How to polish mahogany

Written by sal marco
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How to polish mahogany
Preserve your mahogany finish by adding a protective layer of polish. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Mahogany wood offers a warm, rich colour to furniture, cabinets and mouldings in a house. Mahogany wood begins as pink-brown colour and as the wood dries and ages the colour changes to a deep brown with red tones. Dust, dirt and oily fingerprints dull the finish and take away from the beauty of the wood. Cleaning and polishing mahogany is a simple way to revive the finish. Mahogany comes with a variety of finishes ranging from oil finishes to lacquer or varnish. Determining the finish, before polishing, is important for successful polishing.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Microfiber rag
  • Vacuum
  • Upholstery brush vacuum attachment
  • Boiled linseed oil, tung oil or other wood oil
  • Rags
  • Rubber gloves
  • Eye protection
  • White spirit
  • Toothbrush
  • Furniture polish

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  1. 1

    Wipe the cabinets, furniture or mouldings with a microfiber rag or vacuum the surface with an upholstery brush attachment to remove surface dirt and dust. Use a vacuum if the wood surface has carvings or recesses.

  2. 2

    Apply two to three drops of boiled linseed oil on the mahogany surface. Use your fingertip to rub the oil into the surface to determine if the finish is oil. If the oil soaks into the wood, you have an oil finish. If the oil beads or smears on the surface, you have a varnish or lacquer finish.

  3. 3

    Dip the corner of a clean, cotton rag in tung oil, boiled linseed oil or oil as recommended by the manufacturer of the furniture, moulding or cabinets, if the finish is an oil finish. Rub the oil into the mahogany surface. Continue to rub the oil into the mahogany surface until the wood no longer accepts the oil.

  4. 4

    Wear rubber gloves and eye protection. If you have a lacquer or varnish finish, saturate a thick, soft rag with white spirit. Wipe the rag over the mahogany finish to remove fingerprints and old polish build-up. Turn the rag over frequently as the old polish transfers to the rag. Change rags as necessary and continue wiping until you remove all old polish from the surface. The mahogany will look clean, but dull when you strip the old polish. Wipe the surface three to four times with clean, new rags to remove white spirit residue. Do not add oil to a lacquer or varnish finish.

  5. 5

    Apply a commercially available furniture polish to a soft rag, if you are polishing mahogany with a varnish or lacquer finish. Wipe the polish on the mahogany surface in circular motions and then back-and-forth along the mahogany grain. Add furniture polish to the rag as necessary to finish polishing.

Tips and warnings

  • Apply oil every 2 to 4 weeks to maintain an oiled mahogany finish.
  • Dust mahogany furniture, cabinets and woodwork at least once a week to prevent dirt and fingerprint build-ups.
  • Do not allow water to sit on a mahogany surface; water stains the mahogany and swells the wood fibres.
  • Use only oil on an oiled mahogany finish; applying polish to an oil finish will make the surface gummy.

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