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Cleaning oil from wooden handles

Advice please!

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Greg Redman10/09/2014 09:40:47
4 forum posts

Hi all,

I've just been given a lot of wooden handled tools, (mainly hammers & screwdrivers,but some other odds 'n' ends too), from my mother in laws garage. These had been used by my father in law when he was repairing cars and are now coated in a layer of dried-on engine oil that is at least 12 years old! They seem to be quality tools so I don't want to throw them away if I can avoid it, but I don't want to use them and transfer oil to any project I'm working on, so can anyone recommend a CHEAP/FREE way of removing the oil and preserving the wood? I thought of linseed oil for the last, but boiled or raw? Or maybe varnish?
For cleaning them I thought WD40, Gunk, white spirit or white vinegar might work, but haven't tried anything as of yet as I don't want to ruin the handles. And should I use a brillo pad or one of the plastic versions or just a cloth?
Oh, and these aren't antiques but tools I want to use!
Derek Lane10/09/2014 18:42:32
3218 forum posts
1004 photos

I would try the white spirit or even cellulose thinners take it back to bear wood and put a finish of your chose on. Or try hot soapy water and a fine scouring pad.

Ron Davis10/09/2014 20:56:54
1614 forum posts
201 photos

Why do you want to do this? I have tools from my career as a mechanic and I still use them and I do not have a problem with them. If you are concerned with the cosmetic appearance, then I would use a scraper, a Stanley knife blade in some sort of home made holder will do, get back to bare wood and then apply the linseed oil.

Good luck with them they will be decent tools


Greg Redman10/09/2014 22:12:46
4 forum posts

Hi Ron, I don't really care what they look like! Its just that they feel "yucky", (can't put it any other way!), in my hand, and I don't want to risk transfering the oil to awork piece.

And cheers Derek, I'll try that.

Thanks guys.


John F20/09/2014 09:41:47
48 forum posts
14 photos

Hi Greg , you can use Oxalic acid, it's a white powder and you will probably be able get it at a chemist, not the big high street ones though. Mix it with water an apply with a cotton pad and or fine wire wool. Use protective gloves etc and wash of with water then dry naturally. Finish with linseed oil or ? ? Your choice .

Works for me on old gun stocks that are soaked in oil, only problem sometimes there is some shrinkage which can be a problem.


Greg Redman26/09/2014 09:49:50
4 forum posts

Hi John,

Sorrry for the tardiness of the reply, but thanks for that info; White spirit and a plastic scourer seem to be doing the trick, but I'll might try the Oxalic acid on a couple that are heavily oiled.

Thanks again,


Paul Bodiam30/09/2014 13:41:17
107 forum posts
68 photos

Hi Greg. Another thing that you could try is biological washing powder! It is used in classic car circles to get oil drips out of block-paving driveways - SWUTBO (She who used to be obeyed) never understood that classic cars always drip oil - it's a kind of territorial marking thing!

Anyway, mix a little biological washing powder (it MUST be biological) with warm ater into a watery paste and scrub it in to the surface of the wood with an old toothbrush. Leave for five to ten minutes then rinse thoroughly and pat dry with an old towel.

Ron Davis30/09/2014 19:27:07
1614 forum posts
201 photos

That is a good tip Paul, safer than oxalic acid as well


Greg Redman30/09/2014 19:58:22
4 forum posts

Washing powder????? Who'd 'a thunked it? Well, you obviously! Cheers Paul, I'll try that when I do the next batch.


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