Salvage Antique Children's Toy Boxes

What You'll Need
Spray bottle
Wood cleaner

You may want to salvage antique children’s toy boxes that were gifted to you or possibly picked up at a shop or flea market. This may especially be true if it is a personalized toy box with a family surname or insignia upon it. Sprucing up an old toy chest can be a personally rewarding project that will enhance the living space for your child, while helping to better organize and manage that ever increasing flow of toys entering the home. Here are some simple instructions for bringing back to life those antique children’s toy boxes.

Step 1 – Preparation

Remove any attachable cushions and other decorative accents, along with the flip-top hinge hardware. Examine the hinge hardware to see if it is still usable. If marred, bent or otherwise scarred, replace the hardware with a similar set of your choice that compliments the antique toy box design.

Step 2 – A Good Cleaning

Employ a commercially available wood cleaner that will be easy to use. These solutions do a good job removing built up grease, grime and dirt, helping prepare the wood for a re-finish. Either use a synthetic paint brush to apply the solution using long, even strokes or, better yet, place the solution in a spray bottle so you can evenly spray it across the wood surface area of the toy box. Start at the bottom working upward to prevent streaking. Use a side to side spraying motion.

Step 3 – Let It Soak

Wait a few minutes while the cleaning solution soaks into the wood. Use a flexible bristled brush to loosen all dirt and debris. Use a small brush, like a toothbrush, to scrub hard-to-access areas. You may have to use a scraper to remove and decal-like attached decorations. Be careful not to damage the wood by gouging it. A good soaking should loosen and soften the material enough to carefully scrape it off. Remove any damaged wood particles and splinters carefully. Make sure to wear gloves to protect your hands.

Step 4 – Rinse

Rinse the solution scrubbed wood with a spray bottle of clean water. Carefully examine all areas for spots missed and repeat the soak and scrub step above and rinse again. Once you’ve arrived at a satisfactory level of wood cleanliness, allow the toy box to completely dry – 24 hours should do the job.

Step 5 – Sand the Wood

After the children’s toy box has completely dried from your soak and rub scrubbing, the wood grain should stand out. Smooth the wood using rough sandpaper - but don’t overdo it. You want to rough up the wood just enough to get it to absorb a coat of finish.

Step 6 – Refinish

Once your antique children’s toy box is cleaned and dry, you may either wish to update the color by either staining or painting. Possibly, you can match the room furniture coloring by staining the antique children’s toy box. Always add a final coat of a clear sealant for extra protection.

Consider personalizing your restored toy box by stenciling the child’s name on it or perhaps applying the child’s photo for special personalization if the antique toy box does not display any family references.