Store-bought furniture polish doesn’t come cheap. It’s also not particularly environmentally friendly, and can irritate some people – you may develop respiratory symptoms, a feeling of depression or irritability, or just a general sleepiness or malaise. Those are all actually classic allergy symptoms. More and more people are looking for ways to make their own household polishes and cleaners so they can control the ingredients and the expense. We’ve got some helpful recipes for the cause!
Make your own furniture polish
For finished wood:
This recipe is safe for any finished wood product, included laminate.
- 2 parts vegetable oil
- 1 part lemon juice
Any vegetable oil will do, so pick something cheap. Now, the thing about vegetable oil is that it can go rancid – on your furniture. That’s why this recipe cuts it with lemon juice. But it’s smart to pick an oil that stays good for a long time, such as a cheap olive oil (don’t use virgin olive oil) or walnut oil. The very best choice is actually liquid wax jojoba, because it doesn’t go rancid at all. But a cheap olive oil will do just fine.
Make your polish on the fly to avoid it going rancid in the bottle – just make about what you need for a given polishing session. You can put it in a spray bottle if you like, so you can spray it evenly over your rag. After it’s dry, go over it with a second, dry rag to get any remaining oil off. Don’t spray directly onto furniture – this is good advice even with store-bought polishes. You want to use the least product you can, and applying it to the towel is the way to achieve that.
Finished wood #2
Some people find the above recipe too oily, and advocate using mostly vinegar or lemon oil – either of which will clean the wood and add shine – with just a few drops of vegetable oil to protect the wood and prevent it drying out. I think the difference may have to do with climate, since heat, cold, dryness and humidity could interact with the oil. That’s just my theory, and it may be wrong. But in either case, it’s nice to have a couple of recipes to try, and see which you prefer.
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- A few drops of cheap vegetable oil
You may find it takes very little oil to provide the shine and protection from dryness that the wood needs.
Finished Wood Wax Recipe
Avoid wax polishes on laminate wood surfaces. This recipe can add a lot of extra shine and protection to your wood.
- 2 ounces grated beeswax
- 5 ounces turpentine
Mix thoroughly. The turpentine does the cleaning and shining (and melts the beeswax), and the beeswax adds a nice light layer of protection. Wax can build up, so you may not want to use this recipe often – but once in a while, furniture can benefit from that layer of protection. You may find using this recipe once a year and one of the others the rest of the time is the right balance. This recipe is also good for outdoor wood furniture, which can definitely benefit from some waxy protection. Let this one sit overnight, then buff it the next morning.
Finished Wood Wax Polish #2
This polish contains a little beeswax, but also some oils. Some people feel this recipe is the best of both worlds – oil and wax. Others prefer one of the “lighter” recipes above.
- 1 part walnut oil
- 1 part melted beeswax
- 1 part linseed oil
- 1-2 drops citrus oil
Mix everything together thoroughly and use like the other recipes.
For unfinished wood:
Unfinished wood has slightly different needs than finished wood. It needs more protection than vegetable oil provides.
- 1 cup mineral oil
- Optional: 1 teaspoon lemon oil or any other fragrance
The lemon oil is actually just for fragrance – straight mineral oil will do a nice job of polishing unfinished wood all by itself. As with the last recipe, just put it in a sprayer so you can apply it evenly.
Wood polishing tips
- Got dull buildup from old polishes? If your furniture has lost all shine from deposits of old polish, you can get it off with this method: brew some weak black tea (a couple of tea bags to a small saucepan of water), dip a rag in it and wring it out thoroughly until it’s just barely damp, and use that to clean the wood. The tea tannins seem to gently melt away the buildup, revealing shine.
- With the grain, or against? You may have noticed some polishes advise you to rub with the grain, others advise against. The truth is, no one’s conducted studies to see what works best – not even experts agree. Most people polish wood using a circular motion, which is definitely against the grain, and are happy with the results. In some cases, polishing with the grain would be pretty difficult, so give yourself a break.