Cleaning sticky wooden stair rails

Q: How do I clean sticky wooden stair rails?

A: It depends what type of finish is on the rails and what is making them sticky. If it is shellac, you want to stay away from anything containing alcohol, which would dissolve the shellac. If it is a urethane or varnish, then a polyurethane cleaner would do a good job. Otherwise you might try a weak mix of tsp or mineral spirits. Even vinegar and water is worth a try. I would start with the least drastic and work my way up.

Related Q: I recently purchased a home with wooden railings. They have a sticky feeling when you hold on to them and I don’t know how to remove the stickiness. The house is air conditioned so humidity doesn’t seem to be the problem. Any suggestions on what product I can use to make them shiny and smooth?

A: Someone has likely applied a furniture polish or oil type finish over varnish. Any approved cleaner for polyurethane should fix this up. Bona Pacific cleaner, or cleaners from MinWax, Basic Coatings, Mirage and Poloplaz to name a few. They are good for all your top coated wood items.