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How do you remove furniture polish buildup from wood furniture?

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2012-04-26 17:31:01

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


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


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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