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Furniture polishes PDF Print E-mail

These products are used to give a pleasing look to furniture, with a subsidiary purpose of providing a protective coating against wear and tear. They are either waxes (synthetic or natural) or oils, which often contain solvents to improve application or are emulsified in water. The solvents include naphtha, nitrobenzene and formalin (see Formaldehyde) and ethylene glycol ethers (see Solvents ). So-called 'French polish' consists of many thin coats of shellac, dissolved in methylated spirits, applied with much rubbing.

Health effects
Solvent fumes given off during application of polishes may cause headaches and respiratory irritations. Nitrobenzene, which smells like bitter almonds, is toxic. Good ventilation during use is important.

Environmental effects
The solvents that escape from floor polishes are a major source of indoor and outside air pollution. They contribute to the formation of smog, which is caused by the action of sunlight on many different air pollutants.

Alternatives
 For softwoods, rub with a mixture of one part lemon juice to two parts olive or vegetable oil. There are also plant-based furniture and floor polishes available, but good ventilation is still necessary. To clean bamboo furniture, use a brush dipped in salty warm water (the salt helps maintain the original colour). For highly polished furniture, wipe over with a chamois leather wrung out in vinegar and water; polish with a soft, dry cloth. For carved furniture, apply cedar oil with a cloth and then use a soft-bristled brush to polish the difficult corners.

 
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