How to Clean Ironwood Carvings

Ironwood is a dense, hard wood that artisans in places like Mexico have been using to produce beautiful carvings for centuries. If you own an ironwood carving, inherit one from family, or are given one as a gift, you will want to take good care of it by cleaning it frequently. 

How To Clean Ironwoond Carvings

To clean your ironwood carvings, follow these simple steps:

  1. Assemble your tools.
  2. Dust and clean the carving.
  3. Apply a finish.

The rest of this article will describe in detail when and how to clean your ironwood carvings, point out the pitfalls to avoid when doing so, and help you decide on the best finishing product for your project.

How Long Should Green Wood Dry Before Carving?

Assemble Your Tools

To clean your ironwood carvings, you will need a few essential tools. These include:

  • Cotton or latex gloves to handle the carving without damaging it
  • A lint-free dusting cloth to wipe the surface of the carving clean
  • Wood wax or oil and buffing cloth to finish the surface after cleaning

The selection of a wax or oilOpens in a new tab. is the only part of this process that calls for some discretion, as different waxes and oils have their pros and cons, and there are a plethora of them to choose from.

Some people recommend paste waxes over wood oils. They claim paste waxes form a dry, hard layer on the surface of the wood, which stays on longer and protects the wood better in the long run. Wood waxes are also generally easier to apply as they dry faster. 

Others swear by wood oilsOpens in a new tab., claiming that, as natural products, they bring out the character of the wood better.

There are several types of wood oils you can choose from. Some popular oils used to finish wood surfaces include Danish oil, tung oil, linseed oil, and teak oil. 

Ultimately, it is important to pick the finishing application that retains the original color of your wood best. 

If you decide to go with tung oil, I recommend this Hope’s Pure Tung Oil from It’s all-natural and non-toxic, which is better for both you and your carvings.

HOPE'S 100% Pure Tung Oil, Waterproof Natural Wood Finish and Sealer, 16 Fl Oz, 1 Pack
  • Easy to Use - Tung oil is a natural oil recognized by craftsmen to offer the ultimate hand-rubbed...
  • Permeates - Unlike other finishes that form a film on the wood’s surface, tung oil penetrates deep...
  • Protects - Resistant to moisture, alcohol, oil, and everyday wear for lasting beauty and protection;...

Last update on 2023-05-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

If you decide to go with the paste wax instead, check out this Minwax Finishing PasteOpens in a new tab. from Minwax is a very old manufacturer with a solid reputation for great woodworking products.

Minwax 785004444 Paste Finishing Wax, 1 lb, Natural Opens in a new tab.
  • Minwax Paste Finishing Wax protects and adds hand-rubbed luster to any finished wood surface.
  • It is recommended for furniture, antiques, woodwork, cabinets, doors, paneling and accessories that...
  • Leaves nice polished look to any finished wood surface

Last update on 2023-05-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Once you have made your decision and gathered your tools, you’re all set to get started. 

Dust and Clean the Carving

Dusting and cleaning is an important step in maintaining the integrity of your ironwood carvings. 

Here are some sanitary steps you should take before applying a finish:

  1. Before you begin cleaning, put on your cotton or latex gloves. This will protect the surface of the carving from getting damaged by any oils or other stains on your hands. 
  2. Once your gloves are on, lightly wipe the surface of the carving with the lint-free dusting cloth. Use gentle force and do not scrape the surface roughly. 
  3. If there are deep stains or dust stuck in grooves, you may dampen the cloth and apply it to the ironwood surface. When doing this, do not soak the cloth. Merely moisten it enough to be able to dissolve the surface stains, as too much moisture can be damaging.
  4. Finally, set the carving aside to dry. Make sure it is completely dry before proceeding to the finishing stage.
How Long Should Green Wood Dry Before Carving?

Apply a Finish

Once your ironwood carving is clean and dry, you will want to finish it with the wood wax or oil you have selected so that it retains its original color and luster. You can simply pour the oil onto the surface of the wood and buff it using a cloth.

Remember to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific finishing application you have chosen, as the application process for different products can vary quite a bit. The number of coats needed to be applied and the application method may vary depending on the specific product chosen.

For instance, tung oil offers one of the finest finishes, but the process of applying it is complicated and can be confusing for a novice. If you prioritize the finish of your wood over the ease of application, you may still choose to go with it. Just remember to be prepared to put in a little extra effort.

ehowOpens in a new tab.

Finally, you will need to properly buff and dry your ironwood carving before handling it once it has been finished. Once again, consult the manufacturer’s instructions on drying time for your specific finishing substance.

How Often Should You Clean Ironwood Carvings?

You should clean ironwood carvings every three to six months to keep them in pristine condition. You should also keep your wood carvings away from sunlight, water, dust, and pests in between cleanings. This way, you can avoid having to clean too frequently and prolong the life of the art piece.

Ironwood is pretty tough and generally does not damage easily. However, like most woods, it can be adversely affected by contact with water or significant shifts in atmospheric humidity. It is also not immune to termite attacks and can become discolored by prolonged exposure to direct sunlight.

Ideally, you should store your ironwood carvings in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, water, dust, and pests to keep them looking beautiful over the long run. However, despite all the care you take, your carvings may still pick up dust and stains over time. 

Inspect your ironwood carvings every three months to see if they need cleaning. Avoid cleaning too often or unless absolutely required. Too frequent or aggressive cleaning can damage delicate handwork and ruin the wood’s natural finish.

Final Words

You should clean your ironwood carvings every three to six months using a lint-free dusting cloth and finish them with wax or oil, closely following the manufacturer’s instructions. 

Clean your ironwood carvings using a lint-free dusting cloth and finish them with a wax or wood oil of your choice. Give them sufficient time to dry completely before and after applying your finish. Take care to clean and polish the surface gently so that you do not damage the carving, and pick a finish that best retains its original color. 


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Ines is a self-taught artist based in the UK. Originally from Caracas, she has dabbled in the world of arts and crafts in a diversity of ways participating in city intervention projects, sustainable practices’ open exhibitions, and her illustrations being featured in anniversary editions of literary magazines.

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