My goal is to give the reader some simple basic information that will enable you to add many years of life to your fine furnishings. Spray-on polish and oils, "time savers", give a quick temporary shine in just minutes, but that's all you get.

Antique Furniture Wax Paste Furniture

This "wet look" may produce a nice shine but offers little or no protection. What they did not tell you, was that the silicone oils and petroleum distillates in their product would actually cause harm to your finish over time. First and foremost it is to seal the wood. Sealing the wood protects the wood from moisture changes, spills, stains, and surface abrasion.

Another common misconception is that wood is "alive" and need to "breathe," so don't seal the pores with wax. Wood is not "alive" it can not "breathe" nor does it need to be "nourished" or "fed'' with oily polishes. Table tops and chair arms are an exception, generally needing to be waxed once a year, due to the extra wear they receive. Many people, especially antique lovers, prefer the soft sheen provided by paste wax. The purpose of a finish is to protect the wood from moisture changes that can destroy the piece. An easy way to tell is the thumbnail test.

Simply try scratching the surface finish with your thumbnail where it won't be noticed (a corner or edge will do). Just as you would not paint over old flaking house paint, a touch-up and clear coat will not work over an old soft, or deteriorating finish. Refinishing will be required to give the wood the protection it needs and return it to its original beauty.

You have permission to reprint the article you just read. Use it in your ezine, at your website or in your newsletter. Its original blend of hard-finish waxes produces a rich, satiny luster. It's excellent for helping to revitalize antique furniture and for cleaning and revitalizing wood floors. It identified five main components of various historical finishes: tree resins, insect resins, oils, gums and waxes. Tree resins, such as from pine trees, are often used to make varnish. Insect resins, such as that from the lac beetle, are used to make shellac. Boiled linseed oil and oil from the tung tree are common oil finishes. Gum is another product from trees and is used as a binder. Waxes are primarily beeswax and the much harder carnauba wax. This gives a concentrated concoction of natural oil that is highly acidic. It is a natural, safe degreaser and as such has a useful place in some household and commercial cleaning applications. This fact is especially appropriate in hand cleaners. Within these products, non-toxic degreaser is desirable instead of the traditional petroleum distillate degreasers such as mineral spirits or naphtha. It is also appropriate when there are sensitivity questions or environmental issues about the use and disposal of petroleum products. Lemon oil, in an appropriate concentration, is a cleaner. These oils have no magical properties that lend extended life or beauty to wood or its finishes.

You have only to read the advertisements for some of these products to realize the lack of understanding of furniture finishes on the part of the vendors. So how can it lead to “higher absorption by the wood” if it never reaches the wood?

What it needs is protection from too much or too little atmospheric moisture, accomplished by a surface finish. One online guru states that while the traditional recipe for a good polish calls for 1/4 cup of linseed or vegetable oil and a few drops of vinegar, she prefers the opposite, 1/4 cup of vinegar and a few drops of oil since in warm weather the oil may get rancid!

How to Finish Furniture With Paste Wax

No amount of oil will keep wood from drying out when the relative humidity is below 30 percent. Maybe she should stick to cooking because she sure doesn’t know anything about furniture polish or finishes. There are basically two kinds of oil: drying and non-drying. The non-drying is the least harmful initially since it doesn’t undergo a chemical reaction. The most common non-drying oils are lemon oil, orange oil and mineral oil. These oils have a very slow evaporation rate. They may remain on the surface in a microscopically thin semi liquid state for days – even weeks – after application. As a result, they produce a surface that smears easily. Furthermore, it accumulates every particle of dust, pollen and pollution that passes its way. Drying oils such as tung oil or linseed oil are especially harmful since they actually undergo a chemical change as they dry and attempt to bond chemically with the surface. As they become hard through oxidation, they become difficult to remove and over time the accumulation of layers of dried oil forms a shell over the old finish and eventually turns dark, obscuring the original surface. Think of the finish on your furniture as the finish on your car. Neither should you oil the finish on your furniture. Use a good paste wax and apply a light coat, buffing when dry and then dust gently between semi-annual waxings.

I have four floors to be cleaned and want to ensure the finish doesn’t get damaged.

I tested a small part in basement with nail polish remover and it came off brownish (a bit of black/gray as it is really dirty). Most people know that to achieve a durable finish on your furniture, you should seal the piece with a protective sealer such as polyurethane. But for an extra durable and beautiful appearance, you can take the extra step of waxing your wood furniture. Applying a coat of wax to the furniture will prevent your carefully applied finish coat from sustaining scratches and stains, and can even lend a lustrous sheen to the wood.

Tips The Trade

Learning how to wax furniture requires only a few simple tools and a little time. Wax is not well suited for use as a finish coat itself, but rather as a further protective layer over an existing finish. Make sure your wood furniture has an existing finish coat such as polyurethane, varnish, lacquer, or shellac. Before applying the wax to the wood furniture, rub it down with a clean cloth to remove any dust and debris. If not removed, this dust can mix into the wax and mar the appearance of the finished piece. Apply some wax to a clean microfiber cloth. The type of wax used for finishing wood furniture is called "paste wax" or "finishing wax," and can be purchased at most hardware stores. It is best applied using a clean microfiber cloth, onto which it can be dabbed straight from the container. A thick coat of wax will dry unevenly and create a splotchy or hazy appearance. For this reason, apply only a little wax at a time to the cloth. For better control over the amount of wax you apply, you can place a small chunk of paste wax into a piece of cheesecloth and then wrap the cheesecloth into a ball around the wax.

The slow seeping of the wax through the cheesecloth will prevent you from applying too much. To apply the paste wax, simply rub it into the wood surface with the cloth using smooth, circular motions. Work from one end of the furniture to the other, and aim to apply a thin, even coat.

You do not need to apply the wax in any particular relation to the wood's grain. After application, the paste wax should take about 20 minutes to dry, or a bit longer in chilly or poorly ventilated spaces.

You can test for dryness by touching the wax with your finger in an inconspicuous location; it should no longer have any tacky feeling.

Buff the waxed furniture with a clean cloth. After the wax has dried, it will need to be buffed into the furniture. This process imparts a lustrous, beautiful sheen to the wood. To buff the wax, use a soft, clean cloth to rub the wax in a gentle, circular motion all across the furniture's surface. The softer the cloth you use for buffing, the more luster you can achieve in the finished appearance. Scraps of old tee shirts work well for buffing wax.

You will know when you are finished buffing when the furniture no longer improves in sheen as you buff. On an unbroken sealed surface, pour a little white spirit (mineral spirits). Using a soft, absorbent cloth with some pressure, wipe the area in the direction of the grain.

You may need to repeat this procedure several times. Do not do this on a broken or cracked finish as the white spirit will creep under the surface. A yearly application will be adequate in most cases. Not used as much as it once was, paste wax has been replaced by polyurethane and varnish products.

But if you put it on properly, paste wax provides a thin and hard long-lasting finish on your favored antiques without these modern finishes. Because paste wax dries hard, it is not as easily smeared as other products. Paste wax will not interfere with the stain or sealer finish you add to your prized furnishings, which is why so many antique lovers prefer it. Although it's hard work to rub paste wax onto your furniture, you might find its especially soft sheen worth the effort. Add 1 ounce of soap to a half-gallon of warm water in a bowl or bucket. Use a dish soap-and-water mixture to clean the wood thoroughly first. Wring out a clean cloth in the soap and water mixture to clean the surface of your furniture. Continue cleaning until the cloth shows no more dirt. To remove old wax, use a clean cloth soaked with naphtha and apply it to the furniture. A type of thinner, naphtha is available from marine supply, home improvement and paint stores. Change out the cloths frequently as you continue to work. The old wax is gone when the cloth stays clean. Sand unfinished wood lightly with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any dings or scratches. Leave as is if you're going for a distressed look. Don't sand any furniture that contains a wood stain or sealer. Wipe off dust with a slightly damp clean cloth. Put a small lump of wax the size of a golf ball into the middle of a soft cotton cloth. Twist the cloth tightly around the ball of wax. Warm the ball of wax in your other hand until the wax oozes out of the cloth ball.

SC Johnson® Paste Wax

Work a thin coat of wax onto the surface of the furniture in a circular motion, flattening out the cloth ball as you work. To get into furniture crevices and detailed scroll work, work the wall ball into a point. Don't use too much pressure or too much wax as you work, or it won't dry correctly. When a soft haze appears on your furniture, the solvents in the wax have thoroughly evaporated. Wipe off any excess wax using another clean cloth. Let the wax thoroughly dry at least 30 minutes after wiping away excess wax. Buff in a circular motion across the surface of the wood with a clean and soft cotton cloth. If you don't have enough soft cotton cloths available, use cheesecloth. Wear a face mask to prevent inhalation and gloves to protect your skin. Some paste-wax products also contain petroleum distillates, so use caution when working with them. If your paste wax contains toluene, do not use it on water-based wood finishes, as it could destroy the finish. Use it only on unfinished wood or wood with an oil-based finish or sealer. Wear a face mask and gloves when working with products that contain toluene. Let all cloths dry out that contain paste wax before you dispose of them. Because of the petroleum products in the paste wax, wet cloths may spontaneously combust if not thoroughly dry before disposal. She has written for newspapers, magazines, online publications and sites. But there are a few reasons why you might consider switching from oil to paste wax. Kiryanoff says using paste wax also means less marring and surface scratching. Paste wax also doesn't build up on a surface the way oil does. With wax, however, buildup is prevented because when a new coat of wax is applied to an object, the new coat removes the older one because of the inclusion of a solvent in paste wax's ingredients. For a dry finish, but one that hasn't suffered severe damage, try applying a coat of ordinary paste wax. Paste wax is easy to apply, and is an effective treatment since it can be worked deep into the wood. Once it penetrates the wood, it hardens to form a protective seal much like an automotive wax. After applying the wax and rubbing it into the wood, allow it to begin to dry. After about five minutes, use a clean, dry rag to buff the finish. In those cases, tung oil may be a better choice.

Make sure that you have adequate ventilation when using tung oil or other oil-based finishes. Tung oil best applied with a clean rag or applicator. An applicator pad can also be used to apply tung oil. Allow the tung oil to soak into the wood for about five minutes before wiping off the excess with a clean rag. Allowing time for the oil to soak in for a few minutes ensures adequate penetration and hardening inside the pores. Avoid letting the oil puddle and dry completely on the wood surface, however, as this will result in a sticky mess. To smooth the rough surface without destroying the original finish, consider using extremely fine sandpaper in conjunction with lemon oil. In our demonstration, 600-grit sandpaper was used. Since even a grit this fine can scratch the finish, it was used in conjunction with some ordinary lemon oil. The objective is to avoid sanding away wood, but to remove some of the dead finish. Keeping your furniture well maintained will help it last for years. As traditional antique restorers of course they use pure pine turpentine rather than the cheaper white spirit - but that does mean you get a lovely pine aroma rather than a synthetic masking scent.

Ditch harmful oils if you really care for your antique

They do a great ‘return and refill’ scheme whereby you send back your empty jar in their reusable suspension packaging for a 25% discounted refill!

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Wax is a very stable material and if properly maintained, will protect a finish indefinitely.

I only need to polish my furniture about once a year with this stuff. They also run a ‘return and refill’ system where you can send back your empty jar in their reusable packaging and get a 25% discount on your refill!

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What is the best paste wax to use on finished furniture?

Briwax cleans, stains and polishes in one application and produces a deep, long lasting shine on any surface.

I applied it over gel stain, and it certainly did a nice job. Application is a bit more tedious than typical furniture wax. The product has a much stronger odor than typical wax, though it is not necessarily unpleasant. Ordered the wax, used steel wool on the top after finish was removed and then buffed this in.

I went back an hour later to buff it down to make it shine and had the hardest time getting the streaks out. This company is great to get it to us fast and without any problems.

You can even put it on raw wood with great results.

I applied it to an antique cherry drop leaf table which had never been varnished, and it looks more beautiful than it ever did.

This product brought the table back to life without having to strip, sand and varnish it. For advice on maintaining your antique furniture, including why you should dust it regularly and keep it out of sunlight, read on!

This "wet look"
may produce a nice shine but offers little or no protection. These products became popular in the late 1940s and have increased in popularity ever since. Well, that was nothing but a good marketing ploy to boost product sales. What house wife, even today, would not want to save a lot of time and good old fashion elbow grease?

In the late 60s and early 70s refinishing shops made a lot of money refinishing hundreds of table tops when their finish softened and turned into a sticky, gooey mess.

These products are much improved today and can be good for the occasional quickie just before guest arrive, but prolonged use can still leave a gooey mess and still no real protection. It is easy to tell if a customer has been using these kind of polishes.

You can make swirl marks in the wet oil with your fingers, or lift a cloth place mat from the table top to reveal a dull spot the same shape of the mat (the oil was absorbed by the mat). First and foremost it is to seal the wood. Sealing the wood protects the wood from moisture changes, spills, stains, and surface abrasions. Second it is used to enhance the beauty of the wood grain.

How to Wax Furniture

Have you ever heard someone tell how their product "feeds" the wood. Unless your furniture is unfinished, or the finish has deteriorated, there is absolutely no way any polish, oil or wax is going to get through the finish to the wood. Another common misconception is that wood furniture is "alive" and need to "breathe,"
so don't seal the pores with wax. Wood furniture is not "alive", it can not "breathe" nor does it need to be "nourished" or "fed" with oily polishes. If used properly, paste wax will provide a thin, hard, lasting finish. Waxes dry hard so they do not smear and attract dust and dirt. Paste waxing typically lasts 3-5 years, depending on how much the furniture is used and how many coats are applied. Table tops and chair arms are an exception,
generally needing to be waxed once a year, due to the extra wear they receive. Many people,
especially antique lovers, prefer the soft sheen provided by paste wax. Also, waxes do not interfere with future refinishing like silicone polishes most often do. It will take 4-6 hours to paste wax a dining room set and if done properly will not need waxing again for years. It requires effort, but you won't obtain a more durable, beautiful protection than paste wax. Remember, the wax protects the finish, the finish protects the wood. To dust or clean, just wipe with a soft damp, lint free cloth.

I always have used lemon oil to

Some shoe and car waxes can cause problems on some finishes. Lets say it takes 5 minutes once a week to use a spray polish on your dinning room set. With paste wax it took 5 hours to wax the first time then you spent 1 more hour per year doing the table top and chair arms the next 3 years, that's 8 hours spent giving your set a protective coating that has extended the life of the finish. That's because all the wax you put on doesn't remain there. Simply because there are only four basic types of them, based on the main ingredient used to make the product. This type of liquid adds shine and some scratch resistance only until it evaporates, which usually happened within a short time. It will remove grease and wax and helps pick up dust, but it has no cleaning effect on water soluble dirt such as dried soft drink spills or other non grease or oily food residue. Choose a petroleum distillate based polish if you want an inexpensive, easy to apply and quick shine with a pleasant smell (most have a fragrances added). Water is added to many polishes because it is a great cleaner for most types of dirt. When water is combined with petroleum-distillate solvent to make an "emulsion polish", the polish appears milky-white when first applied. Emulsion polish has advantage over a petroleum distillate based polish when you need to clean both grease and water soluble dirt. Choose an emulsion polish if you want a polish that aids in dusting and cleans well.