We all know the smell—lemon with a touch of engine oil—that we identify as furniture polish. What we may not identify with the smell is the irritability, depression, and other bad moods that can be the response to its use.
How many people polish their furniture before a dinner party, only to wonder why they are so cranky before the guests arrive? Even worse, the smell of furniture polish can linger on furniture for weeks and months after use, causing a low level of air pollution that puts a strain on the central nervous systems of everyone living there. The petroleum distillates and solvents in commercial furniture polish are highly neurotoxic.
Replacing commercial furniture polish with a homemade formula is at the top of the list of priorities for establishing a healthier home, along with oven cleaner and pesticides.
Homemade Furniture Polish
Most of the old folk formulas for furniture polish ask for 1/4 cup of oil or so, plus a few drops of vinegar. I feel those folk formulas leave the furniture too oily, and in hot weather there is a risk of the oil going rancid.
Instead, I’ve found that reversing those ratios —using 1/4 cup vinegar plus a few drops of oil—makes for a much better wood cleaner and polish. The vinegar pulls the dirt out of the wood, and the few drops of oil lubricates the wood so that it doesn’t dry out.
The best oils to use are those that have the longest shelf life. Olive oil works well. The best choice of all is the liquid wax jojoba, because it never goes rancid. It is found in most health food stores. Boiled linseed oils found in hardware stores have synthetic drying chemicals in them and shouldn’t be used. I do love the smell of linseed oil in a furniture polish—it is rich and nutty—but I only use that which is food grade.
You can substitute lemon juice for the vinegar. Organic apple cider vinegar is the best choice of vinegar, although I don’t usually recommend this for general cleaning because of the possibility of staining. If you are cleaning something that could possibly stain, use white distilled vinegar.
Homemade Furniture Polish Cloth
Dip a soft recycled cloth, such as one of flannel, in the vinegar and oil mixture, and wipe furniture.
Lemon Oil Duster
Most commercial lemon oil is not all natural, but may contain petroleum distillates. Contact herbalists for pure sources of lemon oil. Traditionally, lemon oil has been used for furniture because it is so lubricating and antiseptic.
10 drops lemon oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
A few drops olive oil or jojoba
Dip a soft recycled cloth, such as one of flannel, in the lemon oil mixture, and wipe furniture.