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A large rubber ball for exercise rested against our cherry cabinet for some months. When removed we found an eight inch circle where the furniture finish had become sticky. We hoped it would return to normal, but after months it remains just a sticky or tacky, leaving fingerprints when touched. What will bring back its smooth, solid finish? We don't want to refinish the whole side of this large cabinet.

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Those rubberish balls eat away the finish. If you read the packaging you will find lots of rubberish items (exercise balls in my case) specifically say not to put on wood surface. One of my small workout balls ate through the finish to the bare wood of my desk. If you're lucky a solvent will remove the tackiness without eating into the stain too much. – Ian Jun 23 at 6:36

It depends on whether the stickiness was caused by the ball leaving a residue on the finish or the ingredients in the ball (probably solvents) ate into the finish.

If the former, you may be able to remove a residue using a wood cleaner like Murphy's Oil Soap (just one example). These cleaners are generally safe for wood finishes. If this fails, you could try stronger cleaners like Goo Gone. This type of cleaner is more likely to adversely affect finish, so try it in an inconspicuous place. However, if the milder soap doesn't clean it, you probably are risking the finish anyway.

If that doesn't work, you can try solvents, beginning with mineral spirits, but you are highly at risk of damaging finish. After wiping with the solvent, carefully wash off, again using wood soap or a mild detergent.

You can also try alcohol and lacquer thinner, either of which is highly likely to eat away the finish, but by then you are past preservation.

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Note that despite the marketing, there's nothing very special about Murphy's Oil Soap. It's just a mild liquid soap. – keshlam Mar 23 at 21:16
    
In fact, see Bob Flexner's advice on the topic of Murphy's. In brief, Flexner, considered by many a guru of wood finishing, considers the popularity of Murphy's for furniture a triumph of misleading marketing over common sense. .popularwoodworking.com/woodworking-blogs/editors-blog/… – keshlam Mar 24 at 6:11

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