Removing Furniture Polish

Tips on restoring the sheen to a catalyzed finish that was made to look "waxy" by application of furniture polish. November 25, 2008

I delivered a table recently to a client that I finished with GF 181 pre-cat semi-glass, let the finish cure for about two weeks, then buffed with 3M Finesse-It II. Customer called and said that the cleaning lady used furniture polish on it, and now it looks "waxy." I haven't seen it yet. I'm meeting with them tomorrow and am looking for ideas in advance. He thinks it needs to be re-buffed with the Finesse-It? I would think the polish just needs to be removed. With what? Unless it actually affected the finish?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor F:
You can remove the polish with naphtha and a fine steel wool. Wait for the naphtha to dry out, then buff out with a cotton cloth.

From contributor J:
Naphtha and steel wool may be more than necessary, even 4-0 steel wool may put scratches in the pre-cat. Pre-cats can react differently to rubbing out than NC lacquer. Use a mild solvent like mineral spirits on a rag first, then if need be you can step up to something stronger.

From contributor P:
Careful! I wouldn't use naphtha, or any other strong solvent. General Finishes pre-cat (despite the misleading name) is a waterbased finish. Mineral spirits might be okay.

From contributor S:
Leave the steel wool out of this - it will not fix a buffed finish. Mineral spirits should remove most any wax or oil based polish. Even if it is a silicone polish, it probably has not been on there long enough to cause major damage. Try to remove what is there with MS on a soft cloth with little pressure. Hopefully you won't have to rebuff. Whatever it takes, charge for it and take away the cleaning lady's polish.

From contributor D:
I'd play it even safer and start with soap and water, then maybe a de-greaser (household variety). If those fail, then a mild solvent.

From contributor N:
Guardsman Furniture Cleaner in an aerosol can. One cloth to apply and one new one to wipe dry and clean. No elbow grease. And no steel wool! If you use steel wool, then you'll need to rebuff the table to get rid of the scratch pattern left by the steel wool. Finesse-It won't get rid of steel wool scratch lines.

From contributor A:
I would likewise try to wash the polish off with an appropriate solvent. Many of the waterbornes are impervious to the typical solvents after a couple of weeks. I've tried to remove a few with acetone with no luck. About 5 years ago I got waterborne overspray on my shaper table (faithfully waxed). After a few days I had to sand it off. Acetone wouldn't touch it. Abrading it would be your last move.

From Paul Snyder, forum technical advisor:
Mineral spirits or naphtha are both good choices to remove wax. More than likely something in the furniture polish has interacted with the finish to cause the waxy look. I'd expect to find the finish has a milky look that isn't removed by the solvent, though it may disappear while the surface is wetted by the solvent. It may be related to the buffing more than the finish itself.

From contributor N:
Here's what will definitely work. Compound the table again with Finesse-It. I assume that you used a buffing machine. This will clean off what you need cleaned off and it will bring you back to your original shine. There's no smear or residue. Your only concern in a customer's house is the sling from the buffing machine. Here's how that is dealt with. Use a little Finesse-It at a time. That is, squeeze out a one foot long line or an "S" the size of a sheet of notebook paper. Using your buffing wheel, lightly smear your ribbon of compound the way that you would spread out ketchup on a hamburger. Go for about a 2' x 2' area or smear. Start buffing. You shouldn't have any sling, but you will have powder/dust.