How to Make Furniture Polish
Waxing Lyrical with Beeswax & Carnauba
No manufactured polish can scent a home like beeswax. Beeswax has been used for hundreds of years to condition wooden furniture. However, on its own it doesn't give much protection. Carnauba wax, which comes from the leaves of a palm grown in Brazil, is extremely hard, brittle and impossible to use without blending it with a softer wax. Mixing the two, together with a little turpentine, is a match made in heaven for furniture.
This beeswax and carnauba furniture polish is easy to make and store. It lasts a long time and, if you pour it into an attractive jar, tie it with a ribbon and a sprig of lavender it will make an unusual and much appreciated gift. Don't forget to add a little card with instructions how to use it.
If you notice that your melted beeswax and carnauba mixture has impurities or 'bits' in it, you can strain it through a muslin cloth while still hot before adding the turpentine.
Add a few drops of lavender or lemon essential oil for an even more delicious scent. Please don't be tempted to eat it!
Basic Beeswax and Carnauba Recipe
This is the basic starting recipe, if it works well for you, then don't change it However, you may prefer a harder polish, for say, kitchen cabinets so add a little extra carnauba wax. If you prefer a softer polish, for example, to use on stripped pine then just add a little more beeswax or reduce the carnauba.
- Double boiler
- 1/2 cup carnauba wax
- 1 1/2 cups beeswax
- 1 cup turpentine
- Wide-necked screw-top jars
- Make sure the boiler and jars are perfectly clean - any contaminant can ruin your polish and make it go rancid and unusable.
- Place both the waxes in the boiler or in a large bowl seated on a saucepan of water. Heat gently, stirring the mixture until it melts - ooh the smell!
- Remove from the heat, allow to cool for about 15 minutes and then add the turpentine, stirring well.
- Pour into the jar/s, put the tops on and leave the polish to harden. This could take some time. It will help if you place them in a cool place (not the refrigerator).
Warning: This mixture is flammable so don't expose it to very high heat or open flame. Always use a double boiler or saucepan and bowl. Never place in a pan directly over the heat.
In WW2, many tons of beeswax were used for lubricating and polishing airplanes and shells. It was also applied to canvas tents to waterproof them.
What is Beeswax?
Beeswax is a combination of fatty acids and long chain alcohols. It is secreted by female worker bees and used as a building material to form honeycomb cells, which are both nurseries and storage for pollen and honey.
Uses for beeswax:
- A protective coating for traditionally made cheeses as they mature.
- Skincare products – in barrier creams and lip balm.
- As an ingredient in hair pomades and shoe polish.
- It was once used in the production of phonograph cylinders.
- As a resist in making batik.
- As a sealant and lubricant for firearms.
- To make wax tablets for writing on.
Beeswax is good for wood – it works in the same way you use moisturizer. It nourishes the wood fibers, provides a waterproof barrier against spills and gives the surface an attractive shine.
What is Carnauba Wax?
Carnauba wax is produced by the palm, Copernicia prunifera, that grows only in three states in Brazil. The wax forms on the leaves, which are then collected and beaten to remove the wax. It has a similar chemical composition as beeswax but is brittle and much harder. When used on its own as a polish it leaves a high sheen but is very difficult to work with.
Uses for Carnauba Wax:
- As an ingredient in car wax and shoe polish.
- To coat dental floss.
- To give sweets a glossy shine.
- As a coating on speedboat hulls.
- As an ingredient in cosmetics and deodorants.
- In the pharmaceutical industry to coat tablets to make swallowing medications easier.
- Carnauba replaced beeswax in the phonograph industry.
- As a mold release for epoxy resins – it is suspended in solvent and used in an aerosol.
The main world markets for carnauba wax are USA, Germany, Japan, Holland and Italy.
Using Beeswax and Carnauba Polish
Always use two soft cloths - one to apply the polish and another to shine. Rub the polish into the surface of the wood with circular motions. Leave it to harden slightly while you grab a coffee after all that exertion. Then gently polish, again using a circular motion. The longer you polish, the fitter you get... and the shinier your table.