Howard Restor-A-Finish: Reader reviews

In the recent story about Jessica’s dilemma — to refinish the wood finish vs. just paint her beat-up Heywood-Wakefied — there were lots of comments from readers in praise of Howard’s Restor-A-Finish and Howard’s Beeswax Conditioner. As I understand it: You do not need to strip or sand down your old furniture — just wipe this stuff on it using toweling or super-fine steel wool (see their directions.) I have not used this product myself, but I sure will give it a try next time I have the need. Hmmmm, I have project in mind already — the two side tables in the man cave could definitely use spiffing. Reader comments included:

Atomic Hipster John said:

(I vote) Natural wood whenever possible so the true beauty of wood grain can shine through. Howard’s Restore-a-Finish and Howard’s beeswax conditioner will go a long way to making this piece shine in its formal glory again!!

Clampers said:

I would try to work with the original finish, using a product such as Restore-a-Finish or Formby’s. I have watched too many Antiques Roadshow episodes where people are so disappointed to hear their furniture is worth next to nothing because they stripped and refinished! Anyway, I’ve used those products on several furniture projects and they are a dream to work with…very easy and the results are fantastic…and some of my salvaged furniture was pretty nasty and beat-up.

Eartha Kitsch said:

Ooh! I love this question as I have my owner inner battle in answering it. First, I say that if you think that you might like it unpainted, get some Howard’s restore-a-finish and see what it looks like afterward. You might be really surprised! We’ve brought home some pretty dried out and mistreated pieces around here and even just a simple wipe down with orange oil has yielded results that have amazed us. I mean, it’s not ever going to be showroom new looking unless it’s completely refinished but who says that every piece has to be that way? A little conditioning of the wood might make that set very pretty again.

Becky said:

Min-Wax Antique furniture restore, and Howard’s Feed and Wax will have this brand gorgeous in just one afternoon in your backyard, and for only about $30 ( $15 + $10 + some rubber gloves and 0000 steel wool. ) IF you paint it, it’ll take day and days of hard work to get back to that gorgeous wood, instead. I’m begging you! Save that wood.

Lynda suggested:

How about sanding and putting on Watco Danish Oil for the top. It is pretty easy to keep up. Follow the directions using the wet/dry sand paper for your final coat and you won’t believe how beautiful the finish is.

Howard Products are available at a variety of retailers.

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  1. says

    This stuff is great. It will work on removing stains from the wood if the stain is not darker than the natural finish. Trust me, I know from experience and wishful thinking!

  2. Becky Leach says

    Although I don’t mention it in my quote, I am now a big fan of the other Howard’s–the Restore-a-finish–too! The Minwax I mentioned is a little farther down the line (it seems to melt off the top finish, more so than does the Howard’s, but still does not really “strip” the wood) but from now on I’m going to start with the Restore-a-Finish, before trying other stuff. And as for the Feed -and-Wax? I’m in love! That stuff works miracles, it smells yummy, and I’m half inclined to wipe it on every old thing in the house (including my face? ;-), it’s such a miracle worker!

  3. TappanTrailerTami says

    Howard’s is GREAT stuff – I used it on all the real wood paneling in my vintage trailer, which had water stains, and followed it with Feed-N-Wax, which is a miracle worker on wood suffering from lack of luster and overall dryness. I really suggest 000 steel wool vs. using paper towels, I think the result is a lot better.

    Re: Minwax – I really detest all Minwax products because their pigmentation just isn’t all that great, except: the Minwax stain pens are wonderful for covering deeper scratches! Highly recommended for that purpose.

  4. TappanTrailerTami says

    Oh, it goes without saying, but I”ll say it anyway: if you choose to use steel wool, be sure to only go with the grain of the wood!

  5. TappanTrailerTami says

    And completely off topic here, but steel wool made me think of it:

    For rust removal on chrome items, some hot soapy water (dish soap) and wadded up aluminum foil works wonders to get rid of rust spots. Just used this on my motorcycle chrome, and it doesn’t scratch the chrome finish. Works wonders!

  6. says

    The Howard’s Feed and Wax is a great polish. A bit of work to remove the excess, from finishes in good condition, to avoid a greasy film. But hard work is good! However, finishes in poor condition just suck it up and look great for a while. The Restore-A-Finish should not be used on anything of value. I have tried it. Is seems to be like just like an oily, “scratch cover”. it’s effect is temporary. Watco oil would be a better choice of the two.

  7. says

    Yep, I have my own success story with Howard Restor-A-Finish: in a rental house we own the finish on kitchen cabinets (especially the doors below the sink) looked dried and streaky. After wiping on the Howard they look excellent. As Eartha Kitsch observed, they don’t look brand new, but the color is much more even and the wood looks cleaner and richer. It beats stripping and refinishing, any day!

  8. Christa says

    Howard’s Feed n Wax is amazing, as is the Orange Oil Cleaner and the paste wax. Great products. I haven’t had much luck using Restor-a-finish, it didn’t absorb evenly in my experience. It’s likely my wood has been treated with some kind of poly finish over its lifetime. Polyurethane will resist Howards.

    Cleaning with distilled water/rubbing alcohol/dish soap will take off dirt and old furniture polish. I have had better results by going over the wood with Teak Oil or Danish Oil so I usually try those first.

  9. Jay says

    I use it once a year on my mahogany dresser. To me, it just seems like a superficial polish that looks good for a very short period of time. It’s possible that whatever the original finish was prevents this product from soaking into the wood. I think lemon oil and paste wax gives better results.

  10. says

    I’ve used Howard’s Feed N Wax on all my retro wood furniture. AWESOME! I did try the restore a finish, but it didn’t work on my Broyhill Brasilia headboard (which I ended up sanding and staining) but I think the wood used for it had a coating on it that might not allow it to penetrate well. I really had to sand/stain to get the stain to take… I haven’t tried the Danish oil yet.

  11. chris says

    I used Howard’s Restore-A-Finish on a 1920s buffet.

    We used to have this amazing place in Atlanta — I think it was called Ragtime…. can’t remember for sure. They got tons of old furniture from the UK — late nineteenth and early 20th c. I guess because it wasn’t considered really old “Across the Pond” it was very inexpensive. They brought loads of it over here and sold to the trade. Then, once or twice a month, they opened up to the public to clear out the excess. These were mostly items that had a few scratches and dings. I got a massive armoire for $139 and the sideboard for $129.

    (Had to share that… I really miss the place now that it’s gone.)

    Anyway, I used the RAF on my not quite perfect sideboard. To me, it seemed like it worked by sort of liquifying the top surface of the existing finish, allowing you to smooth out scuffs and scratches. It improved the look of it, for sure. Someday I’d like to have it completely refinished — it’s a nice oak piece with lovely details — it retains some of the flavor of the arts and crafts style while hinting at deco.

    My review is that RAF is something good to try before going to the trouble and expense of a full refinish.

  12. Chad says

    When I ran a small under-the-table landscaping business in high school, all I needed to buy from places that only sold to the trade was a business card, which I made at home.

  13. Chutti says

    More votes for Howard’s products here.
    Restor-a- finish isn’t for really fine pieces, but for the loads of random discarded orphan stuff that I can’t leave alone, it’s great.
    Helps a LOT with wonky finish and just grime.

    The feed and wax goes on EVERYTHING at our house. That stuff is by far and away the best there is.
    I LIKE a little patina and scratchy vibe, especially with some of my family stuff. When I know how the blemish got there, I like keeping it. (my treasured chest with the kid graffiti from my dad and uncle is never getting ‘refinished’) The feed and wax honors that-but really brings out the warmth in any wood. We got a gorgeous victorian mahogany chest with a marble top ($30 bucks!) at the salvage yard last year. Did NOT want to strip, but that sucker was DRY after being outside. Feed and Wax has it looking pretty good with minimal effort or risk.

    LOVE these products-there’s a reason why they’ve been around for such a long time.

  14. Lynne says

    I know this is a little off topic…well, okay, way off topic, but what was the laminate counter top surface finish product you recommended? Something “Magical”? I scooted my sugar canister across my new counter this morning, and put a big old scratch in it. Just made me sick, and the muffins didn’t even turn out well.

  15. Annie B. says

    I learned about Feed & Wax from right here on RR. I gave it a test run on the semi-delapidated, seriously abused furniture in our lobby at work. Huge positive difference.

    It made everything at home, too, shine like new money. Dry wood just drinks it up.

  16. says

    I’ve never used Feed ‘n’ Wax myself, but I would based on Sara in AZ’s photos of her mom’s cabinets on Those cabinets were pretty beat up and she made them look amazing by just using Formula 409 and Howard’s.

  17. Annie B. says

    Ooopps…….it was Sara’s cabinet restoration post that itaught me about Howard’s products. Sorry, ladies. Am old and confused!

  18. Rebecca says

    As an antique dealer I restore furniture constantly. My job would be soooo much harder if I hadn’t discovered Resor A Finish. My favorites are Dark Walnut and Natural. I find it much easier to use than Danish or Teak Oil since you do not have to risk leaving a residue if you neglect to wipe the oil off completely. Restor A Finish is always my first line of defense.

    Painting, on the otherhand, should be reserved for those wood finishes that no matter how much TLC they receive they cannot be fixed.

  19. G.G. says

    I used restore-a-finish on a mahogany veneered radio and got great results, it improved the piece 100%.

  20. janice says

    I’ve used howards for some pretty intense restoration of 50’s henredon furniture. IF the finish is in semi decent shape, it’s a miracle. It reflows the varnish/finish and takes out pretty much most superficial problems. It also in the same step take off old wax and c-r-a-p like pledge which is the bane of restoration (at least to me LOL).

    You gotta use #0000 steel wool, and wipe it off with a decent cloth, and then store that cloth wet in a bag outside kids, it’s flammable!

    Love it. It can make something look good in 2 hours, instead of 2 days or work or two weeks. But at the end of the day you are restoring, not refinishing — if it needs serious refinishing work, no shortcut for that. :)

  21. janice says

    Also, they have good phone support. If you are wondering about something give them a call. I’ve actually had them tell me NOT to use one of their products (a different one) because “it would be too much work”. Gotta love that too.

  22. Wendy M. says

    Would these products work on a water ring and/or a steam mark on a table top? I have an end table with both of these problems. I tried Old English scratch cover, but that didn’t seem to help either issue. It’s not a high-end piece of furniture, but it’s vintage mid-’60’s (and most importantly, I really like it!) so I would like to save it. It seems like it has a veneer of sorts, so I don’t know that I could refinish it, even if I wanted to go that route. Any suggestions would be welcomed!

  23. says

    Has anyone used this on hardwood floors? I have carpet that I want to pull up, but with 2 cats, I can’t deal with professoinal sand/poly hassles. I think the floors are in OK shape underneath. Any thoughts on floor use of this product?

  24. Gail says

    I know somone else said they hate minwax products but I’ve been really happy with the minwax wood floor reviver. A thick liquid you spread around and rub in with a rag – really improved the look of my very beat up 50s pine and oak floors.

  25. Sandra says

    My mother’s contractor used Bona hardwood floor cleaner on her kitchen cabinets, and they looked like they’d been refinished.

    For cleaning jobs, fingerprints, and so on, Bona floor cleaner works great! It was easy to wipe on and off with a rag, no gloves needed, and it’s been around forever. I’ve seen it at Bed Bath & Beyond, as well as flooring dealers and janitorial supply stores.

  26. Betty Crafter says

    Kate, I’m having the same issue with trying to fix a scratch on a Brasilia credenza. There is definitely some kind of coating on it. Restore-A-Finish did nothing. I’m currently painting coats of Danish Oil on the scratch, letting it sit, then wiping it off and re-applying. It’s slow but steady progress. Maybe I should try regular stain…

  27. says

    I’d heard that about the Bona products. I guess all I can do is pull up the carpet and see what’s there, then try a few products and see what works. (Yikes!)

  28. JefferyK says

    Restore-a-Finish removed a water ring on my Danish-style secretary desk. YMMV, but it worked for me.

  29. Greg says

    Has anyone tried darkening a finish using Restor-A-Finish? Most of the windows in our Mid-Mod house are surrounded by stained mahogany that we love, but in our den, it’s mahogany with some sort of weird orangish stain. I’m not looking to ‘match’ the rest of the house, I just want it darker. The Howard’s website said that you can darken a finish by using a darker shade, but I wanted to hear some firsthand accounts.

  30. Jen8 says

    Restore works great but it does have to be reapplied, so keep your can of it. Just shake it up and reapply when needed. Been using the same can for years on a few pieces of old furniture.

    • says

      hi terry,

      it says on the howard products website to wipe dry after letting it stand for a few minutes. I’m not sure if you wiped it dry afterwards but maybe that is the problem. good luck!

  31. Becky Ladd says

    Applied this yesterday to my faded and drab oak cabinets. They look amazing. This may change my mind about painting.

  32. Pam G says

    I used Howard Restore-A-Finish and Feed and Wax on my hard wood floors. Was concerned about it being slippery after I applied the bees wax finish. Thankfully it wasn’t. Did a beautiful job on area inside patio door where sun and dog traffic had really damaged wood. Have tried many products to make it look better, this product is the only one that did that. Did my entire house! So glad I bought it.

  33. Doug says

    Can’t get it to dry on unfinished wood. It’s been a week and every time I wipe it with a dry paper towel I get brown oily residue. I’ve wiped down with mineral spirit and waited an hour and same brown oily towel.

  34. Kim says

    I have 2 Cracker Barrel wood rocking chairs that are on my covered front porch. They are looking “weathered”. What should I put on them to bring them back to life?

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