The Best Furniture Polish Options (Buyer’s Guide)
Wood furniture polishes are substances that you apply to shine everything from tables and chairs to dressers and closets. While these products hit the market in the late 1920s, their uses are often misunderstood, as furniture polishes especially shouldn’t be confused with wood surfaces. Most polishes don’t seal wood the way polyurethane and other surfaces do. Wood polishes clean and shine furniture, renew its appearance and help protect the underlying surface. In this regard, wood polishes are handy – as long as you buy the right product and apply it carefully.
First, our guide to choosing the best furniture polish for wooden furniture, as well as our top picks.
- BEST OVERALL: Promise Multi-Surface Furniture Polish Spray
- Best for heavy use: Guardsman Clean & Polish for wooden furniture
- Best for light use: Old English Lemon Oil Furniture Polish
- AWARD: Howard Products FW0016 Wood Polish & Conditioner
For shiny, flawless results, consider the following considerations when choosing a furniture polish for your cleaning job.
Most importantly, keep in mind that the existing finish of your wood will dictate the type of furniture polish you will use. Perform the following test on an inconspicuous part of the furniture to determine its surface. Rub a few drops of boiled linseed oil on the wood and watch:
- When the wood absorbs the oil, it has one Oil surface.
- However, if the oil pearls on the surface, it has one hard end. To further identify this tough finish, rub a cotton swab saturated with acetone into the surface.
- If the acetone dissolves within 30 seconds, it has a Painting.
- If it turns into a gel-like substance within a minute or two, it is paint or shellac (Shellac dissolves quickly if you dab a cotton swab with denatured alcohol, while the lacquer dissolves more slowly.)
- If the acetone pearls on the surface, you have one Polyurethane / polyester finish.
- If you have unfinished Wooden furniture (which will absorb a droplet of water applied to the surface) should be finished first (using one of the finishes listed in this section) and then applied furniture polish to maintain that finish. With the exception of paste wax (more on this below), most furniture polishes are not intended for use on untreated wood.
Furniture polishes come in four main formulas. Base your choice of formula on the current wood finish and the desired gloss:
- silicone Polishes contain silicone, wax, and other cleaning agents. When polishing, they remove water-soluble dirt from the wood surface and create a hard, smooth film. This makes them compatible with furniture with lacquer, shellac and polyurethane surfaces that are supposed to give a high-gloss sheen. Their smoothness makes them dust-repellent and easy to wipe off dirt.
- emulsion Polishes, sometimes referred to as cream polishes, are made up of water, oil, and detergents that allow them to remove water-soluble and oil-based debris from the wood surface as you polish. They are suitable for use on wood with lacquer, shellac and polyurethane surfaces, but the matte (low gloss) or satin (medium gloss) gloss they create is more susceptible to dust and less easily wiped off than silicone polishes and less abrasion – resistant as waxes.
- Oil-based Polishes usually contain a mineral oil base and can also contain solvents such as petroleum distillate. They work best on wood with an oil finish. The thin film of oil they leave on furniture creates a rich, high-gloss finish that accentuates the grain of the wood but can easily attract dust. That being said, polishing removes oil-based debris, and water-soluble dirt can be wiped off with a cloth.
- WaxesMade from carnauba or beeswax fall into this category of polishes. The consistency of these products ranges from creamy wax, which creates a dust-prone matt or satin gloss, to paste wax, which achieves a dust-repellent high-gloss gloss. The thin, hard layer they achieve protects against stains and abrasion and goes well with lacquered furniture. Since paste wax itself acts as a sealant, it is also suitable for untreated wood.
Each of the above formulas come in different forms that are applied to furniture in different ways:
- Aerosol Polishes, including silicone, emulsion, and oil based options, are available in a can and make up the majority of furniture polishes currently on the market for good reason. They require the least amount of work to apply. Just push a button on the can to spray the pressurized product directly onto the furniture and buff it. You don’t need to use a cloth or rub the product.
- liquid Polishes include emulsion and oil products; They come in bottles that you can use to pour or squirt the polish onto a damp cloth and then wipe over the furniture. Minimal polishing is required – although more is required for oil polishes than for emulsion polishes. You will also find spray bottles that can be pressed onto a surface and then wiped off, and disposable wipes that are pre-saturated with liquid polish. All you have to do is take a cloth and slide it over the furniture.
- Semi-solid Polishes are wax-based products that are usually sold in a small tub. They take most of the work to apply since you have to apply the product to a cloth and then buff it extensively into the wood. however, creamy waxes require less buffing than paste waxes.
Typically, the type of furniture you are polishing further limits the field of suitable product options:
- Everyday furniture From chairs at the dining table to coffee tables, these are primarily utility items that are badly worn and therefore need to apply furniture polish more frequently about every month to stay clean and shiny. Use aerosol or liquid polishes to remove dirt from these items and give them a matte to high gloss sheen with less effort than waxes.
- antique furniture often decorated details that are best highlighted with polishes or oil-based wax – ideally the high-gloss sheen created by paste wax. Since you don’t have to polish these items more than two or three times a year, the more complex use of these products is still possible. However, avoid silicone polishes on these items – they are easily stained with fingers.
Our top picks
Our first choice among furniture polishes is a 6-in-1 silicone aerosol product that acts as a polisher for wood, granite, leather, quartz, laminate and steel. Just shake the 9.7-ounce can (one of three included), spray it directly on the furniture surface, and wipe it clean with a cloth. The polish is suitable for everyday wooden furniture with hard surfaces such as lacquer, shellac and polyurethane, which give a high-gloss shine that keeps dust out but does not leave any waxy deposits. For allergy sufferers, Pledge also traps up to 90% of allergens in dust, but leaves behind a mild, lemon-fresh scent.
This emulsion or cream polish is sold in a 16 ounce bottle and gives wood that has been sealed to any type of surface a natural, low-gloss sheen and a pleasant forest scent. To apply the liquid product, pour a small volume into a cloth, then wipe the furniture and buff it until it is dry and shiny. Because the bottled product pours out a higher volume of polish than a spray polish, it’s best for large, everyday furniture like tables and dressers. During polishing, the product also hides scratches on the surface and protects it from stains and UV-induced discoloration.
Show off the natural patina wood furniture throughout the home with this six-pack of liquid furniture polish with a mineral oil-based formula suitable for furniture with oil and other surfaces. Given the more elaborate application of an oil than the emulsion polish, it’s the perfect choice for smaller everyday or antique furniture surfaces from chairs to shelves. It continues with a simple spritz from the 12-ounce spray bottle, and when buffed in the direction of the wood grain with a cloth, it leaves a high-gloss sheen with an invigorating lemon-almond scent. Not only does it polish furniture, it also protects it from watermarks, fingerprints, candle wax and other soiling.
Howard Products Wood Polish & Conditioner, also known as Feed-N-Wax, not only polishes but also protects wooden furniture with a semi-solid carnauba beeswax formula with mineral and orange oil. You can use the creamy wax on untreated wood, but it also prevents cracking, fading and deterioration of existing surfaces of all kinds. In both cases, the polish gives the wood a satin sheen that emphasizes the depth of the grain. Just squirt some product from the 16-ounce bottle onto a cloth, then buff it into furniture with a hefty amount of elbow grease. If you don’t mind the hassle, the luxurious look is especially appealing with antique furniture.