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Everything you need to know about wood furniture polish: A guide

  • Home Renovation
Jul 18, 2023

From different kinds of wood polish and when to use them to tips on making your wood furniture last, our guide to wood polishing covers it all

As I sit down to write this guide, I am staring at this small wood chest in the corner of my home office. It’s one of the most unique pieces I have in my home with intricate carvings and hidden compartments. It was made to be a part of my great grandmother’s dressing room and has been passed down generations, moved around the country and adorned many rooms in its lifetime. I remember playing with it as a child discovering every nook and cranny; there are so many memories attached to one piece of furniture. Now, it is so much more than just a chest. The emotional connection to this item is so strong that it now sits pretty in my home – a far cry from how it started out.


When it comes to home interior design, wood is one of the most popular and versatile materials out there. Most homes feature wood in some form, shape, size and style. With proper care, good quality solid wood furniture can last generations. It also has a natural beauty and warmth that is unmatched; each piece of wood has its unique grain pattern and colour, making it a unique work of art. From dark to honey to light, different wood species comes in a wide range of colours and finishes to blend into any style. Different types of wood are used for a variety of purposes from creating the framework of furniture and full free-standing furniture pieces to wall panelling to fixed items like bars, counters and wardrobes. There are also a myriad of wood finish choices out there that can be used on engineered wood pieces.


Introduction to Wood Polishing

When I finally got that wood chest home, it was still that proud little piece that just needed a little TLC to bring it back to its former glory. A little furniture polish, patience and elbow grease was all it took. Taking care of the wood and wood items in your homes is actually quite easy. Wood polishing can help these pieces last a really long time. In this guide, dedicated to wood materials for your home, we cover different types of wood polish as well as when and how to use them.

The Benefits of Using Furniture Polish at Home

  • Wood is susceptible to a variety of elements including UV rays from the sun, moisture and humidity in the air, harsh cleaning agents, etc. A lot of this damage can be reduced considerably by wood polishing at regular intervals. 

  • You will also end up with a piece that looks brand new, bringing out the natural beauty of the wood surface and grain.

  • Wood polishing can increase stain-resistance, dust-resistance and the longevity of the wood.

Image courtesy, Pexels

Image courtesy, Pexels

Different Types of Wood Furniture Polish and How to Apply Them

Broadly speaking, wood furniture polish or polish for any wood surface in your home can be categorised into two main types of wood polish. Surface polish creates a protective buffer layer over the wood. This layer protects from sun damage, stains and even moisture in the air. Lacquer, wax, varnish, polyurethane (PU) and shellac are all examples of surface polish. On the other hand, penetrating polish gets absorbed into the wood surface and composition. These are oil-based wood polishes like Linseed oil or Tung oil. They are also easy to apply.

1. Water-Based Wood Polish at Home

This type of wood polish has a clear finish and can be used on a variety of wood surfaces including stained, painted or bear. Water based wood polishes can be applied with a brush and dry quickly. You need to work fast with these as the quick-drying property might leave brush strokes if you take too long – just like the streaky application of quick-drying nail polishes. While these can be used on any wood, it is especially good for light woods as they don’t yellow over time. What you are left with is a clear, protective coating and natural finish.


2. Lacquer Type of Wood Polish

Lacquer wood polish dries to a glossy, almost mirror-like finish on the wood. Just like the previous kind, lacquer wood polish dried down very fast so one of the best ways to apply it is by spraying it evenly on the wood. It imparts a rich and luxurious look. The drawback is that lacquer wood furniture polishes may emit fumes and are heat-sensitive. You need to air the wood or wood furniture for some time after applying the polish. Avoid if you have young children or pets in your home. 


3. Wood Polishing with a Varnish Wood Polish

This kind of wood furniture polish can be used on any wood surface that is either bare or stained. Available in a few different kinds of sheens, it creates a protective layer making the wood resistant to heat and moisture. Keep in mind that varnish wood polish cannot be applied to a damp or wet surface. 

4. Shellac Wood Polish

Shellac wood polish, a versatile mixture of Shellac, resin, wax, and alcohol, offers various benefits for furniture restoration and enhancing bedroom design. It can be used as a stain remover and a sealer. Available in different wood polish colours, it dries down to a hard and glossy finish. It is great for using on old furniture. One major drawback is that it cannot tolerate moisture and is not recommended for outdoor furniture or exterior wood surfaces.

Image courtesy, Pexels

Image courtesy, Pexels

5. PU Wood Polish for a Tough Finish

One of the most useful and versatile wood furniture polishes is PU wood polish. It has great water and moisture-resistant properties making it a good choice for wood flooring and fixed pieces like bathroom cabinets, vanities, modular kitchens, window and door frames, wardrobes, etc. It offers the most protection against degradation and damage to the wood surface with its tough protective layer. It comes in water and oil-based finishes like matt, glossy, satin, etc.


6. Melamine Wood Polish

Imparting a glossy or matt finish, Melamine polish consists of melamine resin and is highly durable. It is resistant to heat and temperature fluctuations as well as protects the wood surfaces against scratches. Drying quickly, it is applied as an even spray coating. It is ideal to use on wood furniture and surfaces that get a lot of traffic and use. However, it shouldn’t be used in places like bathrooms as it doesn’t do well with moisture or when it comes in contact with water. The application requires wood preparation including sanding and staining. 

7. Oil Based Wood Polish

This kind of penetrating wood polish dries down to a luxurious satin-like finish. Oil based wood polishes cover scratches and other small cuts to the wooden surface. As these are absorbed into the wood, they add to or replenish the lost natural oils of the wood. Keep in mind that they take a long time to dry completely and might also yellow over time. They also can emit a harsh smell and fumes, so keep the area well-ventilated while applying and drying.

8. Wax Based Polish

Just like oil-based wood polish, wax based polish is also penetrating and gets absorbed deep into the wood rather than sitting on top of the surface as a coating. This is an easy-to-use wood polish at home that increases the life of your precious wood items. Available in a liquid or pastes form, most wax based polishes are derived from plants, though some are animal-based. After application and drying, wax based polishes need to be buffed with a soft cloth. Keep in mind that certain wax-based polishes need to be dissolved in oil before applying so read the instructions carefully.

Image courtesy, Pexels

Wood Polishing Tips

  • Do your research on whether your wood requires a surface polish or a penetrating polish.
  • Make sure you are aware of whether your wood surface is bare, stained or painted as this will affect the choice of the types of wood furniture polish as well.
  • Consider the type of finish you want – matt, sheen, satin or glossy – and accordingly choose the wood polish.
  • Consider the exposure to UV rays, moisture and humidity when choosing the right kind of wood polish.
  • The wood item or surface needs to be well cleaned and free of dust before application.
  • Certain polishes require prep work like sanding, filling cracks with a wood filler and staining before they can be applied. Sanding is usually recommended before wood polishing of any kind to get an even surface and application.
  • Understand the various application techniques for different types of polishes. Quick drying varieties work better applied as an even spray of a good brush. Some can be applied with a cloth like wax based wood polishes.
  • The wood polish price varies depending on the above factors but is usually calculated per square-foot or litre. There will also be application and labour charges and the cost might go up if intensive surface preparation or restoration is required. Always get a quote based on all these factors before starting out. 



How can Beautiful Homes Help You with Perfect Wood Polishing for Your Home?

Whether you are looking to refurbish an old piece to for increasing the longevity of your wood furniture and surfaces, wood polishing is always the key. There are many factors to keep in mind while choosing the right kind and the surface prep required. Wood polish at home can be a hassle-free undertaking if you turn to the experts. The Beautiful Homes Service by Asian Paints offers customers personalised home interior design and seamless execution, from start to finish. You will get the benefit of a panel of designers, seasoned contractors as well as a dedicated project manager to work out each step of the way. You can also peruse the Beautiful Homes online portal or visit the retail stores in various cities for guidance and an exceptional curation of furniture, lighting, home décor, accessories and wallpapers for home as well as solutions from a family of brands.

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