Old failing varnish on wood surface.

Crumbling – Powdery Wood Finish


Crumbling and Powdery Wood Finish is Commonly Referred to as ‘Perishing Varnish’

When a crumbling and powdery appearance begins to form on a piece of wood furniture, furniture experts often refer to the phenomenon as ‘perishing varnish.’ The word perishing means: to disappear gradually.

Causes of Perishing Varnish

Before thinking about repairing a crumbling and powdery wood finish, it is important to do a little bit of investigation into the underlying cause of the problem. Fixing the problem without knowing the cause of it will likely result in the situation occurring again.

Following are some of the most common reasons varnish begins to crumble and turn into powder on wood furniture:

Hot Water: When varnish is exposed to hot water it can cause the varnish to break down. Therefore, it is important to never wipe a piece of wood furniture with a cloth that has been soaked in hot water.

Temperature Fluctuations When Applying Varnish: When applying varnish to a piece of wood furniture, it is important to keep the furniture in a location with a constant temperature while the varnish is drying. Varnish that endures both hot and cold temperatures during the drying process is likely to eventually crumble and become powdery.

Using the Wrong Type of Wood Cleaner: The most common reason for crumbling and powdery wood varnish is due to the incorrect use of wood cleaners on the furniture. Using the incorrect type of wood cleaner or wood polish can destroy the varnish and cause it to disintegrate.

Cleaning Wood Too Frequently: Not only can the incorrect type of furniture cleaners cause damage to wood, but cleaning furniture too often can cause varnish to break down.

How to Repair Crumbling and Powdery Wood Finish

Do you have piece of furniture that seems to be experiencing perishing varnish? If so, you will have to evaluate the severity of the problem. It may be possible to restore the varnish if the problem is not extensive.

If the varnish looks like it is beginning to crumble or turn into a powder but the varnish looks as if it is still holding onto the wood, the piece might have a chance for revival. Correctly applying a layer of paste wax can sometime stop or reverse the effects of perishing varnish.

In more severe cases, where the application of paste wax does not solve the problem, it may be necessary to replace the varnish entirely. This involves stripping off the old varnish and applying a new coating. Re-varnishing a piece of wood furniture is something that can be done by hand in a home workshop or garage.

If you notice a crumbling or powdery wood finish starting to appear on your furniture, do not ignore the problem. It is better to attempt repairing the wood finish as soon as the issue is discovered rather than waiting until the problem becomes so extensive that the entire finish must be replaced. For best results, do not over clean or over polish varnished furniture.

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