ByMegan Winkler

Jun 1, 2014

Sleek, shiny wood furniture so clean you can practically see your face in it. There’s nothing quite like it. It’s gorgeous, plus cutting down on dust in the home is a big plus in my book. Achieving that look in a green way is a real priority for me. I hate chemicals, not only for what they can do to the environment, but what they can do to our bodies. Yes, I know bleach is necessary to sanitize stuff, but my wood furniture doesn’t need to be inundated to the very grain with stinky, potentially harmful chemicals. Yes, I know I’m systematically ruining your entire arsenal of cleaning products (laughs maniacally). There’s no way that furniture polish is getting away scot-free. If you’re really attached to your Lemon Pledge, you should stop reading now. I’ll wait …

Okay, for the rest of you, here’s the skinny on Pledge. It contains a couple of chemicals called dimethicone and polydimethylsiloxane. Dimethicone is one of those chemicals that experts are fuzzy on. The Environmental Working Group lists it as a chemical with a moderate risk of causing organ system toxicity. They also report that dimethicone may pose a threat to the environment, though they haven’t determined a specific complication … yet.

Polydimethylsiloxane is another beast altogether. It’s a silicon-based organic polymer that’s used for everything from heat-resistant tiles to McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. Yep. Potentially mummified burgers aren’t the only thing you’re putting in your body when you hit the drive-thru at lunch. So it must be okay for us to have around the house, right? Yeah, I totally want something that’s flammable in its natural state that also causes nausea, vomiting and red, painful eye conditions in my food—or my furniture polish for that matter. (If you can’t detect the sarcasm in that past statement, you’re clearly new to the site. Welcome!)

The National Institute of Health further warns against the use of traditional furniture polish because they contain hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons—waxes, oils and organic solvents contained within furniture polish—are super dangerous. If ingested, their chemical properties are actually such that the liquid can slip down into the airways and past the esophagus of small children and adults alike. So if you drink furniture polish—which I don’t recommend—some of it will go down into your lungs. Such exposure leads to hydrocarbon pneumonia, or in other words, rapid inflammation and bleeding of the lungs. Here’s the kicker, though: just inhaling hydrocarbons can have the same effect on your body.

As always, I’m here to give you a better way to clean your furniture. This time, I’ve found two recipes that I think you’ll like. Both call for olive oil, so be sure to have that on hand. If you’re into lemons, combine two tablespoons of lemon juice with four tablespoons of olive oil. Add two or three sprigs of fresh rosemary that you’ve smashed in your hand a bit to release the oils. Combine these ingredients in a small travel-sized pump bottle. When you’re ready to clean house, simply pump some of the concoction out onto a soft dry cloth to work into your furniture.

Another option is to use a cup of olive oil and one medium-sized orange to make a fresh, citrusy polish. Squeeze the juice of the orange into the olive oil and stick a few slices of the peel into the bottle. Add two to three drops of vanilla extract to the mixture to make it a delightful, all-natural cleaning product that’s perfect for your wood furniture. I’ve seen some recipes online for vinegar-based polish, but it seems to me that vinegar’s acidic nature would be something I’d want to avoid on my hardwood furniture. But, as always, if you know of a better way to clean furniture, tell me in the comments below.

By Megan Winkler

Eco-nerd, solar power enthusiast, DIY diva and professional coffee drinker, Megan has written everything from courses in healthcare and psychology to interior design and cooking advice. She has a master’s degree in military history, owns two chainsaws, is a collector of strange trivia and a world renowned Pinterest pro. She is constantly looking for better ways to do things.