4 Types of Wood Furniture Polish & When To Use Each

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 05/24/23 • 

Wood polishes are a great way to enhance the beauty and prolong the life of your wood furniture. Polishing your wood furniture can help add a temporary scratch resistance surface, conceal light scratches, add a temporary shine, and make it easier to clean furniture. Polish can also add a pleasant scent to a room.

There are four main types of wood polishes: clear, emulsion, silicone, and wax. The difference between all these polishes is their scent, evaporation rate, and sometimes the added color, which can help conceal scratches and scuffs.

If you’re looking to get a wood furniture polish, here I’ll explain these different types of polishes and the reasons to choose each.

Clear Wood Polishes

These are petroleum distillates, such as mineral spirits, or related solvents, such as turpentine and citrus. Clear polishes are usually packed in clear containers for easy identification. They are cheaper and have a pleasant smell that helps remove dust.

Clear polishes are great for cleaning grease or removing wax and have a pleasant smell. However, these polishes do not clean water-soluble dirt like sticky fingerprints or dried soft-drink spills. Clear wood furniture polishes will also evaporate from the surface after a few hours, which makes them less effective in leaving a long-lasting shine.

Emulsion Wood Polishes

Emulsion polishes combine two key ingredients, water and petroleum distillates. When first applied to wood, this type of wood polish has a milky or whitish color, which changes as it dries. Emulsion polishes usually come in aerosol spray cans and can be identified by their milky or whitish spray.

Therapy Furniture Polish & Wood Cleaner Kit
$19.95 ($1.25 / Fl Oz)

This is thick and has a pleasant scent that will leave your wooden surfaces smelling great. It can be used as a clean and wood polisher to brighten up and revive different furniture. It's easy to use and has a microfiber cloth to apply to different surfaces. 

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Unlike clear wood polishes, emulsion wood polishes can clean water-soluble dirt and grease. Emulsion polishes are also good for helping in dusting wood surfaces and also clean better. Like clear polishes, emulsion polishes will also evaporate and thus do not add a long-lasting shine.

Silicone Wood Polishes

This type of wood polish usually combines a small amount of silicone with petroleum distillate for a clear polish or combines with emulsion for a milky or whitish polish. A silicone-based polish will not evaporate from your wood furniture surface, therefore, has a lasting shine.

One way to identify a silicone polish is by rubbing your finger over the furniture surface. A silicone polish will leave behind a telltale marking even several days after its application. Silicone wood polishes are great if you want a long-lasting shine, improved scratch resistance, and easier dusting.

When refinishing wood surfaces that previously used silicone wood polishes, ensure the surface is thoroughly cleaned. When some finishes, like lacquer, come in contact with silicone, they’ll create crater-like patterns called fish-eye.

Wax Wood Polishes

While wax can also be used as a wood finish, nowadays, it is mostly used to polish wood. Wax creates a more permanent wood shine, but it is harder to apply because you’ll need more effort to remove excess wax on the wood’s surface.  The different types of wax polish are beeswax, carnauba, and paraffin wax.

Rubbing beeswax on wood with steel wool

Rubbing beeswax on wood with steel wool

When used on old and deteriorated surfaces, wax wood polishes will not highlight crazing or cracking, like liquid polishes. If you want a lasting shine, wax is a great polish to use. Apart from polishing wood furniture, the wax protects it from scratches and other scuffs. Wax furniture polish can also help rejuvenate old and deteriorated wood finishes.

Howard Wood Polish & Conditioner
$11.98 ($0.75 / Fl Oz)

The Howard beeswax and orange oil wood polish and conditioner restores, cleans, and rejuvenates wood furniture making it look brand new. It is easy to use and leaves a smooth, consistent shine that lasts long with no oily finish. A little of this product goes a long way.

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Remove all the excess after each application to avoid building up the wax polish on wood furniture. If you have a wax buildup already, wipe the furniture surface hard with mineral spirits, turpentine, clear furniture polish, or naphtha.


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