve used on the lathe, and many decades ago, endless fine sanding and steel wool work on lacquer cabinet finishes.  So no useful knowledge here.  No idea what this factory finish is, either, but the set was very expensive, and I’d like to keep it.

What say the brain trust?

RE: Maple table and chairs getting sticky - jteneyck - 09-13-2020

It probably was finished with lacquer of some type.  Regardless, what's happening is the sweat and oils on peoples' hands and arms are softening the finish; that's why it's sticky now.  You might be able to make it less sticky by wiping it repeatedly with a soft cloth with mineral spirits.  I actually don't think it will let the finish harden again, but it will clean the dirt off and it won't hurt the finish.  Assuming the finish remains sticky then the only way to fix it is to strip it off and apply a new finish.  I would use a wiping varnish or standard oil based poly unless you have spray equipment.  If you do have spraying equipment then Target Coatings EM-8000CV (conversion varnish) would be a very good choice.  


RE: Maple table and chairs getting sticky - TDKPE - 09-15-2020

That's what I was afraid of.  Thanks for the input.

I'll try some mineral spirits on the underside, where you can't normally see it, to see what happens.  Some household cleaners got some of the dirt off, but the finish (I think) was pilling when rubbed, and sticky, leaving the existing (or remaining) finish sticky, but not as bad.  

We really like this set, so I'll look into refinishing just the top of the seat backs, and the wood perimeter around the tile center of the table top.  I don't know if I'll try it myself, but I do have an Earlex HVLP system that I have almost no experience with.   Uhoh