The Full Guide to Scratch Repair for Furniture
Workplace Inspiration

The Full Guide to Scratch Repair for Furniture

|Jun 28, 2024

Finding scratches on your home or office furniture is frustrating, but it can be difficult to avoid completely if the item is in regular use. Knowing how to fix a furniture scratch can help keep your office desk, cabinets, side tables, and much more looking their best.

This complete guide to scratch repair for furniture provides handy go-to solutions for different types of damage- as well as other useful tips, tricks, and considerations to help people feel confident when fixing up their furniture. Let’s get started!

Understanding the Different Types of Scratches

Before we look at repair techniques, it is a good idea to discuss the various types of furniture scratches you may come across. Knowing the differences is the first step towards choosing the best fix-up option.

Surface Scratches

The most common type of scratches is light surface scratches- which are, fortunately, also the easiest to repair quickly. These mainly only affect the top layer of material- and may not even penetrate the outer coating (if you are lucky!).

Some of the things that cause these marks include wristwear, sharp edges on cups or work equipment and general wear from regular use.

You can usually tell if something is a surface scratch because it is very shallow and may not be all that noticeable at first.

Surface Scratches - scratch repair for furniture

Deep Scratches

Deeper scratches go beyond the outer layer and cut into the material itself. They are more noticeable and also require a bit of extra work to repair. Depending on the material, a deep scratch could create an uneven surface and damage the integrity of the piece of furniture- exposing raw wood and looking visibly indented.

It takes a bit more force to cause a deep scratch than a surface scratch. Something digging in and dragging (such as pet claws, computer monitor edges, and contact with sharp objects).


Gouges are one step further than just a deep scratch. This sort of damage takes a chunk out of the piece of furniture rather than creating an indented line. These generally only appear after a collision with a good bit of force behind it. Dropping a sharp or heavy object is the most common cause.

Pet Scratches

Pet scratches can be light or deep, depending on the size of the claws and how hard they dig them in. You can usually repair furniture cat scratches using the same techniques you would use for a deep scratch (maybe even surface scratches if you catch them early enough), but scratches for larger dogs may need a bit more attention.

Pet Scratches

DIY Guide to Repairing Scratches in Furniture

If you notice a scratch on your furniture- don’t panic! There are various solutions that are pretty easy to achieve yourself- with just a small investment in a few good products. Exactly what things you will need depends on the type of scratch and the exact material, but many repair products work on multiple surfaces.

Fixing Light Surface Scratches

For very light, minor scratches, you might not have to do any refinishing or actual repair work. Instead, you can polish the area using a special liquid (make sure you color match it well!). Simply put some onto a clean, soft rag and buff the area until it looks smooth.

Another possible solution for light surface scratches is to go over them with a wood marker. They are essentially just big pens filled with wood varnish that can mask the appearance of minor scratches very effectively.

A top tip for using wood markers on larger (but still light) scratches is to pick a slightly darker shade. It works particularly well if you have a lot of light scratching, as it gives the appearance of a very subtle wood grain.

Fixing Light Surface Scratches

Fixing Deeper Scratches and Gouges

While these finishing options work well on surface scratches, they are not sufficient enough to hide anything deeper. If you have a deep scratch, gouge, or hole in your piece of furniture, you will need to fill it before adding color.

To do that, you should use a latex-based filler. You may also need a sander, or a 60-grit sanding pad, and a putty knife.

The first thing to do is sand around the edges of the damaged area to remove any raised sections. You are not trying to sand the rest of the surface down to the same level- all you want to do is remove any raised edges that are left as a result of the damage.

Next, wipe, clean, and dry the area- making sure there are no dusty particles lingering. Then, scoop out some wood filler and press it into the damaged spot. You want to use enough to have it compact and well-filled- with a slightly raised surface since the filler will shrink a little once it dries. Even if you use a brand that doesn't shrink much, it is still a good idea to leave some excess, rather than not putting in enough.

Leave plenty of time for the filler to dry. Overnight is best. If you are dealing with a large gouge, you may need to add some more filler once the first lot dries, then wait for the new layer to dry fully as well. Once everything is completely dry, you can sand it down to leave a smooth, even surface. Check regularly as you sand to avoid taking too much off.

Finally, you can refinish the surface. Depending on how big the repaired section is, you can either stain or sand it. Smaller zones are easier to create a convincing faux stain that blends in well with the rest of the surface, but paint may be required for bigger fixes.

Fixing Deeper Scratches and Gouges

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Here are a few common mistakes people make during DIY scratch repairs and generally when using your furniture. It is easier to avoid certain errors if you know about them beforehand.

Over Sanding

It can be tempting to sand and sand away to buff out scratches, but go too far, and you could ruin your furniture. You only want to sand as much as you absolutely have to in order to avoid rubbing away more of the material than necessary.

Start over the scratch itself and sand until the edges start to look more even. Next, work your way out slightly to create as even a surface as you can, but keep it light and smooth things out with your finishing products.

Over Sanding

Color Mismatch

A common mistake people make when repairing a scratch is picking the wrong color to finish things off. If you don't match the colors correctly, the repair will be obvious and may look worse than the scratch did!

Pay attention to color, and take the time to find the best product with the closest match.

Color Mismatch

Improper Cleaning

Using incorrect cleaning products can reduce the strength of a surface material. You could even scratch the surface during cleaning if you use the wrong tools. Stick to gentle cleaning solutions and soft cloths- and pay attention to any advice given by the manufacturer.

Failing to clean at all is also something to avoid. Debris can get rubbed into the surface and cause light scratching.

Another thing to avoid is failing to properly clean your furniture after repairing a scratch. Make sure all excess product is removed to give you the best finish.

Not Protecting Furniture Surfaces

Prevention is always better than cure, and many scratches could be avoided by taking small steps to protect your furniture. For workspaces, using a desk mat beneath your monitor and keyboard can make a huge difference.

If you have a piece of furniture that you know is susceptible to damage, avoid placing heavy or sharp objects directly on the surface. Use decorative trays or coverings where appropriate- or consider applying a coating or glass top to limit contact and reinforce the material.

Not Protecting Furniture Surfaces

Using the Wrong Products

One of the biggest mistakes people make when repairing scratches on furniture is picking the wrong product for the material. While some things work across various styles, some are designed for very specific uses.

Always check the exact material your furniture is made of and check the specifications of any products you are considering using. Don't use something that isn't meant for that style or material, as it could just make things worse.

Ignoring Early Signs of Damage

The sooner you act, the less work it should take to fix a scratch. Of course, some damage can appear suddenly, but leaving things too long can lead to further problems.

It is also important to look for signs of other damage, including dangerous black mold on wood and issues caused by different types of wood mites.

Ignoring Early Signs of Damage

Things to Consider Before Attempting to Repair Scratches in Furniture

  •  Is the damage limited to just a scratch, or is there something else that needs attention?
  • Could you combine the repair with a bit of upcycling? There are some great home office storage ideas you can incorporate with a corner standing desk and other types of furniture at the same time as repair work, for example.
  • Make sure you have everything you need before you begin.
  • Test any colored products on a hidden part of the desk before you go all in.
  • Check the damage isn’t so deep into the wood that it may impact the structural integrity and overall stability. If it is, it may be worth looking at other options.

Things to Consider Before Attempting to Repair Scratches in Furniture


If you are concerned about scratches on your home office desk, workplace furniture, or any other items, then consider the repair techniques in this guide. With the right products and processes, you can restore smooth, clean finishes without spending a fortune.

Choosing pieces made from good-quality, scratch-resistant wood or alternative materials helps reduce the likelihood of needing to do repairs in the first place- but it is good to know what to look out for and how to solve the problems if they arise.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common causes of scratches in wooden furniture?

Some of the most common reasons furniture gets scratched include:

  • Edges of a hard office chair hitting against a desk
  • A small standing desk getting scratched because the chair is not low enough to fit comfortably underneath
  • Pets scratching the legs
  • Bracelets and watches scraping against the surface
  • Cups or plates being placed directly on the wood with too much force
  • Work equipment scraping on desks
  • Rough materials rubbing against softer wood or varnishing

The highest risks depend on the type of furniture and what it is used for. General wear and tear over time can also lead to scratches and other marks.

What are some common causes of scratches in wooden furniture?

What furniture materials are the most resistant to scratches?

Laminate finishes are amongst the most durable and scratch-resistant- which is what makes them so popular in home and office furniture collections. PU is also a great choice if you want something that can withstand regular usage.

Veneer coverings are less scratch-resistant but are fairly easy to sand and repair, so they are also worth considering if you don't mind putting in a little work from time to time.

If you are comparing particle board vs. MDF, then MDF is the winner, in terms of toughness. It is as much as two times harder than particle board, and much less likely to scratch.

What furniture materials are the most resistant to scratches?

Is it a good idea to try to repair scratches in wood furniture by yourself?

Many scratches can be easily repaired or concealed using simple DIY techniques- as long as you use the right products and materials. If you have a particularly expensive or sentimental piece of furniture- or one that is made from an unusual material- it may be worth considering a professional service to avoid any risk.

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