In the earlier years of my career my clientele was mostly furniture retail stores and I’d be in their customers’ homes servicing just purchased furniture. “What furniture polish should I use?” was asked so often, I finally had to print out my answers on an information sheet and pass them out.
Answer #1: None. Why do you think it’s necessary to polish your furniture? Some folks think they want to shine up the finishes. Others feel they need to protect the finishes from the elements, to which I ask, “Is the environment in your home so harsh it destroys furniture finishes?”
Answer #2: I do not recommend any of the polishes than come in an aerosol can. The propellant in the can liquefies and becomes a greasy substance on your furniture and this is not needed. Usually the active ingredient is these cans are minimal in comparison to what can be purchased as a liquid in a bottle.
Answer #3: Old oak and vintage pieces can best be cared for using a polish which is a combination of beeswax, carnauba wax and oils. Howard’s Feed-N-Wax is an excellent product for your antiques and vintage pieces. This polish can be poured onto the polishing cloth and then wiped on the wood surfaces. If your pieces have many carvings or turnings, pour the polish into a bowl and then paint the polish on with a brush. Let the product dry for a few minutes and then polish and wipe off the excess with a dry cloth. A conscientious application of this product will last for a few years and in the interim need only be refreshed with a moist polishing cloth; perhaps the one that had been used to wipe off the excess polish. Frequently the interiors of these older pieces dry out and need attention too. Remove the drawers and brush on a fifty-fifty mixture of linseed oil and mineral spirits.
Answer #4: Modern furniture is constructed differently and the finishes are not the same as with the vintage pieces. Fiberboard, MDF and particle board is used either with veneers or artificially printed wood grain finishes. Just the use of a white liquid cream polish or an oil type polish is recommended. Some brands have lemon or citrus scents. These polishes are good to enhance the wood tones and to remove surface soil or contamination.
However the frequent over use of polish on these finishes can be detrimental. I’ve seen these waxy polishes applied so frequently that wax builds up so much that I can scrape it off with my fingernail. Eventually, the solvents in these polishes can break down and penetrate the lacquer finishes to the extent that the finishes are no longer adhered to the wood.
Don’t over polish your furniture. Sometimes a damp cloth is all you need for dusting your furniture and to freshen up the polish that’s already applied.