There is more than one way to remove wax from an existing finish, but none guarantee success. Nothing adheres well to wax and even after cleaning, the wood grain can become contaminated. Wax can penetrate the wood, making future paint or stain finishes or touch-ups difficult or impossible. Sanding down the finish can drive the wax even deeper because the friction of sanding heats up the wax.
Techniques on how to remove wax are listed below. However, the risk of a failure in recoating over a wax finish is high.
- Scrub with a solvent, such as mineral spirits, to break the wax barrier. Follow with several applications of Acetone applied with gray scotch bright pads to scrub the surface.
- Mix a solution of equal parts white vinegar and water. Dampen a soft, lint-free cotton cloth with the solution and wipe the surface of the table to break down and remove the wax buildup. Follow the grain of the wood with each stroke. Replace the cloth with a new one as the wax buildup transfers to the cloth to prevent it from being redeposited onto the table. Dry the surface with a clean, dry lint-free cloth after wiping it down to prevent moisture from damaging and staining the wood.
- Mix a solution of 1 cup of white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar to make a natural abrasive cleaner. Dampen a soft cotton cloth with the solution and gently wipe the wax off in the direction of the wood grain. Rinse the surface by lightly dampening a cloth in plain water and wiping the surface of the wood. Then, wipe dry with a clean dry cloth.
After cleaning, test your new finish to ensure adhesion.
NEVER guarantee a finish applied over wax. Here is a suggestion for your contracts:
We cannot warrant finishes over an existing piece of furniture. If products containing silicone (such as dusting sprays), oil soaps or waxes have been previously used on the piece, they may contaminate a new finish and prevent adhesion. In these situations, it is best to strip and sand the entire piece. Occasionally, a previous wax finish or silicone may be impossible to completely remove.
________ (Initials) I acknowledge that this piece has never been waxed/polished with a silicone-based dusting spray or cleaned with oil soaps.
________ (Initial) I have no knowledge of previous cleaning products used but realize they may have been applied by previous owners.