How to Polish Wood to Keep It Looking Its Best

Wood Drawer

In order to keep wood finishes looking their best, you'll want to learn how to polish wood correctly. And depending on the type of wood in your house, your approach may differ. There are many species of wood that vary in color, grain and density, and each require unique care.

Wood furnishings are warm, lovely and adorn the decor. Oak, maple and cherry are all common woods used in furnishings as well as flooring. When using this wood in your decor, there are specific ways to keep it clean and looking like it did when you first bought it.


Oak is a hard and sturdy wood, and perhaps the most common wood used for flooring and furnishings. Something natural and simple, like old-fashioned coconut oil, soaks in and nourishes the oak while also giving it a beautiful shine. To polish wood using a liquid furniture cleaner, place the cleaner on a cloth instead of directly onto the oak furnishing's surface. If applied onto the surface, your solution can damage the oak, especially if it's concentrated on one spot.

When polishing with the liquid on the cloth, you should dispense your cleaner evenly across the surface to assure that the wood looks equally beautiful from one end to the other. Remember that when adding a polish to a furnishing, you're also applying an ingredient that can attract dust. So dusting regularly is just as important in maintaining the wood's surface.


Maple is a beautiful hardwood with a very soft grain and, most of the time, a naturally light color. When polishing wood of the maple variety, dusting and wiping smudges is a very important first step, as they may show more easily. Use a lightly damp cloth to gently clean the surface of any fingerprints and marks.

Using a dirt-free cloth perhaps even an old white tee shirt apply your furniture polish to the fabric and then clean the wood evenly in the direction of the grain. Do this once a week using the same product. In addition, use an oil-based product at least once during the year to nourish and restore the wood's natural sheen.


Cherry is generally harder than other species of hardwood, and can therefore take a bit more elbow grease when discovering how to polish wood of such a tight grain. As instructed, start by dampening a cloth with an oil soap mixture and then polish the solution into the wood surface in circular motions, going with the wood grain. Repeat the same process two or three times to get the ultimate gleam for the cherry wood's polished finish.


No matter what type of wood you own, This Old House suggests making sure you don't use any ammonia-based cleaners or silicone-based sprays that could damage your wood. Apply a polish made specifically to clean and beautify wood furnishings.

Before polishing, dry dust the wood unless you have a specifically nasty stain. For tough spots, use a damp cloth to remove stain and thoroughly dry the area to prevent staining and damage to the wood. Whether you're using a store-bought product or crafting your own homemade polish, the wood's finish will glow with the nourishment of being polished regularly. According to Better Homes And Gardens, all types of wood surfaces should be dusted often.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.