Some time ago, a question was posted on Facebook about waxing painted pieces. Waxing with a fine quality paste wax after varnish is dry will not only add a rich luster to your painted piece, it will add durability. Any piece you’ve painted that will be used in the kitchen or bathroom should have a good coat of wax to protect it from water splashes and humidity. On a waxed surface, water will simply bead up and dry without causing damage. Water and high humidity are the enemies of wood.
Original paste wax products contained melted beeswax and vegetable oil which did a fair job of preserving wood but didn’t do a lot to enhance the appearance. The more desirable type of paste waxes we look for today are harder and more durable than in the past especially if they contain a high percentage of Carnauba. According to my research, Carnauba wax is a resin produced by the wax palm tree Copernicia Cerifera that grows in South America. The highest-quality wax is grown only on the trees in the Northeastern tropical rain forests of Brazil.
Carnauba has a very strong grain structure and is the hardest wax known to man. In addition to being incredibly durable, carnauba dries to a natural shine (in contrast, bees wax, paraffin and many synthetic waxes tend to cloud and occlude). Carnauba wax is produced by the leaves of the tropical carnauba tree as protection from the harsh conditions of the tropical rain forest – intense heat, harsh equatorial sun and constant moisture and humidity. Any surface coated with carnauba wax will be similarly protected. The premium quality is #1 light yellow which dries clear. Look for brands high in Carnauba!
The brands I have used are Goddard’s Cabinet Wax (my favorite even though it contains some beeswax which tends to be softer), Trewax Clear, (high in Carnauba and has no paraffin), and Minwax Brand Finishing Wax. I have tried Johnson’s Paste Wax but I cannot recommend it because it darkens and clouds. I know there are many others on the market, but these are the ones with which I’ve had experience.
Wax On, Wax Off
You will need some lint-free soft cotton rags; an old t-shirt will do. Cotton works better than synthetic materials for waxing and polishing because it is absorbent and won’t scratch. Before beginning, clean the piece of all dust. You may need to use a slightly damp cloth to get all the dust particles off. Remember, water is the enemy of wood, so be sure the cloth is only slightly damp. Apply the wax sparingly and evenly with the thinnest possible layer and leave it on for a minute or two before buffing with a fresh, clean, dry, soft, lint-free cloth. Buff well to achieve a mellow patina. That’s it; you are finished. To maintain the luster in the coming weeks, just dust the piece and buff lightly.
Spray-on waxes are a little easier to apply than paste because they usually contain silicones to help spread the wax more evenly. They usually offer good protection but the finish is a hard gloss which is not a natural look and less desirable. I believe the low luster of paste wax is preferable and best shows off our art. You will find paste wax is worth the extra effort and little bit of elbow grease .