Replace Dangerous Furniture Polish With a Safer Alternative

Furniture polishes are supposed to pick up dust, moisturize the wood, and make the furniture shiny. And it’s a bonus if they smell good too. They are not supposed to slowly (and not so slowly) kill the planet and us. Unfortunately, that is exactly what most off-the-shelf furniture polish products do. The safer and saner solution is to make your own polisher that is free of toxic chemicals.


In a re-purposed clean spray bottle combine:

*   ½ cup water

*   4 drops pure lemon oil

Mix well. You’ll want to invert the bottle a few times before each spray so the oil will be mixed with the water. Spray onto a clean soft cotton cloth (I use a white cotton knit painters rag). You just want the cloth to be slightly damp. Wipe the furniture with the cloth. Finish by wiping once more with a dry section of the cloth. The rag can be thrown in the wash when it gets dirty.

This formula does just what a furniture polish should do. It helps pick up dust. It adds a slight amount of oil to moisturize the wood. Too much oil would make the furniture feel oily (yuck!). It makes the wood shiny. And there’s a pleasant lemon smell. All without killing my brain cells or making me feel guilty about the environmental damage I caused.

Lemon oil is ideal because it:

*   Won’t coat your furniture with silicones, waxes, or solvents

*   The smell of lemon is an anti-depressant. And it just plain smells good.

*   The oil will protect your wooden furniture from drying out and leave a nice shine.

The kind of lemon oil you’re looking for is called “essential oil”. It’s often used in homeopathy and aromatherapy. Many supermarkets have a section for these items. I found mine at Whole Foods. There are also lemon oils made from petroleum products. If the oil says “flammable” then it’s synthetic. You’ll want to avoid these.

Test your new polish before using it on anything. Use a little on a hidden spot of the furniture and see if the polish affects it in any way.

Also, make sure to clearly mark the containers you are using. You’ll want to be sure you’re actually using polish on your furniture. And make sure to store your polish where kids and animals can’t get to it. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it should be ingested.



Homemade furniture polish can cost as little as 1/10 the price of a commercial polish. Your polish is a little oil and some water. Theirs is a brew of unknown man-made toxic chemicals.

Plus, aerosol and liquid furniture polishes can contain powerful solvents. These solvents can strip the finish off your furniture over time. After a while you will have to refinish your furniture. Commercial polishes will eventually cost you money, whether you fix your furniture yourself or pay someone to do it for you.


One in three people in the US suffer from allergies, sinusitis, bronchitis, and asthma. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that the air inside a typical home is 2-5 times (100 times in extreme cases) more polluted than the air outside. Household cleaners are largely responsible for this pollution. Household chemicals are also suspected of causing irritability and depression with long-term exposure.

The U.S. Poison Control Centers report that cleaning products are responsible for nearly 10% of all toxic exposures. Many commercially available furniture polishes contain flammable toxins such as nitrobenzene, which can be absorbed through the skin. Nitrobenzine is a suspected carcinogen and can cause severe damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidney damage, impaired vision, headaches, nausea, fatigue, and can be fatal in some instances.

Replacing your “regular” furniture polish with a non-toxic alternative could help you avoid all these problems. Plus you’ll have less stress knowing that you aren’t introducing toxic chemicals into your home. You will know exactly what is in the polish you use.


The production, transportation, use, and disposal of toxic furniture polishes creates significant damage to our shared environment. The creation of the chemicals produces water and air pollution and a host of toxic by-products. Transporting cans and bottles of polish from the factory to a warehouse and then to the store burns fossil fuel and increases carbon dioxide emissions. Using these products introduces the chemicals into the atmosphere and our water supply. Throwing the empty (or mostly empty) containers away risks exposing the environment and the landfill to toxic chemicals. Even the metal aerosol cans cannot be recycled. There is nothing good about these products.

Finally, be sure to properly dispose of your unused commercial furniture polish after you’ve replaced it with your new non-toxic polish. Chemical polish is considered hazardous waste and you’ll need to find out how your city or county wants you to dispose of it. Most local governments have places to drop off hazardous waste. You’ll just need to look online or give them a call.

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