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Please, please, please do not "strip" your furniture just to remove wax buildup. Understand that "stripping" your furniture removes its original finish all the way down to the bare wood. This is not good for your furniture and if your treasured piece is an antique, "stripping" and refinishing will decrease its monetary value by as much as half. Would you remove the paint finish on your car because it was too hard to remove the dried turtle wax on the surface? The same principle applies here.

It is safer for your wood finish to have coating of wax than to be "stripped" of its finish altogether. In fact it's preferable. A good wax coating actually protects a wood's finish from many household pollutants such as cigarette smoke. And in environments where there is a lack of humidity, the wax will also protect the wood from splitting.

Also understand that wax buildup is a sign that your furniture's finish needs a proper cleaning, not a "stripping". Wax buildup is noticeable when a wax-base or oil-base furniture polish is applied over and over again without a proper buffing of its surface. The furniture surface will look dull. It might even feel slightly sticky to the touch. There are two methods to try to remove excess build up. One is to actually buff the piece with a soft lint-free rag. Old yet clean cloth diapers are perfect (if you can find them). First wipe off any excess dust then buff in a circular motion with some pressure applied to the surface. Keep doing this until the surface becomes less dull and sticky. If your cloth gets dirty, change to a clean one. Remember you want to remove and smooth out the excess wax on the furniture, not reapply it. Finish by buffing again with another clean cloth with the grain of the wood. If this is done properly, you will feel that your arms have gotten a good workout. Don't be afraid to use a little elbow grease.

If this does not work to your satisfaction or if the wax build up is too old, then its time to remove the excess wax. There are several products on the market designed to do just that. My favorite is a product called Vernax and is produced by the Hagerty's silver polish people. This can be purchased at Harry's Ace Hardware, any good antique furniture store, or online at This is not a furniture stripper but is designed to remove excess wax, dirt and oils and will not harm your finish as long as it is used properly. To use apply a little to a clean cloth (not to the wood surface). Then buff the surface of the wood as describe above going first in a circular motion and then with the grain of the wood until dry. You will see a difference immediately. Remember a little will go a long way. After the Vernax treatment, I usually follow up with a good beeswax and/or carnuba wax based furniture polish which does not contain any linseed oil or silicone. Briwax or Johnson's paste wax is acceptable. The paste wax is applied in the same manner as the Vernax. Remember to keep changing cloths until they no longer pick up any residue and that a little wax goes along way. I use this method maybe once a year on furniture that is not in heavy use and twice a year on pieces that are in use everyday. The finish is maintained by weekly or bi-monthly dusting and buffing using only clean lint-free cloths. I use no other furniture polish or sprays other than what I've mentioned here on this website. I have even made my own beeswax furniture polish. The formula and its applications can be found on this Website under "How do you make beeswax furniture polish?"

As a curator, I've seen the damage done to beautiful furniture by overzealous, but well-meaning, do-it-yourself restorers. It takes practice and lots a patience to properly "strip" and restore a finish. In many cases where the finish is botched, the piece can be restored but its monetary value has dropped to almost nil. And the cost to properly refinish a treasured piece of furniture is exorbitant and not worth the value of the piece. Therefore Great-Grandmother's Hope Chest gets moved out into the garage and used as a tool chest or worst yet, tossed out into the garbage.

Murphy's oil soap is an easily found product, and works on some finishes. Do be careful, though as it will cloud some finishes. Those are best cleaned using the methods above. Never use a brillo pad, only 0000 steel wool.

COMMENT: Let me just say that Vernax, IS NOT, designed to remove EXCESS WAX. It is a cleaner, but not that kind of cleaner. I contacted Hagerty, maker of Vernax. They said that they had heard about the comment made online in regards to this claim. However it is untrue. They do have a great cleaner, polish and protectant. A wax remover, they do not have. So, save the $15 to $20, and put it in your gas tank. Your welcome.

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2012-04-26 17:31:01
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Q: How do you remove furniture polish buildup from wood furniture?
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