Kinds of Polish
Furniture polish is furniture polish, right? Nothing could be furthur from the truth, and what you don't know about polish can actually harm your wood furniture. Most polishes contain either solvents or emulsions. Solvent based polishes use chemicals to enable the oil or wax to dissolve into a liquid form. Solvents by definition dissolve other materials, so you can imagine what they might do to the finish on your furniture. Emulsions suspend the wax in water, but they can contain abrasives and oils which can also damage wood surfaces.
There are three types of furniture polishes-sprays, liquids, and pastes. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Aerosol or pump sprays are easy to use and convenient, but many contain silicone oils and solvents that can harm the finish. Aerosols contain chemicals which can be dangerous if inhaled, and tend to put more polish in the air than on the furniture. Spray polishes put more wax on the surface, but can include harsh solvents which attack varnish and lacquer. Sprays also contain oils that leave a residue that attracts dust and dirt.
Liquids are also easy to use and convenient, and come in two forms. Water based liquid polishes are combination emulsion cleaners and polishes which contain wax, detergents, oils and solvents. These polishes produce a lustrous sheen on the surface of wood furniture, but tend to evaporate quickly, and more frequent application is usually necessary. Oil based liquid polishes sometimes contain linseed, tung and walnut oil, which can dry out and become difficult to remove without damaging the finish. Oils that don't dry out tend to leave a residue on the surface that continues to attract airborne particles which can harm the finish.
The third kind of polish, paste wax, is more difficult to apply, but is probably the most beneficial and least damaging kind of polish. Paste wax is a concentrated wax contained in organic solvents and emulsions. As long as the wax doesn't contain silicone or abrasives it provides an excellent protection for the finish. The major disadvantage of paste wax, is that it requires a lot of elbow grease. Since polishing requires constant contact with the surface and finish, make sure that what you are putting on doesn't do more harm than good. Check the labels and try to avoid products that contain harsh solvents, abrasives or silicone. Whether you use liquid, spray or paste wax, remember that if what you use to polish harms the finish or is ineffective then you are defeating your purpose, which is to keep your wood furniture shiny and clean, and in good condition.
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