Wood-safe solvent needed to clean mystery goo off of beloved old rocking chair.

I inherited my grandmother’s old wooden rocking chair. It’s a lovely, well-made solid wood piece, but not really an antique. I estimate it was built in the 1960s using modern materials and finishes. I use it as everyday furniture, not as a showpiece or an untouchable heirloom.

It’s in great shape, but it came with an odd problem. The top of the armrests are covered with a paper-thin layer of dark mystery goo. It’s gummy or waxy most of the time, but it can get mildly sticky when the humidity is high.

For years I’ve put off dealing with the problem, but last night I had a dream about finally scraping the stuff off, so I figured that was a sign from the furniture gods to get on with it.

Using a dull putty knife I scraped most of the offending layer off of one armrest. Fortunately, it appears that the original finish (varnish? shellack? poly-u?) has remained intact and unharmed under the goo (which, incidentally, I’ve come to suspect is decades-old beeswax). However, there still remains a micro-layer of the stuff on the wood. It is very sticky, almost like the underside of a Post-It.

It is time to tackle this residue with chemistry. I did a little test using kerosene. It did the trick, which leads me to think I need a petroleum-based solvent. Unfortunately, the kerosene made the original finish dull. So, what can I use that will remove the goo but leave the original finish unharmed?

Thanks all, in advance.

Try… Goo Gone.

Works wonders, and is pretty finish-safe. (It’s Orange-oil based).

I had some really goey stuff get on an expensive cherry table. I carefully tried a bunch of stuff. The Goo Gone worked the best, but still not very well. I then had an idea.I took an orange, cut in in half and used the pure juice. Bingo! Gooey Stuff 100% gone. Table not damaged in the least.

Good luck.

I can tell you what the mystery goo probably is, or was–almost certainly at some point in the past, someone put Contact self-adhesive paper on the armrests. I’ve encountered similar furniture modifications in the past. The idea was that the varnished armrest gets sticky in hot, humid weather, making it difficult to peel your forearm off it, so you put Contact paper on it.

Human skin contact can also turn a finish into a tacky goo as it has been called. Mom probably used the chair a lot I’d say. You may want to have a sealing finish put over it when your done.

Try some Murphy’s oil soap.

Wildcat TR-60, I use it to remove “vandal” stickers and decals. With them I just wet a paper towel with it, apply to the sticker and in 10-15 minutes the sticker and all the glue wipes right off.