How to clean and polish wood – shine up and protect furniture naturally at home
Whether your home is inspired by the mid-century modern, a Scandi oasis or a serious nod to cottagecore, there’s nothing like solid wood furniture that adds character to a room. And in order for that perfect accent to look wonderfully trimmed and polished, just like it did when you first bought it – whether from Made.com or your local thrift store – it is important to properly understand the basics of cleaning and polishing wood. That’s why we’re here.
Sure, you may have bought your solid wood dining table, pine sideboard, or acacia coffee table at your favorite store that you bought with a wood polisher … but have you noticed (good) results lately? Or something more striped and smeared? It’s true, but unfortunately, a wood polish won’t go with all types of woods and grains you may have in your home, and the end result is lots of streaks and a cloudy surface that isn’t as tasteful.
As always, we are big fans of fast, uncomplicated cleaning methods that don’t cost a fortune, that are as close to nature as possible, but above all that work! Fortunately, you can clean and polish wood naturally with great results.
(Image credit: Getty Images)
When, how and how often should you clean wooden furniture?
There’s no set schedule, but it depends on what the wood looks like. If there’s visible dust on the surface and the finish looks a little dull or uneven, it’s time to wipe and buff your furniture.
Melissa Maker, brilliant writer and creator of Clean My Space, recommends cleaning lacquered furniture only once a week. Use only a microfiber cloth and water to dust and clean your wooden surface. And if your wooden furniture isn’t finished, just use a dry cloth as water can warp the wood.
Then you should polish your furniture with beeswax (more on that below) to ensure better protection.
Polishing wooden furniture naturally
You can use vinegar and olive oil for your own polish. This is a great combination for not only cleaning but also adding shine, as the white vinegar is a natural astringent and the olive oil brings moisture back to the wood. Some also like to add lemon which has antibacterial properties and of course added that fresh scent. To make your own wood polish, you’ll need white vinegar, olive oil, and lemons (if used), as well as a clean spray bottle or bowl and some clean microfiber / cotton towels.
Disclaimer: We always recommend testing homemade products on a small area of your furniture first to make sure they sit well on the wood. We would not recommend this if you are restoring old wooden furniture and working with an exotic species of wood. Check with the supplier whether this method is ideal or not. As tempting as it may be, when you see the results, don’t use this too often as it can create buildup that will attract dirt, i.e. the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.
- First, mix your solution in a bottle or bowl and comb 1 part vinegar with 3 parts olive oil or two parts vinegar and olive oil with one part lemon juice if you are using.
- Shake / mix the solution vigorously.
- Before applying, make sure your wood surface is clean, dust-free and dry. To do this, follow the instructions above.
- Then apply the solution to your microfiber cloth and work the solution (if the spot test was successful) into the wood surface.
- Go with the reinforcement and wipe up any excess material all over the surface.
- When a layer is done, take a fresh cloth and wipe the surface again in the direction of the grain (very important) to soak up any excess product.
- When the job is done, let it set and dry (though it won’t take long), then bring your furniture back home.
Polish wood with beeswax
You can make your own beeswax polish and use it to regularly clean your piece of wood or to actually finish off an unpainted piece of furniture. You’ll need ¼ cup of yellow or clear beeswax (we’d go for clear as yellow can leave a hue – although this can be nice too) and ¾ olive or mineral oil.
- Combine the two ingredients and melt both together in a double boiler or water bath.
- After combining, pour the mixture into a heat-resistant container and let it solidify for 2-3 hours until it has a balsamic texture.
- In the meantime, clean your wooden furniture with a microfiber cloth to make sure it is completely dry and free of dust.
- Next, take a clean, dry cloth and apply the beeswax polish to the entire surface in small circular motions.
- Next, go over the area with long, steady strokes in the direction of the wood grain, removing any excess polish as you go.
- Then leave it on for 15 minutes.
- Next, take a new cloth and walk across the surface in the direction of the grain again, removing any residue.
- Let your piece of furniture cure in a warm place out of direct heat / sunlight for 12 to 24 hours before moving it to the desired location.
- Vegan? We have an alternative if your household is vegan and environmentally friendly home Surroundings.
How do I bring the shine back to wood?
If you’ve overdone it with a wood polisher, Maker recommends, “Apply a little plant-based enzyme cleaner to sit on the wood for a few minutes. This will remove the buildup, and you can then wipe it off with a cotton cloth and buff it dry. ‘However, if you can’t achieve that and want a natural and niche method, “If you can’t find this now, you can use soaked black tea to do it. The tannins in the tea help to break up this matte finish and show a nice shine. ‘So it’s time to put the kettle on.
(Image credit: Getty Images)
How to remove heat or water marks on wood
The manufacturer suggests … Wait, mayonnaise. “You can restore the wood by applying mayonnaise to the surface, leaving it on overnight and buffing it in in the morning.” What makes sense with the oil content of mayo is definitely worth trying.
How to protect wooden furniture
Prevention is always best. How to keep your wooden furniture in top condition right from the start:
- Use felt pads: If your wooden furniture has decorative features, use felt pads to prevent scratches.
- Place mats and coasters: Keep the dining table fit for a dinner party with placemats and coasters to avoid heat and water stains as well as more thorough cleaning of the mayonnaise.
- Catch spills ASAP: Do not leave crumbs and the like time to settle down, quickly wipe them off.
- Avoid chimneys and radiators: Not only is wood a rule for Christmas trees, it can warp if it is too close to a heat source. So think carefully about the placement of your furniture.
Your favorite pieces will last for years!