by Simon Gilboy 7 Comments

How to wax polish antique furniture

  1. If the surface to be polished is particularly dirty clean it with a slightly damp cloth and wipe dry
  2. Lay a dust sheet on the floor if you are polishing in a sensitive environment
  3. Apply the wax sparingly to the surface with ‘0000’ wire wool (It’s like cotton wool) or a soft cloth
  4. Apply in small amounts evenly and in the direction of the grain (avoid over application)
  5. Allow to dry and harden for 20 to 30 minutes - put the kettle on, have a cup of tea
  6. Buff with a clean cloth in the direction of the grain  
**Trade Tip**
To make the process more rewarding and manageable, apply, wait and buff about three square feet at a time. For example a side of a chest of drawers or bureau. Or one leaf or continuous plank of a dining table.

    Wax Polishes 


    "There is absolutely no substitute for a pure beeswax polish. It is the very best way to look after and preserve the finish on your furniture"


    We have found the majority of furniture polishes and wax polishes available to all of us contain a very poor amount of beeswax, many will also contain petroleum based white spirit, perfumes, oils and some have water in them to make an emulsion paste.  

    These types of polishes should be avoided. It is likely that some of these polishes will cause harm to the patinated finish and in the long term will require professional restoration and conservation to the finish.

    Aerosol Spray Polishes

    spray wood polishes

    Spray polishes should also be completely avoided. We understand why they are used as time is precious to all of us. They provide a very quick result with one spray and wipe. Manufacturers of these polishes understand this and promote their products with convincing marketing telling us that there is real goodness in them. How can there be? It’s a liquid chemical spray. We do know that they can be extremely harmful to the finish of period and modern furniture. Some of these spray polishes state that they are silicone free and contain beeswax. I am sure this may be true, but how much solid beeswax can be forced into a pressurised liquid suspension that can be of any benefit to the furniture is beyond our understanding.     

    We have witnessed over the past 25 years that the repeated use of spray polishes will lead to a number of problems and not just to the surface appearance:

    • The surface will become artificially and unnaturally shiny
    • It’s shiny effect will only last for a few hours
    • It attracts dust from the atmosphere
    • It offers absolutely no protection to the surface
    • The polish will start to look patchy in places
    • The surface will become greasy and slippery also showing fingers marks
    • You will find you will be applying it more often to achieve that artificial sheen
    • It can creep under the surface and lift off the polish
    • If applied to matt or satin finished furniture it will quite quickly change the finish to a gloss which is not reversible


    Liquid Polishes

    home-made liquid wood polishes

    Many of our customers will talk about furniture polish recipes that have been either handed down to them by relatives or recommended to use by friends or they have seen on the internet.

    We would strongly advise NOT to use any of these recipes. In most cases a single application can be very harmful to the finish.

    For example the most common we’ve known is : Olive oil, Vinegar, White Spirit and Lemon juice.

    Olive Oil - Using any oils, be it nut or vegetable is in effect creating a ‘new’ finish on top of your furniture’s existing polish. It gives the finish a new wet look, which on antiques, I would most strongly advise against. You are changing the centuries old finish. It can very quickly creep under the finish and cause a visual oil slick under the surface. Don’t do it!

    Vinegar - (Acetic Acid) Used as an acidic natural cleaner. I actually don’t think there is much harm in using vinegar as a cleaner.  We would use a mild soapy water solution to clean particularly dirty furniture. We would advise against regular use as it is an acid and this may accelerate the breakdown of an antique finish.

    White Spirit - A product of the crude oil industry. It has, and is widely used in the wood finishing world. It is very effective at cleaning the surface of old french polished finishes and is unlikely to cause any harm if used once in a while. However, used on its own or on older waxed only finishes (17thC and earlier) it will very likely dull and soften the finish and this is why the homemade recipes include a ‘re-coating’ element such as olive oil, linseed oil etc..   

    Lemon again is acidic and is well known as a natural cleaner. However I think in this instance it used more for its pleasant clean aroma. (again it is acidic)
    Other ingredients we have known to be used are: Washing up liquid, Toothpaste, Mayonnaise, Ash from the fire, Tea bags and *Methylated Spirit.

    * Methylated Spirit - I have read many online recipes that swear by using meths      DON”T DO IT!
    Meths is the solvent of french polish. If left to lie on the surface it will dissolve the majority of antique finishes if. It’s one step away from pouring paint stripper on your furniture.  I am not exaggerating.

    hard wax oil polishes

    These are relatively new products to the wood finishing market. And I think they are fantastic. They are made from a blend of natural oils and beeswax. Oils and beeswax have been used for centuries individually but of recent times companies have been blending them to create a lovely natural protective finish.

    However as much as we like it as a wood finish they are only ever to be used as a finish to be applied directly to raw unfinished wood. DO NOT USE it on antique or previously finished furniture. It is a finish it its own right. 


    wood oils

    Danish Oil - Linseed Oil (raw and boiled) - Tung Oil - Olive Oil - Walnut Oil - Orange Oil

    All of the oils have their place in the world of wood finishing, but again don’t use them on antique furniture. The only exception to this is, if you know for sure, that your piece of furniture has been finished with an oil (very rarely is this true) then it is permissible but apply it with care and only if it is necessary. 

    Applying oils to antique furniture is a big no no. Including oils suspended in wax polishes

    I would recommend that oils are never to be used on interior furniture without prior consultation with a specialist french polisher or furniture restorer.
    Oils will penetrate deep into broken and dry finishes, this will often result in a sticky residue being left behind and over darkening of the area. It also will attract dust and dirt.


    In the same way that the pressurised liquid spray polishes are atomised at the nozzle creating a cloud of pleasant smelling chemicals, hand pumped bottles that contain a liquid oil should also be avoided. ‘Wet polishes’ when applied can easily creep under the surface of the finish and cause darkening to the area and lifting of the finish away from the wood. 



    Given that we are no longer talking about using anything else other than beeswax polish. Wax polishing should only ever need to be done once a year and in many cases once every few years, sometimes even longer.

     simon gilboy applying beeswax polish using ultra-fine 0000 wire wool

    In our instructional videos you can see Simon applying wax polish with fine wire wool. This wire wool is extremely soft and very fine, it has the texture of cotton wool. It is the professional way to apply wax polish. If you are at all concerned about using it just use a soft cloth to apply.

    Daily or Weekly Care and Cleaning of Your Furniture

    Use a slightly damp cloth to wipe away dust and a similar dry cloth to clean any residue is all that is necessary for the daily or weekly care of all antique and modern furniture.

    The Development of Gilboy’s Gold Fine Antique Furniture Wax Polish

    beeswax from buckfast abbey

    We struggled for years to find a truly high content pure beeswax furniture polish that had been blended with the necessary fine ingredients to make a superior wax polish.

    There are a few manufacturers that do make good wax polishes but we found that they were only successful at polishing certain finishes, they also contain harmful petrochemicals and unknown chemical additives. Consequently our store cupboards were full of all sorts of polishes.

    A good wax polish should have just the right content to provide a thin protective and sacrificial layer to the furniture, adding to the long term preservation and patination of it. It is for these reasons we started to develop our own pure beeswax polish. 

    We approached our local Devon Beekeeping Association and asked their members if we could buy any spare beeswax and they were only too happy to help, not only with wax but also with advice on wax polish recipes.

    So for many months we developed and refined our own special blend of wax polish that suited our needs in the workshop, each new recipe carefully written down and trialing it on our own antique and vintage furniture.

    During the latter stages of the wax development we were commissioned by Buckfast Abbey to restore some of the abbey’s antique furniture. It was during this restoration process that we were offered to use the beeswax produced by the monks own bees for our wax polish. We were obviously over the moon to have this wax offering, especially as they were only a few miles away from our workshop. The head beekeeper Clare Densley, with her colleague Martin Hann allowed us to hand select the most golden wax which was then very slowly re-melted and triple filtered and the result of this careful attention is a pure golden solid beeswax. It is this wax that makes Gilboy’s Gold

    gilboys gold beeswax furniture polish

     Beeswax Polish in Jars Complete Polishing Kits Tins for Professionals Leather Balsam

    beeswax wood polishes

    wood polishing kits 1L beeswax wood polish all natural beeswax leather conditioner balsam


    Simon Gilboy
    Simon Gilboy


    7 Responses


    August 27, 2020

    I’ve been absolutely fascinated by the Youtube videos and have worked my way through watching all of them! Can you please tell me how do you tell if a vintage or antique piece was originally French polished, waxed, or varnished and therefore how to decide how to renovate them?
    I have a couple of dark oak antique coffers and a round occasional table all of which. need some TLC….

    Andrew Langley
    Andrew Langley

    July 01, 2020

    Good Morning
    can you tell me what polish you would recommend for long case clocks mainly oak , mahogany and one marquetry

    Derek Hall
    Derek Hall

    April 05, 2020

    I bought a 1863 French Comtoise Clock. I intended to use just the mechanism on the wall. However the 2.2 meter pine wood casing is made just using wood held together with nails was to good to discard.. I have strengthened the casing and have rubbed off all the stain. What product should I use to renovate and give a functional finish to my beautiful old clock

    Bill Carson
    Bill Carson

    March 11, 2020

    Good evening, at least it is here in the New England area of NSW Australia.
    I have a quite lovely round colonial cedar table (4’6") in diameter.
    Thie table has been attacked by a child yielding a bottle of Kitchen jif. The french polish has totally lifted in those areas leaving bare cedar visible in those places.What can i use

    ! To spread the remaining french polish into the damaged ares What product and what method

    2 To then wax or polish the entire area of the table. French polishing may be rather expensive and as i live in a remote ares french polishers are rare.

    Can you help please

    Barbara Smith
    Barbara Smith

    October 14, 2019

    Thank you for sharing the professional way to wax polish antiques and vintage furniture. This is a very interesting article to read, you learn a lot.

    Carol Alston
    Carol Alston

    October 03, 2018

    I purchased a Georgian bureau book case and intend polishing it with your lovely polish. My question how do I clean the insides of the many drawers which are rougher than the outside of the mahogany.The item does not require restoration only cleaning / polishing as it is in very good solid order

    Adrian Turgel
    Adrian Turgel

    April 13, 2018

    Dear Gilboy’s – I will purchasing some of your antique gold polish in the near future (when I ‘ve saved up in a couple of weeks! I’m a pensioner) as I’m preparing a (Druce and co.)walnut davenport that belonged to my grandmother ca. 1910 ready for imminent sale so that I can MOT my old car… it appears almost identical to the one you are seen working on – the only difference being a slightly different carving on the serpentine legs… I should add that I’m an ex-joiner/cabinet-maker (nowadays a semi-retired archaeologist!) … was wonderingif you could give me some idea of what I should be asking if I were to put it one ebay or similar…? Btw -had a friend who worked at Dartington as a wood carver back in the ’80’s – Bill Titley…?

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