Against the Grain: Shiny furniture without the fumes

story by Leah R. TroianoWhen the time came to purchase a dining room table, I fell in love with a piece made from stunning, richly grained mango wood. The table was an extravagant purchase, so I listened very carefully while the salesperson recited care instructions. Then I dutifully purchased the recommended furniture polish.

As soon as the table was delivered, I lovingly polished it from top to bottom. However, the polish had a lingering smell. After the job was finished, I decided to read the ingredients.

The ingredients weren’t listed; instead, there was a warning: “Vapor harmful: Use only with adequate ventilation.” Then, at the bottom of the can: “Contains solvents which can cause permanent brain and nervous system damage.” (Insert heavy sigh.)

As I walked around my house, opening windows to vent the fumes, I decided to find a way to safely remove the polish and still keep the surface protected. 

Luckily, a quick search provided an easy and inexpensive alternative. The best part: I had all the ingredients in my house and you probably do, too!

Leah R. Troiano, a certified cancer support educator, works with people who have cancer or would like to prevent cancer. Videos on how to make the products featured in this column can be found at Contact Leah at


  •  ¼ cup 
  • White vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 7 to 10 drops lemon or pine essential oil (optional)
  • Clean spray bottle
  • Clean cotton cloth (an old cotton T-shirt works well)

Add vinegar, olive oil and essential oils to the spray bottle. Shake well. Wipe the surface free of any large bits of food or heavy dust. Spray mixture on a small surface area. Rub mixture into the furniture, working your way over the entire surface.

*The vinegar cleans and the olive oil moisturizes. Strained lemon juice can be substituted for the vinegar, but leftovers should be tossed after each use (the olive oil can go rancid). When using this or any new product, always test a small inconspicuous area for adverse reaction before using.