Making a decision which furniture care product to use or recommend can seem impossibly confusing if you listen to advertising or read labels. But if you separate the products into four categories for what they do, they are understandable, and you can make an intelligent choice.
The four categories are clear, emulsion (milky white), silicone and wax. A few examples of each are shown, left to right, in the accompanying picture.
Clear polishes are usually packaged in clear plastic containers and are based on petroleum distillates such as mineral spirits or, sometimes, citrus oils. They clean grease and remove wax, but they don’t clean water-soluble dirt such as dried soft-drink spills or sticky fingerprints.
Choose a clear polish if you only want an inexpensive, pleasant-smelling liquid to aid in dust removal.
Emulsion polishes are usually packaged in aerosol sprays and are an emulsion of water and petroleum distillate, which gives them a milky-white coloring when first applied. Their advantage over clear polishes is that they clean both grease and water-soluble dirt.
Choose an emulsion polish if you want a polish that cleans better in addition to aiding in dusting.
Silicone polishes have a small amount of silicone added to a petroleum-distillate (clear) or emulsion (milky-white) carrier. They are usually packaged in aerosol sprays, but Orange Glo and Pledge Orange Oil are exceptions in clear plastic containers. You can identify silicone polishes by the telltale marking they leave when you drag your finger over a surface, even after several days.
Choose a silicone polish if you want long lasting shine and scratch resistance along with a dusting, and sometimes cleaning, aid.
Wax is the most permanent furniture-care product and also the most difficult to apply because of the extra effort required to remove the excess. On deteriorated finishes, wax has the advantage of not highlighting cracking and crazing as liquid polishes do.
Choose a wax polish if you want fairly permanent shine and scratch resistance on old, deteriorated finishes, or on newer finishes without using a silicone polish.