Thursday, December 13, 2012

Nurture Your Furniture

Over the last decade, I’ve been substituting – wherever I can find viable alternatives – all chemical-based household cleaning and personal care products. The reason for this changeover is simple:  the commercial products contained chemical ingredients too harsh for my dry skin, sensitive teeth, and keen olfactory sense. Besides, ingredients such as Phthalates (endocrine disruptors), Perchloroethylene (also known as “PERC’; a neurotoxin,) or Triclosan and/or Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (anti-bacterial agents,) in commercial products prove – for me – far more hazardous than advantageous.

Recently, I found a new addition to my repertoire:  homemade wood cleaner and polishes. One recipe for unfinished furniture and wood surfaces and another for finished wood (varnished, lacquered, etc.). Both work exceptionally well and leave no sticky residue on the furniture…or me. The best feature of both is aroma. By using pure, essential (lemon) oil, their scents are subtle and soothing, not intense and irritating.

Unfinished-wood polish: Mix 1/2 cup of mineral oil with 1/2 teaspoon of lemon essential oil.
Finished-wood polish:  Mix 5 tablespoons mineral oil, 3/4 teaspoon lemon essential oil, and 1 tablespoon liquid dishwashing detergent. Stir until the solution becomes clear and then add 3 ounces of water, very slowly, stirring constantly.
(Note:  Both recipes should be stored in glass and a cool location.)
Before polishing (unfinished wood)
Before using either formula, clean the wood surface well with a soft, dry cloth. If furniture has accumulated a build-up of polish, dirt, or wax, these need removing before re-polishing. A mild vinegar solution (mixed 1:1 with water) works well. Moisten a cloth with the solution, wring out thoroughly, gently rub the surface clean, and dry immediately. Ensure the surface is completely dry before applying polish.
After polishing

With a soft cloth, apply small amounts of polish at a time, rubbing each application in thoroughly before adding more. Buff dry with a second cloth. Unfinished furniture and wood need oil to keep from drying and cracking but, while oils will give a more natural sheen than wax, they also have a tendency to attract dust and hold dirt. To remove any excess oil, sprinkle on a little cornstarch and continue buffing. The starch absorbs surplus oil and adds to the lustre.

Since my switchover began, I’ve noticed, with each additional substitution, a distinct lessening of allergies – both skin irritations and respiratory problems. While I’m grateful for the relief, this reason (alone) wouldn’t motivate me to continue using homemade alternatives if they didn’t work. These furniture care substitutes – and all my other replacements – do their job remarkably well. As added bonus, our budget gains tremendous savings by making these regularly used products with simple and low-cost ingredients.