Best wax/polish for wood furniture?

auntjenSeptember 11, 2008

What do you all think is the best product to use on wood furniture? My pieces are primarily oak, and I want to be sure I'm cleaning, protecting and preserving them in the best way possible. Would love some product suggestions!

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This is the polish I use on my oak furniture (and everything else too!) LOVE it!!


Here is a link that might be useful: Williamsville Wax -- H.F. Staples

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 3:15PM
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Thanks! I'm guessing silicones are undesirable? I just got an email from VanDyke's Restorers - they've got sale going on on their wax products, but I see that silicone is one of the top ingredients in the particular stuff they've advertised.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 3:18PM
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I use Guardsmen and Milsek.

Here is a link that might be useful: Milsek

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 4:06PM
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Someone who used to head up Hitchcock furniture's finishing dept told me to use Guardsmen (assuming it's a modern lacquer finish). But I've only ever used a well-wrung damp cloth to dust, followed by a dry flannel to get the streaks off. I don't know about antique finishes. But stay away from silicones!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 4:47PM
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I've have always used a polish from Ethan Allen for all my wood pieces. It does not leave build-up.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 5:09PM
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I use a barely damp cloth... as per the manufacturer's suggestion.

A few pieces get lemon oiled.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 5:59PM
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We have mostly old oak furniture and the only thing we use to "dust" is a very very slightly damp rag. Then, like ajsmama, a soft cloth to dry. We don't use products at all.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 8:52PM
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We have alot of oak too Aunt Jen, mostly antique pieces. They do not have the laquered coating. I use Howard Feed & Wax which is a wood preservative. No silicone in it or linseed oil (which must not be good either). It contains beeswax and orange oil, smells yummy and makes the wood look great. From what I've been told, unlaquered wood needs to be *moisturized*. It does not build up. Just reading the bottle and it does say especially for oak. It was recommended to me by an antique shop owner and it's sold in many antique shops, so easy to find.


    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 9:13PM
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Thanks very much for the recommendations! To be honest I'm not sure how my pieces (Stickley oak, a couple of accent pieces are cherry) are finished as far as lacquering goes, but it is obvious to me that they require "feeding" from time to time. I've used oils on them in the past, but think I will switch to a natural wax polish instead.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 10:35AM
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Auntjen, Here's what Stickley says....

Here is a link that might be useful: Stickley care link

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 11:41AM
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Thank you Patser! Looks like waxing is recommended, although they don't specify a product. I think I'll email them at the link on that page.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 11:48AM
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Let them know that you've used oils in the past...

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 12:59PM
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Wood care is fairly straightforward, but unfortunately the industry has created a lot of confusion and myths around it.

The type of care needed depends on the basic finish. There are really only a few different classes of finish. The most basic would be straight oil, typically linseed or tung. Oil finishes need more oil periodically for protection, and you can also use wax periodically as well. Now it's important to note that many products that claim to be tung oil are not actually pure tung oil. They may be a mixture of tung oil and varnish, or actually straight varnish. Formby's tung oil is an example of a product that is actually a varnish with no tung oil content.

Antique furniture, and some modern high-end custom furniture, is typically finished with shellac. It's a fragile finish. Shellac should be maintained with wax and more shellac when the finish starts getting thin. Shellac's reagent is denatured alcohol, so I don't believe it mixes with oil.

Varnish, lacquer, and polyurethane are all pretty much the same thing (except that lacquer is more fragile than varnish/poly). They form a seamless clear coating on the wood. Furniture finished with these do not need oil - you are not treating or cleaning the wood, you are cleaning the finish. Wax is not needed, but gives the wood a nice satin sheen and smooth feel.

Note that varnish and poly can be mixed with linseed and tung oil to form a hybrid finish. This won't typically be found on production furniture, though. The effect of the final finish is like straight varnish/poly in that you have a seamless coating of finish on the surface, which does not need additional oil once cured.

The furniture I make is typically finished with a varnish or poly mixed with tung oil for the first couple coats, then straight varnish or poly for the next few coats. After that, they only get cleaned with standard household products - water, dish soap, windex, etc. The only "wood care" product in my house is the one I use on the hardwood floors.

Hope that helps. Or maybe I've confused you more :-)

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 3:44PM
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Extremely helpful! Thank you so much!

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 3:53PM
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I think chiefneil has the best info, but we've always had antique oak furniture and tons of woodwork and I was told not to use polish, just plain old lemon oil on a dry cloth.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 4:01PM
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"Old English" lemon oil or red oil for darker woods..

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 4:24PM
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I have been using Old English red oil for years on my raw wood furniture and redwood bathroom, are there any negatives to oiling unfinished wood? What, exactly, are petroleum distillates?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 4:28PM
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Thanks, chiefneil. I can confirm that denatured alcohol does not mix with oil. Shellac is a very "friendly" finish because when the coating is getting thin, and then you apply more shellac, the new coat seals itself to the old. The coats sort of melt together.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 4:38PM
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Lemon oil is a popular product which many people seem to like. But there are just as many people who say not to use it. I personally have no information or experience with it, but if I wanted to maintain "bare" wood with only an oil finish, I'd use either tung or linseed oil. Tung and linseed oils are well-accepted and non-controversial for wood finishing. However... that said, if you've been using lemon oil and are happy, then thre's no reason to stop on my account.

For anyone interested in learning more about wood finishing, I would highly recommend a book by Bob Flexner called "Understanding Wood Finishing".

Here's a quote from an article I found online that mentions lemon oil:

for FURNITURE ?Original article from: Wood Magazine JUNE 1989

From a refinishing pro, a preservation expert, and Furniture manufacturers, the answer seems to be "yes."

"Wax is the wear and tear, abrasion layer of fine wood furniture," says Ron Ashby,
a professional woodworker, refinisher, lecturer, and owner of Wood Finish Supply in Mendocino, California. "superficial scratches, dings, and dents should happen to the wax layer-not the finish you slaved over."

Despite the multitude of furniture care products that promise to "feed" or "polish" your fine furniture, Ashby believes high-quality furniture wax is the best choice. "All the other care products available attract dust with the residue they leave behind," he says. At Virginia's Colonial Williamsburg, Wallace Gusler, director of conservation, oversees the preservation of authentic colonial furniture. "Our primary concern with pieces that have an intact, original finish is conservation," he says. "For that, we use wax. And, Gusler believes, all wood furniture, not just historic pieces, deserves wax protection. "Everyone collects furniture to some extent, he notes, "But their collection happens to be their household furniture."

What about lemon oil, another popular wood-care product? Gusler says, "The value of oil to wood is folklore. Of course, oil gives a wood finish a superficial shine, but it isn't beneficial. In fact," he elaborates, "Commercial lemon oil has nothing to do with lemons. It's essentially kerosene, and can be harmful to a finish."

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 7:11PM
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I can no longer remember why I started using Old English to begin with but could it have been odor? Is there a scent to tung or linseed and do they easily wash off. Can I now switch to tung or linseed? What exactly is teak oil? Old English only says it is petroleum distillates, and that seem to be a catagory for a long list of products. Where does mineral oil fit in this? And butcher block oil that will not rancid, so other oils will. Obviously butter and such spoil, but, this is getting more confusing the more I think about it. Aren't manufacture of product required to lable exactly what oil they are selling, not the catagory? Lemon oil from lemons, vegtable from stated veg, olive, almond, avacado, etc. ?

    Bookmark   September 12, 2008 at 7:27PM
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I've finished oak furniture and pine trim/doors. I like the tung oil on oak (sometimes stain first). As ChiefNeil says, it's very easy to clean with soap and water, can always use #0000 steel wool and more tung oil to restore finish. I've also used poly (my latest rave is minwax Wipe-on Poly in Satin - looks like oil but tougher, no brush marks!). Haven't had to clean that yet, but mild dish soap and water should work. I was assuming OP was asking about modern production furniture either lacquer or poly, again only damp dust, maybe try some mild soapy water (only damp!) for spots.

I do find it interesting about using wax on shellac. I don't own any shellaced pieces. But I have my great-great-grandfather's oak Victrola that has some water damage (slight, grain not raised much) on the top. I cleaned it with the soapy water, but haven't done anything to restore the finish. What would you recommend? It really has no shine to it, not sure what original finish would have been. I have a boiled linseed oil/beeswax mixture I tried on some of my trim and stairs, it doesn't hold up well to traffic, collects dust, but might it work better on the Victrola? I have an unopened gallon of it (Tried and True Wood Finish) from last summer.


    Bookmark   September 15, 2008 at 7:48PM
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I was told by an antiques expert NEVER to use ANY kind of product on wood furniture. A damp cloth will remove the dust, and for a good piece of furniture, that's all you need.

Any kind of product -- wax, oil or polish -- will build up and eventually will need to be removed, potentially damaging the wood. Additionally, wax, oil and polish will attracts and hold dust.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2008 at 11:21PM
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Hey everybody, for all types of wood furniture, I highly recommend F.A. Seeds' Wood Dressing. It's been around forever and the line is finally being resurrected out of Atlanta, Georgia. Please check them out. They're a small business, made in America, and they simply have the best products out there. Their wood dressing has been around since the late 1800s!

Here is a link that might be useful: F.A. Seeds' Company

    Bookmark   February 9, 2011 at 8:02PM
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My understanding: The most important factors are:

Interior or Exterior wood furniture
Type of wood
bare or treated
type of under treatment
type of final protective finishes
Number of layers of various preparation and protective coatings

When these are known along with the current condition, then the restoration, refinishing or protection products and application can be discussed.

The biggest concern that accompanies what to use is that in many cases the formula of the ingredients are absent from the labels. I try to find the MSDS, material safety data sheets, for the formulas. I find it interesting and aggravating that the labeling laws are not useful as some products are not as indicated.

I am looking for the preferred treatment for interior, Danish style Teak table with an intact but dry-feeling coating on it.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2011 at 7:16PM
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I purchased someone's dining room table and chairs, which is very beautiful, at least to me. However, there appeared to be finger marks on the top of the table and palm prints which I couldn't get off by regular cleaning. So, I went online and looked for info re cleaning this. I used Murphy's oil soap to clean it and it did the job. However, the beautiful sheen is gone. It's clean, it looks good, but I really liked the sheen it had. What can you advise to put that sheen back on to the table top.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 6:10PM
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Recently discovered Formby's Lemon Oil Treatment and it really brought our furniture back to life. It doesn't get rubbed in at all - just wipe it on and leave and it absorbs into the wood like nothing I've ever used before.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2013 at 7:48PM
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