Biennial Cleaning And Stain Removal Of Woodwork

Technical Procedures Disclaimer

Prior to inclusion in GSA’s library of procedures, documents are reviewed by one or more qualified preservation specialists for general consistency with the Secretary of Interior Standards for rehabilitating historic buildings as understood at the time the procedure is added to the library. All specifications require project-specific editing and professional judgement regarding the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers are to serve as a general guideline and do not constitute a federal endorsement or determination that a product or method is the best or most current alternative, remains available, or is compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards. The library of procedures is intended to serve as a resource, not a substitute, for specification development by a qualified preservation professional.


We’ve reviewed these procedures for general consistency with federal standards for rehabilitating historic buildings and provide them only as a reference. Specifications should only be applied under the guidance of a qualified preservation professional who can assess the applicability of a procedure to a particular building, project or location. References to products and suppliers serve as general guidelines and do not constitute a federal endorsement nor a determination that a product or method is the best alternative or compliant with current environmental regulations and safety standards.



  1. This procedure includes guidance on the routine dusting and cleaning of wood surfaces.
  2. See 01100-07-S for general project guidelines to be reviewed along with this procedure.

These guidelines cover the following sections:

  1. Safety Precautions
  2. Historic Structures Precautions
  3. Quality Assurance
  4.  Delivery, Storage and Handling
  5. Project/Site Conditions
  6. Sequencing and Scheduling
  7.  General Protection(Surface and Surrounding)

These guidelines should be reviewed prior to performing this procedure and should be followed, when applicable, along with recommendations from the Regional Historic Preservation Officer (RHPO).


  1. Samples: Submit sample of stain and wood filler for approval of Contracting Officer.



  1. The BWC Company (formerly Butcher Polish Company)


NOTE: Chemical products are sometimes sold under a common name. This usually means that the substance is not as pure as the same chemical sold under its chemical name. The grade of purity of common name substances, however, is usually adequate for stain removal work, and these products should be purchased when available, as they tend to be less expensive. Common names are indicated below by an asterisk (*).

A. Solvent: Mineral spirits, turpentine or denatured alcohol.

Mineral Spirits:

  1.  A petroleum distillate that is used especially as a paint or varnish thinner.
  2.  Other chemical or common names include Benzine* (not Benzene); Naphtha*; Petroleum spirits*; Solvent naphtha*.
  3.  Potential Hazards: TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.
  4.  Safety Precautions:
    2. ALWAYS wear rubber gloves when handling mineral spirits.
    3. If any chemical is splashed onto the skin, wash immediately with soap and water.
  5.  Available from construction specialties distributor, hardware store, paint store, or printer's supply distributor.


  1. Typically used as a solvent and thinner.
  2.  Potential Hazards: TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.
  3.  Safety Precautions:
    1. Work in a well ventilated area.
    2. Observe safety rules as turpentine is flammable, and the fumes can trip an ionization smoke detection system.
    3. Store soiled cloths in a metal safety container to guard against spontaneous combustion.
    4. Available from hardware store or paint store.

Denatured Alcohol:

  1.  Other chemical or common names include Methylated spirit*.
  2. Potential hazards: TOXIC AND FLAMMABLE.
  3.  Available from hardware store, paint store or printer's supply distributor.
  4. Denatured alcohol should be a satisfactory substitute for ethyl alcohol for stain removing purposes.

B. Cloth: Clean cotton rags

C. Sand paper: 3 grades, finest grade 00

D. Wax: Butcher's wax, such as "Butcher's paste Wax (The BWC Company, aka Butcher Polish Company)

E. Bleach: Standard household bleach

  1.  An unstable salt produced usually in aqueous solution and used as a bleaching and disinfecting agent.
  2.  Other chemical or common names include Bleaching solution*; Household bleach*; Laundry bleach*; Sodium Hypochlorite; Solution of chlorinated soda*.
  3.  Potential Hazards: CORROSIVE TO FLESH.
  4. Available from chemical supply house, grocery store or supermarket, hardware store or janitorial supply distributor.

F. Oil Stain and Thinner: To achieve a match between stained areas and original wood finish.

G. Shellac burn-in sticks

H. Clean, potable water



A. Dust with a solvent-treated soft cloth.

B. Dry rub with a soft cloth to maintain the polish, rubbing along the grain of the wood.

C. Stain and Spot Removal: Stains may be cleaned by promptly wiping with cloth dampened in clear water or rubbing with cloth dampened in solvent. Dry the wood with a soft cloth. White spots may be removed by rubbing them with a small amount of linseed oil.

D. Old Stain Removal: If water and solvent fail to remove dark stains, brush full-strength bleach onto stained area and allow to stand one minute. Use clean, cotton rags to keep the bleach from running. TEST BLEACH IN A SMALL INCONSPICUOUS AREA PRIOR TO USING THE BLEACH ON THE LARGE STAIN TO ENSURE THAT IT WILL NOT DAMAGE THE WOOD.

  1. Rinse bleach completely from wood.
  2.  If area is too light in color, carefully apply a small amount of stain to match original wood finish.
  3. Lightly sand area and apply wax following manufacturer's instructions using clean cotton rags, rubbing in direction of wood grain.

E. Biennial Cleaning:

  1.  Damp-wipe woodwork with a soft cloth dampened in clear water.
  2. Promptly dry the wood with a soft cloth, rubbing along the grain.
  3.  Polish by dry rubbing with a soft cloth.

F. Fill scratches and gouges with shellac burn-in sticks matching color to the wood stain.

G. Apply wax following manufacturer's instructions using clean cotton rags, rubbing in direction of wood grain.

H. See also 06400-01-P and 06400-01-R for guidance on the general cleaning of wood surfaces.