Wood furniture polishes and wood furniture care

wax furniture polish

We carry two main brands of wax polish for furniture. Both are hard wax polishes.

  1. Golden Rooster is domestic brand which seems to be partnered with Kiwi. While this works fine, there is chemical smell to the wax which I personally find undesirable. It relatively inexpensive.
  2. Harrell’s Traditional Wax Furniture Polish contains beeswax and is a bit more expensive but is an imported brand which has been around for over 75 years. It is a well known brand and many professional restorers prefer this wax. Its available in 5 colors (Antique – Khaki – Colorless – Red Mahogany – Georgian Mahogany) though we may not always have all colors in stock.
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Golden Rooster (domestic brand which seems to be partnered with Kiwi).
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Harrell’s Traditional Wax Polish

A bit about wax polishes

Furniture waxes are generally grouped according to their origin with the main three types being:

  1. Animal based: Beeswax is a very common componant of furniture waxes though is typically combined with other waxes to avoid what is know as fingerprinting. (Pure bees wax fingerprints easily due to its low melting temperature). Lac wax and Lanolin are also sometimes used.
  2. Plant based: Carnauba wax is a yellowish hard vegetable wax and together with beeswax is one of the two most important waxes used in woodworking. It is non toxic and harmless to use and is derived from a the leaves of a Brazilian Palm tree. It can be applied onto bare wood or preferably onto wood already protected by a finish. Because it is significantly harder, it provides a higher polish when buffed though also requires additional labor for the same reason.
  3. Mineral based. These occur as byproducts in the process of plant decomposition towards eventually becoming coal. Paraffin waxes are mineral waxs made from paraffin oil and are normally soft clear white waxes used usually in combination with other waxes to produce a soft polish for use on furniture and flooring.

Wax is an ideal finish for country style furniture, where the timber needs feeding and waxes and wax resin mixtures have long been used as adhesives and fill materials.  Beeswax in particular has been know to have been used as a polish as far back as 200 years ago by Egyptian craftsmen. Wax is one of the easiest of the finishes to repair and is achieved by simply re-waxing the affected area.  Wax is also often used over polish, varnish, or oil finishes to create an extra barrier for protection against damage from water, heat, and alcohol. In general waxing performs two main functions.

  1. moisturizes and adds to the patinas of the wood
  2. adds a protective and sweet-smelling finish.

Things to avoid or look out for:

  •  According to experts,  Lemon oil (a commonly recommended treatment) simply gives a wood a superficial shine only, but it isn’t actually beneficial as commercial lemon oil has nothing to do with lemons and is essentially kerosene (which can be harmful to a finishes).
  • If possible avoid aerosol sprays like Pledge which contain chemicals that will overtime cause build up and also damage the wood. Most of these sprays are really designed for contemporary furniture and are not appropriate for antique furniture.
  • Use wax in moderation which means polishing generally should occur twice a year, though for dry pieces it may be worth it to apply an additional second coat after the first coat – preferably after 12 to 24 hours in order to give the wood time to soak in the wax. If applying this rule, wax should never create a buildup problem because the wax you apply will not remain forever – generally over time it scuffed, worn off, and even oxidizes. Heavily useds areas such as table tops or chair legs, can be waxed a bit more frequently as needed.

How to wax your furniture

  1. Dust first and make sure the furniture is free of any grease or oil.
  2. You will need to use either “0000 steel wool” (make sure it is oil free) or a soft cloth to apply the wax with.
  3. Scoup out a small bit of wax on the cloth or steel wool or alterately spread some wax across the surface of the cloth or rag.
  4. Spread evenly across the surface of the wood in either a circular motion, or with the grain of the wood.
  5. Wait 10 to 30 minutes to allow the wax to dry before buffing it with a separate cloth.

Some tips on waxing and polishing antique furniture:

  • Soft cloths like flannel, cotton are best – always remember to make sure the cloth is clean and free of any gritty dust which may cause scratches. The softer the material used to buff, the higher the gloss.
  • Allow the wax to dry before you buff it – otherwise you are just spreading around the wax rather then polishing it.
  • Floor wax tends to be softer then furniture wax which is harder to provide more protection.
  • To bring out the best coloration, select a polish appropriate for the color of wood.
  • One tip for those with the extra time, is to make your own furniture polish from a mixture of beeswax and turpentine. Generally you will need about a pound of beeswax which must be chipped or shaved into small pieces with either a chisel, cheese grater or a utility knife. Add the chipped pieces into a jar (must have a lid) and fill with about half as much of the wax worth of turpentine. Let it site in a sunny spot (to melt the wax) and once soft, mix thoroughly into an even paste. Apply while still warm and liquid. You may need to gently scrape away excess wax the next day using a piece of stiff cardboard before hand-buffing the piece with a clean, soft cloth.
  • The amount of optical saturation of wax increase when applied hot as opposed to being applied cold thus effecting the clarity or cloudiness of the application.
  • For a new peice which has not be waxed before, put down two or three fairly light, successive coats at four- to eight-hour intervals. If the item is exceptionally dry, apply an additional second coat after the first coat after 12 to 24 hours. The extra time allows the wood to soak in the wax.

More on waxing and wood furniture care:

  1. For a closer more in depth look at waxes, check out the book: Conservation of Furniture  By Shayne Rivers, Nick Umney
  2. This article called WAX THE PERFECT PROTECTION for FURNITURE?  also is quite good.
  3. Article on Furniture care from woodworking magazine.

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2 Comment

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Found you through the AsiaExpat site in HK. Great blog you’ve got, full of expertise and ideas.

  2. carole says:

    i have a chinese lacquered coffee table with mother-of-pearl inlaid. its been covered with glass for protection. its now very smeary ,cloudy with a few stains (although i don,t know how they got there) do i need to get in a french polisher or do you please have any tips how i might clean it and what with.
    thankyou, carole

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