A little home DIY that didn’t end in tears – removing old wood glue from furniture

I’m shockingly lazy when it comes to repairing things around the apartment.  I look at whatever needs fixing, look over at my computer, back at the job and that’s as far as I usually get. Give me a computer to fix and I’m all over the job, but anything that means I might get my hands dirty or end up with a hammer blow to my thumb and I’ll go out of my way to avoid it.  This weekend I finally tackled a small job that sat for months and I’m insanely pleased with how well it went – mostly because I didn’t end up with a bleeding wound.

We have this nice little coffee table that needed the leg put back on. Our apartment is very dry and anything wood suffers. In this case, the coffee table leg became wobbly to the point it simply fell off sometime last winter.  So the table sat in a corner, forlornly waiting for a little bit of attention. The real problem was the wood glue.  I had previously done a bodge job on the same leg. In a vain attempt to stop it from falling off, I applied a shocking amount of wood glue and hoped it would hold. It did for awhile, but seriously, it was a pretty crap attempt and the leg finally dropped off. Over the past few months, I’d look at the insane layer of wood glue on both ends and would roll my eyes in disbelief.   Every time I thought of trying to pry the glue off, my mind glazed over and the job remained undone.

I’ve been looking at a variety of different solutions – most of which involved some kind of toxic remover, heat guns, sanding, chisels and the potential for severing a finger.  I can’t and won’t use the recommended products because of the overwhelming odor. Nothing says migraine like a toxic chemical stew.  But then I stumbled on a page Friday that suggested using good old fashioned vinegar. Yup, vinegar – plain, generic white vinegar.  The site recommended soaking the bits with all the glue in a pot of vinegar or wrap a vinegar soaked cloth around the part that can’t be dumped into a pot.  So I tried it.


Imagine my surprise when an hour later most of the glue was dissolving. The  thick layer of glue came peeling off.  So today, after letting everything dry overnight, I sanded the leg down a bit and, (never one to learn a lesson) plopped a frightening amount of glue on and with a bit of brute force the leg is back on the table. It isn’t pretty underneath (too much glue again), but looking at it from the sides or top you’d never know it’s Bodge Job 2.0.

So, a cup of vinegar and time. That’s all it took. If I’d known it would be that easy, I’d have repaired the table months ago… well … maybe… but not likely.