Clean wood with natural products
It isn’t necessary to use an only every time you dust your furniture. In fact, some types of furniture never need oil, just a dusting with a damp cloth.
Some older pieces and unfinished wood, however, can benefit from an occasional oil treatment.
It’s the same story with hardwood flooring — some floors are given a surface finish and others a penetrating finish. If your hardwood floor has a shiny, glossy appearance, it probably has a coating of varnish, such as polyurethane. For this type of flooring, regular cleaning with a vegetable-oil wood soap will remove any surface dirt and restore a high sheen. If your floor doesn’t come back to life after cleaning, it may need a new surface finish. If your floor has a slightly oily feel when you draw your hand across it, it likely has a penetrating finish and needs additional waxing now and then to protect it.
These formulas are for furniture with a hard finish and in need of a good surface cleaning, like garage and estate sale finds, or items kept in storage for a long time. If cleaning the wood doesn’t revive the piece, it may be time for refinishing.
Fragrant Wood Cleaner
This fragrant formula will clear away sticky grime. Using bergamot or geranium essential oil will give a floral scent.
½ cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon liquid castile soap
4 drops bergamot, geranium, or sweet orange essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a small plastic spray bottle. Apply to wood and wipe clean with a damp cloth. Wipe again with a dry cloth.
BE WOOD WARY
Always test wood cleaning formulas on an inconspicuous area of your furniture, like the inside of a leg or a panel underneath, before treating the entire piece. This step is a very important one, as some essential oils can adversely affect certain wood finishes.
Berry Good for Wood Cleaner
Use this fruity solution to bring dingy, dull wood furniture back to life.
1 tablespoon fresh raspberry leaves
1 cup boiling water
½ cup vinegar
½ cup lemon juice
Steep raspberry leaves in water for 20 minutes. Strain. In a plastic spray bottle, combine tea, vinegar, and lemon juice. Shake well. Moisten a soft cloth with the solution and gently rub the wood to loosen and remove dirt. Use a second clean cloth dampened with water to remove any residue. Wipe again with a dry towel.
These formulas are useful for regular dusting, and they smell great, too. Choose one that’s right for the type of wood you have.
Lemon-Fresh Dust Buster
This recipe is for a single use. You could make larger quantities, but the presence of lemon juice necessitates refrigeration. If you want to make enough to store in a plastic spray bottle, you could increase the amount of lemon balm tea to 2 cups, omit the lemon juice, and increase the lemon essential oil to 20 drops.
¼ cup lemon juice
1/8 cup cooled lemon balm tea
2 drops thyme essential oil
4 drops lemon essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle and shake well. Spray onto wood and wipe clean with a dry cloth.
Cedarwood Dusting Aid
Here’s my personal favorite! I use it for bookcases, coffee tables, kitchen cabinets, and the antique dining room table that we refinished a few years back. I adore the scent of cedar on wood; the sweet orange oil adds just the right touch. This recipe makes enough for a large plastic spray bottle.
½ cup oil soap (I like Murphy’s Oil Soap)
¾ cup water
5 drops sweet orange or patchouli essential oil
15–20 drops cedar essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle and shake well. Spray onto wood and wipe clean with a soft, dry cloth.
This recipe is nourishing for older, dry wood. But use it sparingly as too much oil left on the wood will attract more dust. Adjust the amount of linseed and essential oils needed based on how much surface area you are treating.
scant 1/8 cup linseed oil
3 drops lemon or sweet orange essential oil
Combine ingredients in a small cup and stir to mix. Apply small amounts at a time to a dry cloth and rub well into wood. Wipe with a dry cloth to remove any oil residue.
Wood Polishes, Washes & Waxes
You can make larger batches of any of these formulas and store in a recycled coffee can or glass jar with a screw-top lid. Just be sure to shake or stir before applying to the polishing cloth. Keeping an old toothbrush or small paintbrush in the can or jar is an easy and less messy way of getting the liquid polish onto the cloth.
Herbal Wood Polish
This formula leaves a light herbal aroma.
¼ cup linseed oil
3 drops lavender or rosemary essential oil
Combine oils in a bowl. Apply a light layer of polish to wood with a brush or cloth. Rub into wood with a soft cloth, using circular motions. Wipe again with a dry cloth.
Lemon-Walnut Wood Polish
If making a larger quantity to store, use 15 drops lemon essential oil instead of the lemon juice.
1/8 cup walnut oil
1/8 cup linseed oil
¼ cup lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a bowl (or clean coffee can with lid, if making in quantity). Apply a light layer of polish to wood with a brush or cloth. Rub into wood with a soft cloth, using circular motions. Wipe again with a dry cloth.
Carnauba & Lavender Wood Paste
Carnauba is the hardest wax available. Combined with oil, it is an excellent wood restorative.
2 tablespoons carnauba wax chips
1 cup linseed, almond, walnut, or olive oil
6 drops lavender essential oil
1. Combine carnauba and linseed oil in a double boiler. Heat slowly, stirring until completely melted.
2. Remove from heat, add essential oil, and blend well. Pour into a glass or tin container and allow to cool completely before sealing.
3. To use, spread the paste on wood with a soft, dry cloth using small, circular motions. Buff with a second dry cloth.
If grease is spilled or splattered on wooden furniture, immediately cover the stain with salt to absorb as much grease as possible. Wait an hour and then vacuum or carefully brush away the salt with a dry cloth.
If a grease stain remains, put a soft towel over the spot and press with a warm iron — but be careful not to scorch the wood! Keep shifting the towel around, or replace it with a fresh one to avoid redepositing grease on the wood.
Traditional Beeswax Polish
This formula is used on quality wood pieces (especially antique furniture) that have been treated with a light penetrating finish; do not use on lacquered, painted, or unfinished surfaces. The formula calls for turpentine, but you can substitute a citrus peel-derived product called Plant Thinner, made by Auro Organics (available in some health food stores). If using turpentine, take extra care in handling and storing.
8 ounces unrefined beeswax, grated
2½ cups turpentine
2 cups water
½ cup lemon juice
2 ounces grated castile soap
15 drops essential oil of choice
1. Melt the beeswax slowly in a double boiler. When melted, remove from heat and carefully stir in the turpentine. Set aside.
2. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and lemon juice to a boil. Add the castile soap and stir until the soap melts. Allow this mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
3. Very slowly, pour the lemon juice mixture in a fine stream into the beeswax mixture, stirring constantly. Add the essential oil and blend well. Pour into a shallow glass jar or tin can and allow to cool completely before putting the lid on.
4. Dip a soft, dry cloth into the polish and spread a small amount on the wood surface; use small, circular motions. Wipe and buff with a second dry cloth.
Hardwood Floor Wash
If you have loose boards or wood tiles, hand wipe these areas with the wash. Excess liquid from the mop can get in the cracks and cause further buckling.
1½ cups water
1½ cups vinegar
20 drops peppermint essential oil
Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle. Use sparingly, working on small sections of the floor. Dry mop the floor after washing.
Double-Nut Wood Polish
This one smells almost good enough to eat! (But don’t.)
¼ cup almond oil
1/8 cup walnut oil
4 drops pure vanilla extract
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Apply a light layer of polish to wood with a brush or cloth. Rub into wood with a soft cloth, using circular motions. Wipe again with a dry cloth.
Most wood paneling can be damaged by the application of liquids and only requires occasional dusting with a soft cloth. If it has an oily finish, however, you can mist the cloth with a cleaner such as Cedarwood Dusting Aid or an oily cleaner such as Moisture-Rich Duster. As with flooring or wood furniture, test the formula on a small area first.
Citrus-Scented Wood Floor Wax
In this formula, the lemon juice and essential oils clean while the beeswax and carnauba wax nourish.
1 cup linseed oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated beeswax
2 tablespoons carnauba wax
6 drops lemon essential oil
2 drops sweet orange essential oil lemon juice
1. Place linseed oil, ¼ cup lemon juice, and waxes in a double boiler over low heat. Stir constantly until completely melted and smooth.
2. Add the essential oils. Remove from heat and pour the mixture into a clean coffee can and allow to harden.
3. Once the wax has hardened, tap the sides of the can until the wax breaks free. Turn out the wax and gently rub it on the floor, like a crayon. Saturate a cloth with lemon juice, wring out, and rub the wax tracings well into the floor. Buff with a clean, dry cloth.
Woodsy Wood Floor Wax
This formula leaves behind a nice shine and an earthy scent.
2 cups linseed oil
¼ cup carnauba wax
2 tablespoons beeswax
¼ cup lemon juice
8 drops patchouli essential oil
10 drops cedar essential oil
1. Combine linseed oil, waxes, and the ¼ cup lemon juice in a double boiler over low heat. Stir constantly until all the wax is melted.
2. Add the essential oils and blend well. Remove from heat. Pour into a clean coffee can and allow to cool.
3. Once the wax has hardened, tap the sides of the can until the wax breaks free. Turn out the wax and gently rub it on the floor, like a crayon.
4. Saturate a cloth with lemon juice, wring out, and rub the wax tracings well into the floor. Buff with a clean, dry cloth.
This formula is for wood floors without a protective varnish finish.
2 cups warm vinegar
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup water
1 capful liquid castile soap
10 drops essential oil of choice
Combine all ingredients. Dampen a sponge mop or soft-bristled brush with the formula and apply to the floor in sections, using short strokes. Wipe each floor section dry with a towel or clean mop before moving on to the next.
Solutions for Wood Problems
Black heel marks. These can be removed by rubbing 2 or 3 drops of cedar or eucalyptus essential oil over the mark with a soft cloth.
Burns. For burns that have not penetrated the wood surface but have just left a mark, rub with a thin paste of rottenstone (or cigarette ashes), linseed oil, and 2 or 3 drops of peppermint or tea tree essential oil. (Note: Tea tree oil is not recommended for dark wood.) If the burn has penetrated the wood surface, you may have to refinish the area.
Crayon. Wipe crayon marks with a few drops of cedar, peppermint, or tea tree essential oil mixed with a dab of toothpaste. (Note: Tea tree oil is not recommended for dark wood.) Wipe clean with a cloth moistened with vinegar.
Grease on floors. Immediately place ice cubes on top of the spill to harden and prevent the grease from seeping further into the wood. If a grease layer forms, it can be scraped off with a blunt object, such as a popsicle stick. If the wood is unfinished or has a penetrating finish, squirt some vegetable oil soap and a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil over the spill. Blot the stain repeatedly with clean paper towels or cotton cloths.
Painted wood floors. Wood floors that have been painted can be cleaned with a solution of 2 teaspoons washing soda and 1 cup rosemary or sage tea (strained and cooled) mixed with a gallon of warm water.
Scratches. For light-colored woods, wet a soft cloth with equal parts of lemon juice and olive or vegetable oil and gently rub into the wood. Scratches on walnut can be treated with — what else? — a freshly shelled raw walnut. Darker woods, like mahogany, can be treated with a cloth dipped in equal amounts of warm water and vinegar. If the scratch remains, you can fill it in with a crayon or oil pastel pencil. Scratch marks on wood floors may be removed by gently rubbing in a circular motion with very fine steel wool moistened with a hard wax, such as Citrus-Scented Wood Floor Wax or Woodsy Wood Floor Wax.
Water stains and rings. Leaking vases and flowerpots or condensation from cold drink glasses can leave bleached rings on wood surfaces. To treat these stains, first remove old polish by wiping with a soft cloth dipped in full-strength vinegar. Wipe thoroughly with a dry cloth. Then apply mayonnaise or linseed oil, working from the outside to the center of the spot. Leave the oil or mayonnaise for several hours and then buff with a cloth. You can also rub 2 to 4 drops of peppermint essential oil on the stain. Toothpaste is reputedly another cure for water rings on wood. Whatever method you use, remember to test on an inconspicuous spot first.