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Wood and water, despite what beautiful pieces of driftwood might suggest, aren’t always the best combination. When unprotected and exposed to water, wood has the tendency to be stained, to warp, and to rot. For those of us trying to maintain a valued piece of furniture or beautiful floors, this can be a real concern. For those of us who have just built our new set of patio pallet furniture or put in a new deck, this is something much better addressed now than later.

The problem, however, with buying products to protect wood is that they often give off harmful fumes, familiar scents that are actually damaging our health as we breathe them in. This is true for both furniture polishes that we’d use for furniture upkeep and sealants we’d use for providing protection on new wooden home additions. Luckily, there are very simple and safe DIY methods for getting these things done.

Wood Polishes and Sealants

Many of us have experienced spray wood furniture polishes. They have a pretty distinct smell, and they convert dusty and dulled wood furnishing into shiny monuments to home hygiene. Unfortunately, they don’t have a great reputation on the health spectrum. Despite what commercials suggest, petroleum-based wood polishes actually don’t protect wood finishes, and they don’t do this while they do put chemicals in the air that can cause problems with our respiratory and nervous systems.

While the manufacturers of wood polishes have gone out of their way to make it smell fresh, varnish producers missed the memo, or more likely, the stuff is just too strong, i.e. toxic, to mask. Varnish, like chemical paints, simply isn’t safe for us to be breathing, and those fumes, linked to cancer and asthma, linger for a long time.

Instead, we can use milder, natural solutions for our wood. We can make truly effective, natural wood polish and preservers. Not only will they be better, cooperating with the wood rather than blasting it chemically, they will also be cheaper and safer for our families. Plus, it’s just really easy to do, and most of the ingredients are likely to already be in the kitchen.

1. Olive Oil and Lemon

Mix three parts olive oil to two parts lemon juice. This can be put into a spray bottle and applied that way, or a polish rag can be dipped into the mixture. The solution can be stored in a glass jar or a spray bottle. That’s it. There’s still that lovely lemon-y scent in the air, the wood is being looked after, but we aren’t killing ourselves to get it done.

2. Coconut Oil

Sometimes it seems we have really over-complicated our lives with chemicals. Coconut oil can save the day again. Give the wood a once-over with a damp rag, let it dry, and rub in some straight coconut oil. It will moisturize, revitalized, and protect the wood. Plus, though it isn’t the smell associated with furniture polish, coconut is a pleasant dance for olfactory passages.

3. Oil and Vinegar

Who are we kidding here? Oil and vinegar is the crux of most salad dressings, so it can’t get much safer to use. And, believe it or not, a bit of canola oil (3 parts) and vinegar (1 part) makes a dandy wood sealant, protecting wood from borrowing insects, wear, and water. Plus, this can be reapplied to revitalize the wood, something that doesn’t work without sanding off the varnish.

4. Linseed Oil

This is a natural substance, linseed oil being from flax. In truth, it gives off strong odors and has the reputation of taking forever to dry. But, it is safer and perhaps worth the wait. While raw linseed oil is actually taken as a medicinal food, when “boiled” linseed is used as a natural ingredient for sealants, check that it doesn’t have petroleum additives. Some suggest buying raw linseed oil and boil it at home.

5. Good Preserving Practices

Like with health, too often we wait until it’s too late, working to fix a problem we could’ve prevented. Wood works the same way. Over-exposure to sunlight and water will degrade it faster, so we should take preventative aims to preserve our wood in the first place. If possible avoid direct sunlight for extended periods of time and clean up any spills, being especially mindful in the kitchen and bathroom, where water tends to be.

Applying these natural sealants regularly rather than waiting until they are absolutely needed will provide healthier, longer-lasting wood and, even better, healthier, long-lasting lives for us.

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