You’ve probably seen furniture oils – like teak and lemon oil – as you browse the cleaner aisle. Alongside a bewildering selection of polishes and waxes, you may be wondering if this is something your good wooden furniture actually needs, or just another gimmick.

Here’s what you need to know:

Why oil?

Furniture oil was one of the original finishes for wood. The oil would penetrate the upper layers of the wood, keeping it supple, preventing it drying out, and also helping to ward off wear-and-tear and excessive moisture. Over time this style of coating wears off, however, needing yearly re-application.

Modern finishes

With the advent of more modern finishes, such as paints and lacquers, there’s less need for the use of a coat of oil. In fact, if you try to oil (or wax) a piece with an impermeable finish like this, you’ll just end up with a gunky mess!

That said, however, oil remains a way to both feed and protect wood finishes that use stain and wax as their protective coat.

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This most often applies to antiques and special or hand-made pieces. If you happen to notice anything with this style of finish looking dry and thirsty, it’s time to crack a bottle of furniture oil. Finish off with a coat of sealing wax, and you’ll have a gorgeous, time-tested seal to enjoy.