In these times of economic doom and gloom, it pays to get creative by recycling and updating your furniture rather than splashing out on new items. Prolonging the life of things you already have is better for the environment too. There are several ways to give kitchen bar stools a fresh new look on a budget using eco-friendly products. The ideas outlined here will hopefully offer you inspiration and confidence to go ahead and add your personal touch to your décor.

If you’re happy with the current color of your bar stool frames, you could simply give them a good clean and concentrate your creative efforts on making unique new covers for the seats. Baking soda is a really versatile (and inexpensive) green cleaning product that’s great for removing alcohol stains from wood bar stools. Make a paste from baking soda and linseed oil and rub it gently into the stain to shift it. Follow this by wiping the area with linseed oil on its own. In a similar way, white watermarks can be rubbed out with a mixture of equal parts baking soda and toothpaste.

There are a couple of tricks you can use to bring a shine to neglected bar stools. Stainless steel or chrome frames can be rejuvenated by polishing them with dry baking soda sprinkled onto a damp cloth. Finish by wiping them with a clean damp cloth and then buffing them dry to a shine. Wooden bar stools will benefit from being polished with olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Rub this on, leave it for a few minutes and then polish with a dry cloth.

Making your own seat covers is an easy and satisfying way of replacing faded, stained or outdated upholstery and is a great way to make use of those scraps of material you may have hoarded over the years. Thrift stores are good places to find unique and inexpensive fabrics too. Remove the old upholstery by using a screwdriver to pull out the staples. If the cushioning inside is flat and worn, you can replace this by cutting some new padding to size (available in most craft stores). Drape your choice of fabric over the top of the padding and hold it in place under the seat with a rubber band. Carefully fix the fabric around the edge of the underneath of the seat using a staple gun, making sure there are no creases. Remove the band and tidy up the finish by cutting off the excess fabric.

For a total makeover, it’s possible to refinish wooden stools using eco-products. First you’ll need to strip the old finish. As most chemical strippers release toxic fumes into the air, the greener option is to sand the old finish off. However, do not sand if the paint contains lead (hardware stores sell inexpensive lead testing kits). There are some eco-friendly strippers, but they aren’t widely available. If you can’t find one in your local hardware store, you could save money and make your own by spreading a paste made from washing soda and water over the wood to loosen the finish. Leave it for several hours before scraping off the finish.

Whichever method you use, ensure the surfaces are clean before applying the new finish by wiping them with a solution of 2 parts white vinegar to 1 part water. You’re now ready to apply the finish. Eco-paints and wood stains don’t release VOCs into the air like conventional products do, so they are better for indoor air quality and a safer alternative. These water-based eco-products are made from natural minerals and plant oils. You can choose from a range of colors, depending on what would work best with your décor. Alternatively, you could highlight the original tone of the wood by finishing it with beeswax or linseed oil.

These ideas show that with a little time and effort it’s easy to rejuvenate tired-looking kitchen furniture, saving money and helping the environment at the same time.