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Oiling & Waxing - What’s The Difference?

All you need to know about oiling vs waxing your furniture.

Oiling & Waxing - What’s The Difference?

Oiling is the easy go-to, particularly if you don't require any sort of sheen. There is no mechanical protection offered in the way waxes do but it's so easy to apply and quick to penetrate. Oiling is brilliant for timber with carved detail or rougher timber as waxes tend to get caught in rogue fibres.

Instructions for use are very simple:

  • Use one cloth or brush to apply oil
  • Use another cloth to wipe away any excess
  • The drier the timber, the more it penetrates and will require more oil to saturate - in this case you'll probably need at least 2-3 coats.

Once this has occurred though, you will have a barrier and only need to re-apply when it looks a little dull or dry. Waxing will be a little longer lasting but there isn't a great deal of difference. Exposure to wind, moisture and UV light tends to shorten the lifespan of both. Do be aware that our Orange Oil is not really suitable for furniture that is completely out in the elements, nor are the waxes.

The Liquid Beeswax is basically a richer form of the Orange Oil, so it will last longer and is a little more robust. We do still class it as an oil, even though it does have beeswax in it.

Waxing is a more involved process, that offers both nourishment and protection when you follow the correct procedure:

  1. To moisturise the raw timber you can use either our Restoring and New Timber Polish or our Orange Oil. You may consider using a sanding sealer (sold at all hardware stores) before the initial waxing/oiling, before step one, if the timber is very dry. Apply sparingly, one to three coats as required (one soft cloth to apply and one soft cloth to buff back), ensuring that the surface is dry to the touch between each coat. If the timber is very dry, the polish or oil will be absorbed rapidly. Provided the timber is not tacky to the touch, you can follow with the next application. If using other manufacturer's preparations such as a tung oil finish it is essential that these are properly cured before applying any wax. If not, the oils can bleed back out of the timber preventing the wax finish from hardening as it should.

  2. Follow this with our Cabinet Makers Wax, which is most effectively applied using 0000 steel wool. Apply at least two coats, buffing thoroughly between. The Cabinet Makers Wax is designed to fill any very fine grooves, cracks or imperfections in the timber to give a super-smooth finish. The number of applications will depend on the finish required.

  3. Finally, apply our Cream Polish for your final finish (one soft cloth to apply sparingly and another to polish back), which will give you a high sheen. Alternatively, you may prefer to use our Carnauba Polish for a harder finish and high sheen. The Cream Polish is an ideal and easy way for you to maintain your beautiful new waxed finish.

Note:  Whilst we highly regard the 3 step process, these products are also highly effective on their own toward the particular purpose they are designed for.

As you can see from the tips above, you can use Orange Oil, Lemon Oil (or Liquid Beeswax for that matter) instead of the Restoring Polish.  This is Step 1 in the waxing process, which is aimed at moisturising and nourishing the timber.  So with that said, It is better to use the oils first and then the waxes.

We hope this has cleared up some of the queries about oiling vs waxing.  Feel free to contact us or drop a comment below if there is anything else you would like covered, or that we should add.


  • Posted by Sara from Gilly's Customer Service on

    Dear Gerard, thank you for your message. There are two most common reasons for a waxed finish to look dull or cloudy. The first is where the wax has been over-applied. It will usually feel a little tacky and will fingerprint if this is the case, though not always. If this is the case, you’ll need to remove the wax using a cloth (we love old t-shirts for this) dampened with something like mineral turpentine. This softens the wax so that you can remove it. When you re-apply the wax, do so very sparingly and buffing well between applications. The other issue is where the timber has residue of another finish still present in the fibres. It can be any sort of synthetic lacquer but is often silicone, where a spray cleaner/‘polish’ has been used (such as Mr Sheen). The wax will not be properly absorbed in the areas where the silicone remains. If this is the case, you would need to research methods of removing silicone before re-waxing.

  • Posted by Sara from Gilly's Customer Service on

    Hi Daryl, thank you for your post. Please check the FAQ in our How to Use section of the website. We have a section dedicated to chopping board care under the Furniture Care with Gilly’s section, which also applies to food service utensils.

  • Posted by Gerard Faure-brac on

    I’ve just sanded and waxed a cedar table top. Although the finish feels great, there is some discolouration and clouding so it doesn’t look really good. What have I done? And how can I fix it?

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