About Furniture Polish | How To Choose Furniture Polish

Did You Mean Furniture Polish or Furniture Polish?
Furniture Polish includes a broad rage of products, from paste wax, liquid wax, lemon oil, spray polish, cream polish, this polish, that polish, etc., etc., etc. The list is never ending and can be very confusing. It seems like anything you put on your furniture falls into the furniture polish category. Not to complicate things further but there is another group of products that also belong in this category. They are the furniture revivers, burnishing creams, polishing creams, polishing liquids, waxes that wax...and polish?! How can this be? How can they be so different...and the same? Now I'm confused! I just wanted a furniture polish!

Furniture Polish
Technically, each of the products that I have mentioned are a furniture polish. That is, they will all make the furniture's surface smooth (or appear smooth) and glossy. However, most people, when they think of furniture polish, are thinking of the "furniture polish" that they can hold in their hand and spray on the furniture. Yes, of course, a furniture polish! Don't you wish it was that simple? It isn't. It is. I'll explain: Keep in mind that to "polish" something means to make the surface smooth and glossy. An example would be the results produced after polishing your silver or jewelry. This type of polish requires some kind of mechanical participation in order to be successful. It can be applied and buffed by hand or machine but the physical act must be carried out in order to achieve success. Furniture revivers and burnishing creams fit into this category and have at least one of two key ingredients in common. They will have some type of burnishing agent, like pumice powder for instance or a chemical like mineral spirits. Some will have both and some will use a water base rather than a chemical base. Whatever the formula, the coarseness of the burnishing agent and/or how aggressive the chemical is, will determine how quickly a smooth, glossy surface will appear. There are many considerations when choosing one of these products...far too many to mention here. In the context of this discussion, it is important to note the difference between these polishes and the more familiar group of "furniture polishes" that I will describe in a moment. The aforementioned polishes however, will actually affect the finished surface. They [restore] reflective clarity by removing surface scratches, scuff marks and white ring marks that obscure the view of the wood below.

Furniture Polish Too
The other and more familiar furniture polish; spray polish, oil polish, cream polish, paste wax, liquid wax, etc., all [restore] reflective clarity to some degree. However, they do this by obscuring the scratches, rather than removing them, giving the [impression] of a smooth, glossy surface. A furniture polish that contains wax and a furniture polish that contains oil i.e. mineral (aka lemon oil), both "fill" the scratches, "leveling the surface", so that the light reflected back is less diffused. This effect tricks the eye into thinking that the surface is smooth and shinny, when actually nothing has changed except the esthetic value. That is unless you use a furniture polish that contains wax, in which case you have also added a degree of surface protection. Mineral oil based furniture polish offers NO surface protection whatsoever and once the oil has evaporated, so goes the effect. Furniture polish containing wax does not do this because a thin coat of wax is left behind, which does not evaporate. The wax creates a barrier coat, protecting the surface, allowing whatever is set on the wax to move across it, rather than the finish. This added protection helps guard against white ring marks and scuff marks that over time will obscure the finish and the view of the wood. 

All Furniture Polish is Not Created Equal
Furniture polish in spray form is the most popular of the polishes because of their convenience and ease of use. But, be aware that all furniture polishes are not created equal, nor do they accomplish the same tasks. You should have a clear objective before choosing one. I know, that sounds like way too much consideration to give to a furniture polish but choosing the correct furniture polish can be very beneficial. Most people today use a furniture polish as an accessory for dusting furniture, which isn't necessary if all that you want to achieve is the removal of dust. In which case all you need is a soft cloth, synthetic and/or natural. A soft cotton cloth is an excellent choice but microfiber is arguably the best material available today for dusting. But, If you have an interest in protecting and preserving your furniture, however, you should consider a furniture polish with a wax base formula. If you are using a spray polish as your primary care and maintenance polish, then all you need to do is choose a quality product and follow the manufacturers directions for use. Moreover, if you are using a paste wax or liquid wax for primary care and a spray polish for maintenance, be aware that the spray polish could potentially harm the the waxed surface or remove it entirely. The reason is that most furniture polishes are a solvent base, i.e. mineral spirits and turpentine, which both remove wax. They are good vehicles for getting the wax to the surface (if you are okay with solvent) but once the solvent has evaporated and all that is left is the wax, any solvent that comes into contact with it will remove it. In other words it is counterproductive to spray a solvent base furniture polish over a paste wax or liquid wax surface. Is there a way to maintain a paste wax and liquid wax finish with a spray polish, without harming it? Yes, there are two ways. The first is a professional trick and still requires that you are careful. Rather than spraying the furniture polish directly on the surface, spray it on the polishing cloth. A soft cotton cloth is perfect! When you do this two things happen. Some of the solvent will absorb into the cloth and the rest will evaporate, leaving only the wax and a little solvent vapor. If you are careful, you will be touching the surface with only the wax that is left on the polishing cloth. If this approach causes too much trepidation, I know of one another professional trick that is much easier. In fact, you could do it with your eyes closed! Try using The Furniture Butler Patina Protector or similar product. Patina Protector contains NO solvent and is non-hazardous and safe for ALL finishes. In fact, it will actually increase the performance and protection of all waxed surfaces. Just spray it on the surface or a cloth and wipe. Voila, a safe, easy and worry-free furniture polish. You see, it is that simple. 

Robin Richardson
Furniture Maker/ Restorer
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