Different Types of Furniture Polish for Different Surfaces

No matter how well versed you are in Cincinnati’s eclectic furniture world, it’s difficult to walk up to a piece of wood furniture and know what kind of furniture polish is appropriate for that piece.  Fortunately, there are some simple tests that can give you the information you need.

Test the finish using these steps:

Linwood Oil
If you rub two drops of Linwood oil into a piece of furniture with your hands, one of two things will happen: either it will absorb the oil, or not. If it does, you’re looking at an oil-based finish. If not, move on to…

Put two drops of acetone in an inconspicuous place on the item and rub it in gently.  Acetone will dissolve a lacquer finish within a minute.  A polyurethane or polyester finish will shed acetone like water.  A varnish or shellac will turn the acetone into a gummy substance within a minute, at which point to distinguish the two, you’ll need…

Denatured Alcohol
Put two drops of denatured alcohol into the gummy substance created by the previous step. If it dissolves instantly, you’re looking a shellac finish, if not, it’s a varnish.

Now decide which polish to use.

In all cases, choose the lightest-colored polish that matches the wood’s grain, and apply sparingly. Too much of any polish can complicate the refinishing process should the wood get dented or scraped later.

  • For varnish, shellac, and polyurethane/polyester finishes, a simple aerosol polish is often the best, although it does tend to show fingerprints. If you’re seeking a more matte finish, a cream wax is a good substitute.
  • For lacquer, the best product is usually a paste wax. They require a lot of buffing and elbow grease, but the “harder” finish matches lacquer better.
  • If you have an oil finish, you’ll need an oil polish. Oil polish can be applied more liberally and more often than any other kind listed here, as the wood absorbs the polish.

Prefer to leave the testing to a professional?  Call us at 513-721-1502.