Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
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Dusting with chemical furniture polishes is never a good thing. They contain harmful compounds such as petroleum silicates and butane. These are not only bad for your furniture but also terrible for your health. So, what’s the alternative?
To dust furniture without chemicals, the first thing you need to do is throw out all those cleaners and polishes that contain harmful ingredients. The next thing is to opt for products with natural alternatives. Then, make sure to take steps to reduce dirt and dust in your home.
This article will give you some ideas for alternatives to chemical furniture polishes and cleaning agents. I’ll show you the best ways to clean and polish your furniture without any harmful substances. Finally, I’ll provide some tips on how to reduce the dust in your home.
Take a Look at All-Natural Wood Cleaning Products
It’s best to stay away from aerosol spray cleaners. They have butane as the propellant, which can damage your finished wood. They also contain solvents such as silicone, a hydrocarbon that can leave an oily residue and are not very safe for use around small children.
In any case, it is best to opt for wood cleaning products containing all-natural ingredients. They can be hard to find, but there are some excellent ones available. Here, I recommend a few outstanding examples.
Touch of Oranges Wood Cleaner and Restorer is the gold standard in natural wood cleaning products. If you have any wood in your house, whether it be furniture, cabinets, or floors, Touch of Oranges will work well for you. Because it is made from natural orange oil, there are no harsh chemicals to worry about.
It cleans and restores most wood surfaces without leaving an oily residue or wax buildup. It’s safe to use on these surfaces:
- Wood paneling
If you like the smell of pine but don’t want to be knocked over by it, then Frosch’s Natural Wood Cleaner is for you. It has a light piney scent without being overbearing like some other cleaners.
It is specially formulated for wood surfaces. It has unique active ingredients derived from pine trees, so there is no need for harsh chemicals within its formula. Even without all the harmful stuff, it is a powerful cleaner. Here are just a few things it can remove:
- Red wine stains
- Coffee stains
- Wax crayons
It can be used either diluted or undiluted. However, it is very concentrated. You only need about one tbsp per gallon of water.
The newcomer in the natural wood cleaning category is Puracy’s All-Purpose Cleaner Concentrate. It will clean most non-fabric surfaces, including finished wood. The plant-based ingredients in this all-natural product are free from chemicals that you find in most ordinary cleaners.
For that reason, you can be assured there is no residue or contaminants left on your wood furniture. Even with that, it can work on the following:
- Food stains
- Tree sap
What’s best about Puracy is that it can work on just about any non-fabric surface. Here are some examples:
- Finished wood
- Hardwood floors
- Kitchen cabinets
- Car dashboards
- Most metal surfaces
The company prides itself on being eco-friendly. All ingredients are biodegradable within one month. And their environmentally-friendly packaging saves more than 90% in water, plastic, and energy.
Opt for Natural Polishes for Wood
Now that you have your furniture cleaned and preserved, it’s time to polish it. There are just as many wood polishing agents as there are cleaners. But it is not quite as easy to find all-natural ones. So you have to look at the ingredients list on the product closely.
With that said, here are a few natural wood polishers that not only make your furniture shine but also preserve it.
Better Life is a company that dedicates itself to providing the best, eco-friendly household products. And their natural wood polish is no exception.
Unlike chemically-based furniture polishes, it lists its ingredients directly on the label. It contains no harmful chemicals, hydrocarbons, or aerosols. This is what’s in it:
- Vegetable base
- Canola oil
- Other plant-based ingredients
Technically, the company cannot say this is an “all-natural” product. There is a trace amount of preservative (less than 0.01%) in the form of methylisothiazolinone. With that said, I am surprised they even bothered listing it since it is such a minute amount. Still, I applaud the company’s transparency.
Another natural furniture polish to consider is ECOS Furniture Polish with olive oil. It also lists its active ingredients. Here is a small sample:
- Olive oil
- Fruit oil
- Orange oil
It has the same problem as some of the other “all-natural” furniture polishes. There are some preservatives and other chemicals listed. It is unclear what percentage there is in this product since it is undisclosed. But it is safe to assume that since they are listed last in the ingredients, these potentially harmful substances make up a small percentage.
But don’t give up! Daddy Van’s All Natural Beeswax & Lavender Furniture Polish is truly chemically-free. Here are its ingredients:
- Carnauba wax
- Olive oil
- Lavender essential oil
That’s it! Nothing else. But if you don’t like using wax on your furniture due to the inherent buildup, that’s another problem altogether.
You may object to using any commercial products on your wood furniture for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s just better to make your own homemade cleaning agents and polishes. So, in the next section, I’ll show you exactly how to do that.
How to Make Your Furniture Cleaner
There are two primary purposes of using a furniture cleaner:
- Cleaning the wood safely. Food stains, soda spills, and messy fingerprints all present their own challenges. That’s why it’s essential to have on hand a safe and effective cleaner for your wood furniture.
- Dusting. When your dust cloth is damp, it’s easier to pick up dirt, dust, and allergens. That’s why we sometimes mistakenly use chemically-based furniture polish. We want that dampness that helps us dust. But there is a much safer way.
Using Castile Soap
Here are the ingredients:
- 2 tsp Maple Holistics Liquid Castile Soap
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 drops lemon essential oil
- 8 oz. distilled water
In an 8 oz. spray bottle, combine the distilled water, liquid soap, olive oil, and lemon oil. Blend the ingredients thoroughly by gently shaking the spray bottle.
Note: Using a glass spray bottle with this recipe is best. Essential oils tend to break down plastic over time. Glass bottles do not have that problem.
A word of caution: When using soap-based cleaners, it is a good idea to first test the solution on an inconspicuous area since it may not be suitable for every wood species. This goes for all products you use for cleaning or polishing.
Vinegar and Oil Dusting Spray
Here are the ingredients:
- 8 oz. distilled water
- 1/4 c. vinegar
- 2 tsp. olive oil
- 10 drops lemon essential oil
Combine all ingredients together in an 8 oz. glass spray bottle. Shake gently and thoroughly to get the proper mix.
You can use any dusting rag with this spray. However, keep in mind that microfiber towels tend to absorb vinegar and oil better than other materials.
Won’t Vinegar Harm the Wood?
You may have heard that vinegar will harm some wood surfaces. While it is indeed mildly acidic, it can be a great cleaner without harming treated wood when properly diluted. It depends on the type of wood you’re treating.
It’s always good to use good judgment and common sense. It may just be a matter of diluting the solution to make it milder. In any case, if you have any reservations about using vinegar on your cherished wood furniture, don’t do it. There are plenty of alternatives, instead.
How To Make Your Own Furniture Polish
Furniture polishes usually tend to have a different ingredient base than dusting sprays that are mainly used for cleaning. The base ingredient is typically some vegetable oil, which gives it a richer texture. Still, you can use these homemade wood polishes for cleaning, also.
Homemade Lemon Furniture Spray Polish
Here are the ingredients:
- 2 c. light olive oil
- Lemon peels, shredded (1 lemon)
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/4 tsp. lemon essential oil
Pour the olive oil into a 1-quart glass jar with a lid. Then, add the lemon peels and dried thyme. Close the lid to the jar and place it in a cool, dark cabinet for two weeks to allow the mixture to infuse.
When the two weeks are over, strain the mixture into a 16 oz glass spray bottle. You will need a funnel for this step. Next, add the essential lemon oil.
Shake well before each use. You can apply this homemade wood polish using any soft cloth or towel. Wipe off with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.
This lemony polish is not only great for putting a glossy shine to your wood furniture, but it also has a pleasant fragrance. The only drawback is, you have to let the mixture sit for two weeks to allow it to infuse.
Coconut Oil Furniture Polish
Here are the ingredients:
- ¼ cup of coconut oil
- Four tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- Two teaspoons lemon juice
You’ll have to soften the coconut oil a little before using it as a spray. You can do this by heating it slightly in a small saucepan on low heat. Do not bring it to a boil.
While the coconut oil is still slightly warm, pour it into a glass spray bottle. Now add the vinegar and lemon juice. Shake before each use.
A Word About Using Food-Grade Oils
Olive and coconut oils are both quickly biodegradable. That’s the great thing about using them. Unfortunately, they will become rancid over time.
For that reason, it is best to replace your homemade polishes about once a month. If that seems a bit extreme, look at it this way; it’s the price we must pay for not using those horrible chemical preservatives in our home products.
Tips for Dusting Without Chemicals
Now that you have some great spray cleaners let’s put you to work. Here are some helpful tips for cleaning and dusting without chemicals.
- Never spray any cleaner directly onto wood surfaces. Instead, spray onto a soft cloth or rag, then rub gently over the entire area. Then, take a second clean, dry cloth and remove any excess moisture from the spray.
- Use microfiber cloths. The Mr. Siga Microfiber Cleaning Cloths are an excellent choice. They come in a pack of six and offer a wide assortment of colors. The best thing about microfiber cleaning cloths is that they are lint-free and absorbent, which you want to clean and polish wood furniture.
- Water also does the job pretty well. Sometimes you don’t need anything to dust with, just a rag. Other times, you may need some moisture to help pick up dust on a dry day. Consider using distilled water in a spray bottle.
- Consider using a wand. The Heothe Microfiber Duster with Extension Pole will do nicely. It has a bendable wand, which is great for dusting around corners and getting into tight spaces.
Tips for Polishing and Restoring Wood Furniture
No matter what kind of polish you use, keeping your furniture looking new can be a challenge. It’s not easy removing scratches, marring, and stains from treated wood. But with some guidance, you can make your wood furniture look new.
- Wash the surface of the wood with a chemical-free cleaning solution. Spray the cleaner directly onto a soft cloth and wipe the area down thoroughly.
- Polish it up. Spray some homemade polish onto a soft rag. Rub down the wood in the direction of the grain. Take up any excess with a clean microfiber cloth. Let the rest air dry.
What About Teak Furniture?
Teak is a select type of wood used mainly for marine and outdoor patio furniture. It is best to let it weather naturally.
But if you feel the need to restore it back to its full luster, then Star Brite Premium Golden Teak Oil is probably the best choice. Yes, some turpentine is mixed with the natural tung oil, so be sure to use a respirator and gloves.
Removing Water Stains Using Mayonnaise
You may have heard of this trick before. But I want to take you step-by-step to ensure a thorough job.
For this procedure, you’ll need real mayonnaise (not salad dressing) and two clean rags.
- Apply the mayo directly onto the water stain.
- Let it sit for up to 12 hours.
- Wipe away with a clean cloth.
If you don’t see results or the results are limited, try using toothpaste instead of mayonnaise. This method is a bit bit more aggressive, so make sure to treat only the water stains. The toothpaste can quickly wear away the wood finish.
Tips for Creating a Dust-Free Home Environment
Household dust is a large component of our overall exposure to health hazards. Two-thirds of it is carried in from outside, while one-third is created inside the home. Although you can’t eliminate dust altogether, you can cut it down considerably.
Here, I’ll present some ideas on how to cut down on the dusty environment in your home:
- Replace door sweeps and thresholds. An excellent place to start is underneath the front and back doors. If there are any kind of gaps there, it can bring in a lot of dust and dirt, not to mention cold drafts in the winter.
- Take off shoes when in the house. Footwear can bring all kinds of nasty things into your home. It is best just to leave your shoes at the door.
- Change the furnace and air conditioning filters regularly. The general rule of thumb is every three months. But if you live in a dusty environment, you may wish to change them more frequently.
- Vacuum your mattress at least once a year. It’s incredible how much dust, dander, and skin flakes build up over time.
- Use weatherstripping for doors and windows. Dust and dirt can come through poorly insulated windows and doors. Make sure they all have the proper weatherstripping. This will not only cut down on the dust in your home, but it could save you money on your energy bills.
- Consider getting rid of the carpet. It may look nice, but carpeting in your home is a dust magnet. A better idea may be to go with linoleum, vinyl, hardwood, or tile flooring. If you simply can’t part with your carpet, consider investing in a quality vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
By now, you probably get the idea that using harsh chemicals on your fine wood furniture is a bad idea. But dusting once in a while doesn’t have to turn into a major production. Sometimes, all you need is a little distilled water in a spray bottle and a soft cloth.
Still, it’s always smart to weigh your options when taking care of your wood furniture. Do you want to risk damaging it with silicone, turpentine, and butane, or would you rather use natural materials? Hopefully, in this article, I’ve given you a better choice.
- ScienceDirect: Silicates
- AAPG.org: Hydrocarbon
- Force of Nature: Methylisothiazolinone
- Floras.org: Thymus
- Stanford Magazine: Biodegradable Products
- Britannica: Teak
- Bob Vila: How to Remove Water Stains From Wood
- HouseWifeHowTos.com: How to Reduce Dust In Your Home
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