You know what I'm talking about, right? That dark grey sludge that builds up on hand rails over the years? I inherited a case of sludgy hand-rails when I bought my first house and I'd like to clean them.

I've tried using lemon oil-based polish and lots of scrubbing. It helps to an extent, but only on lightly trafficked parts of the rails.

Can anyone recommend a cleaner that will help dissolve this junk but not harm (and preferably protect) the varnished wood?


2 Answers 2


I'd try Murphy's Oil Soap. It's generally excellent for this kind of thing.


I would suggest turpentine and 0000 steel wool, alternating with paper towel first. If not clean enough, Proceed to the ammonia treatment described by 0A0D. The oil step also sounded good.

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