Cleaning the Wishbone Chair Paper Cord Seat

We get loads of people asking about how to clean the paper cord seat of a Wishbone Chair. Hans J. Wegner chose to use paper cord because it is incredibly durable and has a wonderful natural look and feel.

But Wegner must not have planned on spilling any red wine or salad dressing … because unfortunately, they can easily stain the beautiful material. And even though Carl Hansen & Son treats the paper cord with a light wax to make it more resistant to discoloration and grease, stains can occur.

We wish there was a magic sauce or infomercial-ready soap to clean your Wishbone Chair, but we’re sad to say, there isn’t.

Carl Hansen & Son says to never use harsh soaps or cleaning liquids on the paper cord seat as they can damage the material. They contend that your best option is to act quickly: immediately after spilling, use a damp cloth to wipe off the stain as best you can.

Baltimore-based Modern Chair Restoration goes further:

I recommend trying plain soap flakes in water. This is how the Danes take care of their paper cord seats … You can use [Soap Flake] brand or you can make your own by grating Ivory bar soap and dissolving it in water (2 tbsp per quart). It may take several treatments to lift heavier dirt. It’s also a good way to protect the paper cord from dirt and stains that may occur later.

Thanks to MCR for that great tip.

All this said, paper cord is notoriously stubborn when it comes to wine and oil. And for stains that are truly set-in, we’re afraid you might be SOL.

Maybe you can call it the Wishbone patina?

How to Clean Wishbone Paper Cord with Soap Flakes**


  • 2 tbsp (28g) soap flakes – Carl Hansen & Son brand recommended, but Soap Flake or grated Ivory / mild white bar soap OK
  • 1 quart (940ml) boiled water


  • Pour boiling water over soap flakes, using a whisk to make sure all flakes are completely dissolved
  • Allow mixture to cool slightly
  • While water is warm, use a soft cloth to gently wipe the paper cord as best you can, making sure you do not get the seat too wet
  • Wipe the entire surface of the seat, but again, do not drench the material with soap mixture – less is more
  • Allow to dry and then repeat, if necessary
  • You can store the soap mixture in an airtight container for up to a month

From Carl Hansen & Son

Have you had any luck cleaning your paper cord seat? Let us know below! We’d love to share your tips and suggestions.


** Requisite legalese: Follow at your own risk – We cannot be held liable for any damage to your Wishbone Chair (but let us know how it goes!)

2 thoughts on “Cleaning the Wishbone Chair Paper Cord Seat”

  1. I accidentally dropped half of a Trader Joe’s Steak and Stout Pie on our new chair seat. This worked better than I dared hope: I immediately gently lifted/wiped off the excess food with a terry towel. Then blotted with a damp towel. Then I dipped a soft children’s toothbrush into cool water and brushed gently with the grain of the seat, blotting with a clean towel as I went. I let it dry for a couple of hours, then dabbed plain cornstarch onto the remaining oily portions. (I tried it in a small corner first.) I let the cornstarch sit for about ten minutes, then both brushed and vacuumed it off. Cornstarch is good at absorbing oil. You have to look hard to see the discoloration now.

  2. Hi! Does anyone have a recommendation for cleaning the soaped oak wishbone chairs, the actual wood? i.e., places where hands might touch and leave food stains, i.e., little kids’ greasy pizza fingers! Damn! Also, just the regular-use stains of typical diners sitting in a dining chair. Any suggestions out there? Many thanks! -Heather

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