an oil and vinegar wood furniture polish/cleaner


I recently read about a homemade wood cleaner/polish that can be made with pantry ingredients and thought it would be one small thing that I could accomplish while I’m off work for a bit. It has the benefit of being cheap, very green and is actually good for wood furniture.

We have a lot of wood furniture in our house – antiques and second hand furniture are what we used to furnish it (or, as one friend who helped us move put it, too much old stuff). Some pieces get dried out and occasionally need a little something extra to bring them back to life. This combination seems to do the trick – the vinegar provides a cleaning agent and the oil conditions the wood. Wood furniture with a matte finish cleans beautifully with this; it will fill in tiny scratches, it covers some water stains and helped darken finish that had dried out and lightened. It can be used on other finishes as well, but may need to be buffed off or used more sparingly on glossy finished furniture.

I put it to the ultimate test and used it to try to make the old crackled and dried out church pew that sits on my front porch look good again. There isn’t a lot that can be done for the crackled and baked finish on it, but the oil did darken it up and gave it some protection against drying out again quickly. It looks much better in my opinion (though I can’t do anything about the chew marks on the arm rests that were a puppy teething incident).

desk before and after

The tall hormonal kid’s desk before and after the wood polish – good results

church pew before and after

These photos don’t show as much of the transformation as I would like – but the pew looks dramatically better now.


Oil & Vinegar Wood Furniture Polish/Cleaner

  • 1 part white vinegar
  • 3 parts olive oil

Pour oil and vinegar into a jar, seal tight and shake to mix before each use. Apply to furniture using a rag or microfiber cloth.

Linked to GNOWFGLINS, A Pinch of Joy, Frugally Sustainable

Tagged , , , , , ,

98 thoughts on “an oil and vinegar wood furniture polish/cleaner

  1. I would be concerned about the mix becoming rancid over time while in the furniture.

    • I don’t think there is enough of it on the wood to worry about that.

    • Andrew Puntney says:

      the oil soaks into the wood, doesn’t become rancid….plus the beneficial effects of vinegar as a cleaner should alleviate any doubt. so much better than any chemical preparation….

    • Lauri says:

      I was going to sell my dresser until I tried this. Wow! Brought it right back to shiny and new. Can’t thank you enough! Unreal…

    • Judy says:

      I know this post was an older one- but I read that olive oil can get more rancid and it said to use a cheap vegetable oil as it does not- been doing this a few months now and it works great. I also add a few drops of lavender essential oil and it smells great too!

  2. Great results – I’m sure it’s every bit as good as oil soap.

    • I’ve used the oil soap before – it cleans well, but the wood dries right back out as soon as it evaporates. This lasts longer.

      • Andrew Puntney says:

        exactly…..the oil soap dries quickly. I have been using this mixture on antique furniture for years (my Grandparents/Great Aunts/Uncles were from the late 1890’s or early 1900’s) taught by my ancestors. I used to think preparations like this were just “old school / inexpensive” In truth, much better than whatever chemicals are used in commercial products. I just found a (1930’s) writing desk that had been in a shed for who knows how long….after scraping off the mud dauber’s nests, vacuuming the spider webs away, it looked like you might imagine. Cleaned/polished it with oil/vinegar and it looks amazing. Could probably sell it, but won’t.

  3. and if you get really desperate you can use it on your salad–actually I really like this idea except you cannot spray it around your room like Pledge to make it smell clean but not really dust or clean

    • No, it won’t make the room smell good like pledge, but add some garlic and honey and you’ve got salad dressing.. Multipurpose. 🙂

    • Terin says:

      I use a modified version of this, adding essential oils for fragrance (lemongrass and/or citronella and lemon for a “Pledge” like scent, lemongrass and rose geranium is lovely and clean citrus-floral and my favorite, or experiment. Geranium, citruses, cedarwood and lavender are all good scents for this). I also thin with a little water and vodka so it’s not so greasy/intense.

  4. I’ve seen this recently, floating about Facebook. You have convinced me to try it!

  5. Sarah says:

    Oh wow! I had no idea. I’m thrilled with the way your desk and church pew turned out. There might be hope for a table we have with this. This is so cool! I’m going to try it on the table right now….lol.

  6. Jennifer says:

    Wow! What a difference!

  7. Fairy says:

    I had not heard of the vinegar/oil combination. I just use oil and add a few drop of lemon essential oil to the mix. It smells wonderfully fresh and the lemon oil is supposed to deter spiders. I am not too sure how effective it is in that regard but maybe I do not use it oftern enough. 😦

    • That probably works just as well. Actually, it sounds like it smells very nice.

    • Priyanka Sailu says:

      ur combination deters spiders? wow this is interesting. But can we use fresh lemon instead of lemon oil? also u use olive oil? can we use coconut oil or vegetable oil or sesame oil?

      • james walton says:

        i found an old broken down oak table out in the barn. took off the top, cut it to remove all the nail holes that were in it.
        glued it back together. planed and sanded.
        have just treated it with 4 coats of 50 50 vinegar and sesame oil. it is still thirsty. will give it more, then apply wax to seal the oil in, and buff it.

  8. I have used Murphy’s oil soap but wasn’t always happy with the end look. I’m going to hold on to this and try it out myself.

    • I like Murphy’s for just cleaning, but it doesn’t seem to help give a nice finish to wood. Oiling seems to help. Not furniture with a glossy finish though – it just sits on the top of those.

  9. I just made a jar of similar stuff – oil and all the leftover lemon rinds from my salad dressings with a bit of juice. It’s the only thing that will even remotely soothe the spot where my two-year old sits at our crappy old wood table! Smells lovely and I’ve been using it for ages – and you’re right I’ve never had trouble with it smelling “off”. Way cheaper than expensive lemon oil from the store.

    • I like your idea of using the lemon rinds. Do you use some of the juice too?

      • Yes, I’ve do. I’ve done a few different recipes I’ve found online – one was just half and half lemon juice / light oil, which had the best smell, but I usually buy organic lemons which are expensive, so now I just cover a big mason jar full of spent lemons and add the juice of one lemon, which I peel the zest off first (I add the zest too). It seems to be enough acid to cut the gunk on the kitchen table. Glad to know I can use vinegar tho – I don’t always have lemons on hand, so thanks!

  10. […] tried a new wood cleaner/polisher  week. So simple, only 2 ingredients and both are found in almost all kitchens. You won’t […]

  11. We also recently discovered this old magic when the furniture restorers who came, courtesy of the insurance company after our small flood, told us it’s the best way to look after our antique wooden furniture.
    I think your pew looks good.

    I called in to see how you are, hopefully doing okay, resting and letting the others do the work …..

    Love to you all

  12. […] Covered Bacon Cookies from Back for Seconds.  Oh my, all those fabulous flavors in one bite!  Oil and Vinegar Furniture Polish from Lightly Crunchy.  Wish I had known about this last week for my visit.  I oiled some […]

  13. […] made a furniture cleaner/polish using oil and vinegar that worked great on an old dried out looking church pew that we have on our […]

  14. Barbara says:

    I tried it, it look good, but the high chair I put it on is real oily. How do I get that oily feeling off the chair.

    • You might have just rubbed a little top much on – I’d use a clean cloth and buff some of it off. There should be a bit of a sheen to it from the oil, but it shouldnt be so oily that your hands slip off of it. It will sink in a bit, too.

  15. Brenda says:

    I use this but soak cloves in the oil. The cloves act as a stain to cover scratches and leave a nicer smell. I used it on my dried out kitchen cupboards and 4 months later they still look great. I had used some expensive cleaners and polishes to try to cover the scratches on the drawers and they never worked more than a week or two. With this, I you can’t find the scratches.

  16. Gina says:

    FYI: Another great use for this is on wood cutting boards. You are suppose to oil them regularly anyway, although most forget to or don’t realize it, and the vinegar in it will help remove any odors hanging out in your cutting board; onion, etc.

  17. Charlotte Apple says:

    I’m eager to try. Why olive oil? Can any other oil be used?

    • Probably. I used olive oil because I had it on hand and it’s a light, non-smelly oil.

    • Patty says:

      If you use canola or vegetable oil, it can leave the furniture greasy. Olive oil absorbs better and doesn’t leave a greasy feeling when you touch it. Try rubbing different oils on your hands to see what I mean. Some oils leave your skin feeling greasy, others absorb and just leave your skin feeling soft (like olive oil).

  18. Sally Pratt says:

    i used Canola oil…only cause that’s what the recipe that i had called for.
    any oil i think would be okay.
    now…..i have used this but how’s everyone’s luck with water marks?

  19. eli ciprari says:

    can you use apple cider vinegar?

  20. I'm in the know says:

    Totally brilliant, I was sick of beeswax lurking in the corners of my oak chairs. I have polished every piece of wooden furniture with this today, next week I will tackle the works boardroom.

  21. Maureen says:

    I used this polish on my dining table Monday but the polish is just sitting on the top, any ideas how I can fix this thanks

  22. Gop Kanapanh says:

    This 3 to 1 mix of oil and weak acid works very well for all kinds of wooden surfaces including rattan, bamboo and reeds and extremely good for solid teak and laminate surfaces sealed or unsealed and as Heidi has suggested a buff off on sealed wooden surfaces is a great way to freshen up a lacquered/poly-urethane finished wooden furniture item.

    I’ve found that I can replace the vinegar with lemon or lime juice which gives an identical finish and simply changes the immediate aroma.

    Similarly any vegetable oil will work as well including, as I have found, teak oil itself. I have lost pre-mixes of it for a year and the mixture hasn’t turned rancid noticeably in that time. (Tastes awful as a salad oil)

    Vinegar is the easiest to mix up since it doesn’t require juicing of lots of citrus fruits to make the mix.

  23. cindi says:

    I used this on a really old dresser that had years of caked in dirty grossness in the intricate detail on the legs. I used a toothbrush to get this clean and it was very easy! This dresser looks beautiful now!

  24. Muzzie says:

    Awesome!! Just used it on my 6 foot butcher block table. It looks so good and I don’t worry when my cats take a stroll across it. Don’t like using the commercial brands as it gets on their feet. We use the table for a desk now that our four boys are grown and out of the house.

    • nettie says:

      Hi,I,ve been wanting to try something for dusting,but we have 2cats. So the vingar and oil is safe around one cat licks on everything and i dont want to use something that will harm them.

  25. Sharon Ottow says:

    I used this formula on our teak wood. I loved the way it evened out the wood and the shine it gave to our teak. Unfortunately two months later we are having a problem with mildew which we never had before. The weather is exceptionally hot and humid. We are in the Florida Key area.

  26. alex says:

    For the white marks left by water or hot plates I use butter and it takes them right out.i literally just get some butter on a paper towel and rub it on until its gone. I also rub it on all over the table and it looks great.if you dobt use too much it doesnt leave it feeling greasy

    • Kristen says:

      AFTER I HAD BEEN IN QUITE A FUNK TODAY, THIS REALLY BRIGHTENED MY DAY! I salvaged a solid wood bookshelf that someone had tossed and left out in the rain. It was soaked through. I tried this using canola oil instead because it is what I had on hand. This mixture , applied with a micro-fiber cloth, took off all the blemishes. It is now shiny, rich in color and brand new looking! I can’t wait to apply it to my other wood furniture!

  27. Paula says:

    This website is like a great find in a Thrift store – hidden treasure!

    My Mom loves antique furniture and taught us respect for it early in life. Occasional water spots were no big deal, just get the jar of MAYONAISE, apply, and wait for it to disappear (the mayo and the water stain!)

    Now, over 50 years later, it makes sense: oil, vinegar, lemon juice …

    Thanks for the posting, everyone’s added wit and wisdom 😊

    Paula from humid Charleston, SC

  28. This is pretty useful, thanks for the recipe. I’m sure this will get the unfinished paneled walls in the Family room looking a little less dead!

  29. Becki Johnson says:

    This really works we had water stains and dried out furniture and it gave it a nice dark look . I also used it on my kitchen cabinets and boy you could tell . I’ll keep using it. It’s cheap and easy to mix up and use….

    • Mace says:

      I am looking for a safe cleaner for my kitchen cabinets! I will give this a try!!! Excited. Thanks everyone

  30. Leevje says:

    I used this method over a year ago on an antique dresser I have and it still looks great! I haven’t had to re-apply

  31. carol cooper says:

    i just used it on and old antique cigar stand , it was all dried out , it is just beautiful now,it looks brand new, i never us pledge or any wax furniture polish on any of my wood furniture, i never liked the wax build up you had to clean off after many uses of it, but this really works on furniture that has dried out. just love it.

  32. Jodie says:

    Salad dressing! Who would have thought! I will def be giving this a go on my furniture, it has to beat those horrible spray polishes.

  33. Maddy says:

    Just used this on my wooden furniture. Unbelievable. I added some lemon juice to the vinegar and olive oil. Thanks for the very useful advice. Just in time for pre-Passover and spring cleaning.Loved it!

  34. ebdclark says:

    Just tried it! It did work wonders on an old table, but how do you keep the dogs from licking it off after you use it?

  35. Thank you so much it even made my handwood floors awesome!!!!I am trying to get away from the toxins for children and all I can say is AWESOME!!!!!

  36. Johanna Scalzo says:

    Can you use a bottle of salad dressing bought in the store?

  37. Priyanka Sailu says:

    can we use any other oil?? like coconut oil or sesame oil?

    • Look back through the comments to see some other oils that people have tried. I’m not sure about coconut oil because it tends to solidify at cool temps. And sesame oil has a strong scent and goes rancid easily.

  38. Mona says:

    Could you use apple cider vinegar instead of white vinegar?

  39. queen says:

    U used cooking oil?

  40. Ahlam says:

    i have tried it on my table ,,i didnt believe what i saw it was surprisingly new & shiny ,,i never liked furniture polish brands like pledg etc

  41. Heather Gagne says:

    Thank you,Heidi! Just found your site yesterday and today tried the oil & vinegar on our newly acquired garage sale find – a roll-top secretary desk. It worked beautifully! We’re thrilled!

  42. angela says:

    Works great…

    Thank you..

    P.S. I found one part oil to one part vinegar works best..Not greasy…

  43. Osmo oil says:

    Such a good idea, we have advised some of our customers to use this same method!

  44. Kathy says:

    Tried 2 tbsp veg oil, 1 tbsp vinegar, 1 tbsp lemon juice, rubbed all over my maple table, still had tacky sticky spots near edges. Did Oil soap to cut the grime, then did a rub of the oil vin juice combo…looks pretty good now and does not feel sticky or oily.

  45. rsharpart says:

    I bought my boyfriend a smart old writing desk last week. It was in reletively good condition but covered in a white ‘finish’ that just looked awful, patchy and made the whole thing dull. I tried a lot of wood cleaning products but nothing could shift it.
    Then I came across this. I made the solution, applied it to a sponge and just white that awful white away in one go. Now the desk gleams and shines. It’s relly had a new lease of life thanks to this, and thanks to you for posting it!

  46. Judy Davis says:

    Just found this site. AMAZING!! I was looking for “how to cover scratches on dark wicker, rattan, etc” any ideas.

  47. Josephine says:

    Can I use the mix to polish my wooden window frames?

  48. Letty O says:

    Thanks a bunch for the great info! I was shocked and hesitant after reading the warnings on store bought oils. So glad I found you. I read many helpful suggestions I will begin to try asap! I love the safe, inexpensive and practical mixes mentioned, again, thanks!!!

  49. delfina says:

    What about apple cider vinegard

  50. sharron says:

    Can this be used on an old painted white kitchen safe

  51. Hazel Carr says:

    Heidi, I have raw red oak table wood and have not put any oil to protect. I noticed the leg is getting crack and dried. Can Olive Oil and White Vinger apply to that table? If so, How often? Need Help.

    • james walton says:

      yes. but it might not close up the cracks.
      if you have some wood glue and fine saw dust, you can mix them and work them into the cracks, but then wipe with wet cloth, let dry, sand, and then apply the oil and vinegar. or paint the legs with enamel.

  52. […] Oil and Vinegar Natural Furniture Polish & Cleaner […]

  53. Lana says:

    can you use mineral oil instead of veg or olive oil?

  54. dee murray says:

    I just finished using this on two very worn dressers (over 50 years old) and I cannot believe the difference! They are beautiful, whereas before they just looked old! This will be my new cleaner for all my antiques! Thanks so much for passing along a great tip!

  55. joginder says:

    furniture in all the rooms of our home is made of teak laminate surfaces with a coat of liqueur. will this formula work on such surfaces.

  56. Russell green says:

    I tried this but put it on with super fine steel wool then buffed off worked well on my Lillian Russell antique walnut furniture

So, what do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: