Wood Surface Rejuvenators and Refreshers

There are a variety of products available that claim to be furniture restorers, rejuvenators or refreshers. Still other names are marketed as being quick solutions to liven up a wooden surface, remove scratches, repair color, etc.

What are they?

There are lots of variations, blends, secret ingredients and mysteries around these products; however, the main building blocks are usually mineral oil, wax or a blend of the two. Some products may contain pigments or colors that can be color-matched to your project piece; while others may be clear coat repairs. Some common products would be Oil Soaps (like Murphy’s), or products with words like “restorer”, “refresher”, or “rejuvenator”.

How do they work?

These types of products are designed to smooth out the surface on a microscopic level.

The Physics

Whatever gloss level of finish you choose (flat, matte, satin, semi-gloss, gloss), it is tailored to scatter or reflect light a certain way to set a specific gloss value. When a surface is very smooth it reflects light uniformly and evenly, resulting in higher gloss (more mirror like) finish. Additives and chemistry can affect how smoothly this surface dries to raise or lower gloss and customize final gloss levels, but the final gloss level is all based on the final film surface (see How Gloss Works for more information). When a surface is lived on, it is worn down and scuffed and scratched over time. These scratches affect how the light is reflected and may cause a finish to look worn and dull.

The Chemistry

The actual refresher product will leave behind some form of solids or residue. Again, this is usually some form of oil (usually mineral) and potentially some wax or color. These solids settle into the larger scuffs and scratches from wear and tear and essentially replace what was worn.

Using Over Waterlox

Most likely, it will be possible to use these types of products over your Waterlox finish. It is always recommended to test in an inconspicuous area first to ensure:

  1. The product does not damage the Waterlox any further. Look for wrinkling, discoloration, etc.
  2. The gloss matches the surrounding area well. Some products may increase or decrease the total gloss, so be sure to take that into account if spot repairing.

The Problem

The big topic to note is that these products tend to leave residue behind. Many times they will restore the gloss temporarily, but then dull back down as they dry out. They actually may be duller than when before the product was used. When the finish dulls again, more product may be used which means more residue. As you continue to build up this residue, the coating may start to look cloudy and it will start to dull even faster. The surface may also begin to feel oily or waxy.

The Solution

If your finish has become dull and/or cloudy and you have used some of these products the best course of action is to strip off the residue and try to restore the finish to before the cleaners were used. A good thorough cleaning with TSP (trisodium phosphate) or TSP substitutes may be enough to get back to a clean surface. Usually this should be followed up with just a clear water rinse to remove the TSP residue. Nonabrasive scrubbing machines may be needed to aid in the cleaning process as well. If you have wax buildup, you may need to further clean or strip the wax specifically. See our Wax and Waterlox guide for more information.

Recoating After Using These Products

If you have used these products on your surface it is best to follow the same procedure above and strip all the residues from your surface. Your surface may look much better after it is cleaned and refreshed; however, you may need to recoat. Some coatings may not require any buffing, sanding or screening for adhesion but many will. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to be sure or our Recoating and Maintenance of Waterlox Finishes for more information on Waterlox products specifically. If your floor looks worn and may have lots of minor scratches, it is usually beneficial to lightly buff the surface to deal with any surface scratches or scratches that may go against the grain. Sanding and buffing procedures should only be done after the cleaning step to prevent clogging abrasives or driving the residues further into the surface. Always test for adhesion before recoating the entire surface.

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