Learn To Polish Wood In 7 Steps

Learn how to wax all types of wood in just seven steps.

While dusting and cleaning wood with sprays and oils can help woods look rich, it doesn't change the actual condition of the wood or provide protection to the wood's finish. Wax polishing, on the other hand, can bring old, tired finishes to life and safeguard wood from future damage at the same time.

WHAT IS WAX-POLISH?

Wax polish is a semi-liquid made from a mixture of materials, including beeswax and carnuba. Waxes and wax-polishes can be applied on woods that have been finished with shellacs, varnishes or oils. Some waxes also contain ingredients like silicone, which makes wood appear glossy and slick to the eye.

There are many varieties of wood wax including:

PIGMENTED (COLORED) WAX can be used to enhance the color of the wood you're working with or on unpainted wood surfaces which have been finished with shellac, varnish, or oil coating. Pigmented waxes can be used to conceal minor blemishes, such as nicks, cracks, and scrapes. Pigmented waxes leave wood with a soft satin sheen. Many experts cover colored waxed woods with an additional coating of clear wax when they desire a more glossy effect.

CLEAR WAX can be used on wood furniture, whatever its original color or type of wood. Clear wax provides a deep shine and luster to wood. Generally speaking, the more layers of wax you add, the shinier your furniture will look.

PINE WAX is often used on light colored or unfinished furniture. When finished, woods have a yellowy-orange naturally deep, rich color. Pine wax is perfect for use on pine and other light colored woods, which have little appeal on their own. After using pine wax, a clear wax coating or wax polish can be applied to give a more lustrous look to the wood's finish.

WHY IS WAX-POLISH USED?

Wax polish works much like car wax: It protects the materials under the wax, while coating the exterior of the material, and adding a shiny, clean quality to the overall appearance. Wax-polish is used to protect the finish that's already present on your furniture. It also creates a shiny, slick surface that repels dust, grit, dirt, and debris. Wax-polish lacks enough durability to protect outside furniture and other woods, but is very effective when used on interior woods and furniture.

WHEN SHOULD WAX POLISH BE USED?

Wax polish is best applied to wood which has been newly cleaned or recently varnished. Applying a fresh coat of wax over an old coat, will do nothing by create a buildup of wax. New woods should be thoroughly sealed with clear varnish before waxing and polishing.

HOW DO I CLEAN OLD WOOD?

You can remove old wax from wood in several ways:

TURPENTINE

Wax which has been sitting for many years is best cleaned and removed with thinners made of naptha or gum turpentine. Apply turpentine directly to the wood with a soft rag, and rub off (along the grain) with a piece of fine steel wool. You may need to repeat this step several times before completely removing old wax.

OIL

For easier jobs, a simple mixture of 1/4-cup linseed oil and 1/4-cup mineral spirits will work just as well. Apply with an old rag and remove with fine steel wool or paint removing pads.



COMMERCIAL PRODUCTS

There are several wood cleaners and wax removers on the market that require little more preparation than shaking the contents of the bottle. If you'll be using a commercial pre-mixed product, be sure to read the label. Not all wax removers can be used on all types of wood or wood finishes. Follow label instructions.

Once you've cleaned the old wax from the wood, you'll need to coat the surface with mineral spirits. Use a clean rag and apply spirits liberally. Allow wood to completely dry before proceeding.

WAXING WOOD

MATERIALS

Liquid wax

Clean rags (or brush or 0000 grade steel wool)

Soft cloth

Buffing machine or fine steel wool pads or polishing pads (optional)

STEP ONE

Using a soft cloth, brush, or steel wool pad (which will not damage the surface of the finish), apply wax directly to the surface of the wood using light, circular motions. Apply sparingly, using just enough to coat the wood. Wax should be applied going against the grain. You can apply wax in hard-to-reach areas (like spindles, carved areas, and etc.) using cut-up rags, specialty pads, foam paint brushes, or smaller pieces of 0000 grade steel wool.

STEP TWO

Allow waxed wood to set naturally. Wax should remain on furniture or other wood for a minimum of 5-7 minutes. Many waxes can remain on wood for up to 75-minutes, if need be.

STEP THREE

Buff wood using a clean, soft cloth. On carved or detailed areas of furniture, you may need to use furniture brush or similar object to buff the area.

STEP FOUR

Apply a second coat of wax with a soft, clean rag, this time working with the grain of the wood. Again, use circular motions and apply only a thin layer of wax, making sure all areas are covered equally.

STEP FIVE

Allow wax to set for 60-75 minutes.

STEP SIX

Buff wood with a clean rag (or similar object previously mentioned). Once buffing is done, allow wood to sit overnight.

STEP SEVEN

Using a clean rag, buff wood once more, paying special attention to corners, hard-to-reach areas and blemishes.

Note: The more layers of wax that are applied and buffed, the more glossy your furniture's finish will become. Many feel that 3-coats is a sufficient amount of wax to protect tables, cupboards, desks, and bedroom furniture. You may wish to coat chairs (and other furniture which receives heavy use) a fourth time.

TIPS AND TRICKS

NEVER pour wood wax directly on to wood. Always use a clean rag.

MINOR blemishes, cracks, and crevices in wood can be repaired with soft wax filler sticks.

CRACKS in dark woods can be covered by first applying a colored/pigmented wax, followed by a coating of clear wax.

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