Disclaimer: The information posted here is from my experience of almost 40 years in the Furniture Restoration business.
I often get asked...
Should I polish my furniture?
What should I polish it with?
How do I keep my furniture from drying out?
The answer to all of these questions is the same. Furniture does not dry out because one does not put polish or oil on it. It dries out from a lack of moisture (H2O) or humidity in the air, not polish. The question of should you polish your furniture is basically unrelated to wood furniture getting dried out. On almost all furniture there is a film/layer of finish that is between the wood and the polish or oil. Therefore, when you apply any type of polish whether it be Lemon Oil or a silicone-based polish such as Pledge, they never touched the wood or are absorbed into the wood. What happens for the most part, is that they dry out on top of the finish and began to cause problems which results in the surface easily being scratched, collecting dirt, smudgeing and becoming easily susceptible to moisture damage. Since finish is a layer/film over the wood you might as well be polishing a sheet glass. Lemon oil, in particular, goes on very shiny but over a period of days or weeks dries out to a very flat sheen. This is a unique product in that it actually causes the problem that it is marketed to cure. I am sure this is shocking to many of you that have use lemon oil and lemon pledge over many years.
My advice is that if you have been using polish for a long period of time then you are stuck in the "vicious cycle" and basically have to continue polishing in order for your furniture to look decent. On the other hand, if you have a new piece of furniture, please never put any polish on it. It will look the same 10 years from now as it did when you bought it assuming, you do not damage it yourself. Try to keep furniture out of direct sunlight as UV rays will damage the finish and buy a humidifier and keep the humidity around 40 to 50% in you home. This will do more to help your furniture than anything else. I will discuss humidifiers in another post but do not use the type that spray a mist into the air.
I will deal with individual products and my feelings about them in future blogs. I. E. Beeswax polish, Pledge and silicone products, Lemon oil, Old English etc.
Here is a table where I have removed a 30 year polish buildup. The first photo shows where a lamp was sitting and never got polished. In the 2nd photo I started the removal of the polish buildup to the right side of where the lamp sat. A beautiful finish was still under the polish!!
Here are 2 photos of a desk top that had a buildup of polish. The scratches were mainly in the soft polish buildup and so were the white spots from moisture. I removed the buildup and look what was underneather!!! Notice the reflection of the blinds in each photo...