Get a real life review of a Restoration Hardware dining table! We’ll also show you how to protect your Restoration Hardware dining table, coffee table or desk.

Learn about all the options and what we ultimately went with and love seven + years later! 

A white windowed breakfast nook with a wood dining table.
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I haven’t written about our Restoration Hardware table since shortly after we received it because I allowed it to paralyze me. Things didn’t go as planned, to say the least, and this table caused us a lot of frustration.

The stress, disappointment and overwhelm was just too much. Instead, our family of five sat at an antique table, intended to be my kitchen desk.

It was tight. Our legs didn’t even fit underneath it. We just “closed off” the sunroom and pretended that it, along with the table, simply didn’t exist.

When we purchased a Restoration Hardware dining table with a natural finish, we envisioned it weathering over time. We wanted a rustic farmhouse table that would only become prettier over time – if you found your way here, you might have wanted the same thing.

Restoration Hardware Dining Table

The reality was different, however. The first time we wiped the table down after dinner with a damp cloth, we removed the finish. You can imagine the horror!

We quickly realized the “natural” finish is a beautiful powder that is simply not practical for day to day living. That soft, dusty look is unachievable in a maintainable form. 

Underneath the powder the reclaimed wood table merely looked like wood purchased from your local hardware store. 

We poured over the options time and time again, and realized that the perfect Restoration Hardware table just doesn’t exist. Fortunately, there are several options to protect your Restoration Hardware dining table. However, whatever product you use, will alter the finish.

We have purchased several pieces of Restoration Hardware’s natural finish including a dresser, chest of drawers and two dining room tables. We’ve had a lot of experience using the furniture over the last decade and most importantly, protecting it.

We made a lot of mistakes on our first Restoration Hardware dining table, but fortunately, you don’t have to! Today I’m sharing both how to protect and repair.

A white windowed breakfast nook with a wood dining table.

Read about How to Clean Linen Furniture from Restoration Hardware (or anywhere)!

RH Natural Finish

Restoration Hardware’s website notes on the description for the reclaimed wood table care recommendations.

“For dining tables, use of tablecloths, placemats and coasters is recommended to prevent staining.  Clear furniture wax can be applied to protect the finish from minor spills. Use coasters or placemats to help prevent marks or stains.” and to “Wipe the table clean with a soft, dry cloth after each use.”

Their site also says “Care: Wipe using a damp cloth with mild soap and water, followed by a dry cloth. Wipe spills up immediately with a dry cloth.” However, that conflicts with their detailed care instructions. I (along with many of you) found that a damp cloth takes the finish right off.

After our first failure, we purchased a new RH dining table. We wanted to start fresh and fortunately were able to re-coop most of the expense we had invested in our previous farmhouse table.

We purchased this table with intention. This time we knew the powder finish would wipe off, so we took steps to protect it prior to use. Here is what we learned.

Products for Protection

A Restoration Hardware dining table with rattan chairs.

The Pros and Cons of Each Option

Wax 

Pros:

  • Recommended by Restoration Hardware
  • Very little alteration to the table
  • Minimal sheen
  • Easy to apply

Cons:

  • Minimal protection
  • Minimally water resistant
  • Removes with solvent
  • Requires reapplication
  • Heat leaves rings

Best Use: Limited wear pieces like the Restoration Hardware Coffee Table, Side Table or Dressers 

Modern Masters Dead Flat

Pros:

  • Minimal sheen
  • Very little alteration to the table
  • Easy to apply

Cons:

  • Minimal protection (markers, etc don’t wipe off)
  • Minimally water resistant

Best Use: Limited wear pieces like the Restoration Hardware Coffee Table, Side Table or Dressers 

You can purchase Modern Masters Dead Flat Varnish here.

A reader, Paula, graciously sent a photo of her table sealed with this finish. We used it on our kitchen island you can learn more about it here and the protection it provides.

restoration hardware table protected with dead flat varnish

Polyurethane

Pros:

  • Easy to apply

Cons:

  • Even the matte finish has a sheen
  • Not waterproof
  • Doesn’t stand up to abrasion

Pure Tung Oil

This is the option we chose. See below for more details and a step by step tutorial.

Pros:

  • Waterproof
  • Marker, glue, etc wipe clean
  • No need to reapply

Cons:

  • Alters color
  • Minimal alternation to sheen with proper application (use of steel wool)
  • Slightly more difficult to apply

Best Use: High wear pieces like the Restoration Hardware Dining Table

You can purchase Pure Tung Oil here. Use TRUE Tung Oil. There’s a difference, as Tung Oil Finish is not 100% Tung Oil.

  • It’s not supposed to alter the color of the wood. However, the first coat must be used with a combination of paint thinner, which alters the finish. It released red tones in the wood we finished. A week later I found it less noticeable.
  • It has a matte finish. It can have a slightly more matte appearance with A LOT of steel wool and willpower.
  • It protects the wood from stains. It fills the pores, which seals the wood & allows it to easily wipe clean.
  • It’s durable. After using it for a few years it has withstood oils, crayon, etc have wiped without staining.

I wish I was writing this with the perfect solution for you today, but it’s a decision each individual has to weigh. Instead, I’m sharing what we chose to do and how we’re moving forward.

How to Protect Your Restoration Hardware Dining Table

  1. If you recall, we immediately panicked. My first piece of advice is DON’T PANIC! Nothing good will come of it!
  2. If you plan to do anything with it, determine if you need to wipe the finish off first (if you’ve damaged it) or just go over the powder finish. The powder finish easily wipes off with a damp cloth. Below are pictures depicting the wood without the finish Restoration Hardware applies. Reader Lei said she used “coffee grounds and rubbed it into the spot where it had lightened”which made the omission of powder negligible. Restoration Hardware dining table farmhouse table with natural finishrestoration hardware dining table natural  farmhouse table color  Wood table

You can see the sheen from the tung oil in the picture below:

A Restoration Hardware dining table with rattan chairs.
A Restoration Hardware dining table with rattan chairs.

Tools and Supplies

How to Use Tung Oil

  1. Apply Tung Oil with on with white flour sack towels. 
  2. Have a second person follow behind to remove any excess.
  3. Use steel wool to dull the finish. 
  4. Repeat.

The more muscle you put into using the steel wool the more natural your finish will be.

This method can be used with any farmhouse table or reclaimed wood table. 

Update April 2019

Nearly five years later, I still receive a lot of questions about our Restoration Hardware dining table. The tung oil has held up incredibly well. To date, we have not reapplied and don’t see a need to do so.

The finish has continued to fade over time offering a softer, more natural aesthetic. All glue, marker and even candle wax have been removed effortlessly!

Update March 2024

Same story! We love our table and have never needed to change or alter the finish.

A Restoration Hardware dining table with rattan chairs.

What Stain Color Best Matches Restoration Hardware’s Natural Finish?

If you have to stain your RH wood table because of a re-do, or are building your own farmhouse table to capture that look, Minwax Driftwood came the closest to the natural finish of the Restoration Hardware Dining Table.

It seeps into the pores of the wood, so the quicker you wipe it off to remove it, the less color that will be applied, however, it gets pretty dark in the grooves.

Here are some examples on various boards. I applied it and Chris followed behind wiping it off. These images are before the tung oil was applied.

Tips, tricks, colors & ways to protect your Restoration Hardware reclaimed wood table
Tips, tricks, colors & ways to protect your Restoration Hardware table
Wood table

In Conclusion

What did we learn?

Redefine expectations.

In the end, it’s not perfect, but it’s functional and looks nice. If you have experienced a similar situation, know that you will make peace with it, eventually! 

I have learned so much from this table. One of the most important lessons is that sometimes we need to redefine our expectations.

It’s just a table.

Through all of your comments and emails, I learned that I am not alone. More importantly, I remembered that it’s just a table. Despite wasted time, money and energy, it’s still just a table.

It’s the reclaimed wood table that brought us together to help each other. If you have an experience with your table and can offer additional help to others, please leave a comment below. If this post can save someone even a few of the hours and frustration we put into our table, it’s worth it.

I hope this post has helped you make a decision you’re comfortable with to protect your farmhouse table. Please use comments below (rather than emailing) so that your questions and comments help others, too!

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467 Comments

  1. Ok, I tried Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Wax and IT DID NOT CHANGE THE COLOR OF THE TABLE!! 🙂 HOWEVER, it doesn’t seem to add any protection to the finish lol. I just applied a second coat so we shall see but as of right now it seems pointless as a protective finish. I wish I could attach pictures here! I may have to do my own blog post.

    This is what I have tried on my BOULANGERIE table.
    I only did one coat of everything I tried. I applied everything with a smooth cotton rag except for Poly which required a brush.

    Minwax Polycrylic in clear—
    darkens table, shows scratches easily without a way to repair them apart from sanding and reapplying poly.
    feels crunchy to the touch due to rough nature of the wood.
    protects from spills and food stains.
    totally toxic and stinky. requires mask when applying.

    Rubio Monocoat oil in clear–
    darkens table dramatically and adds an amber tone.
    scratches easily but can be rubbed out to make less noticeable.
    protects from spills and food stains.
    slight nutty odor that goes away with time.

    Pure Tung Oil from Real Milk Co.–
    darkens table dramatically and adds slight slight red tone. lightens up ever so so slightly (most people wouldn’t even notice) several weeks after it dries.
    scratches easily but can be rubbed out and reapplied.
    protects from spills and food stains.
    takes longer to dry than rubio monocoat.
    stronger odor that gave me a headache.
    apparently tung oil, while natural, contains natural VOCs that might bother some people.

    Ruelle’s Beeswax/Oil based wax–
    darkens table dramatically, looks similar to rubio and tung.
    scratches easily but can be reapplied.
    completely natural and food safe.
    no odor. feels super yummy and moisturizing.table feels soft too.
    protects from spills and food stains.

    Miss Mustard Seed Furniture Wax–
    does not change the color of the table at all once dry.
    wax will get in holes and crevices and that dries white if not rubbed out.
    very pleasant odor. hard to wash off hands.
    apparently offers minimal to no liquid protection. the water seems to eat right through the wax and it leaves a mark. reapplying wax seems to help with the marks. ketchup wiped off without leaving a stain/mark.

    If you don’t care about the color change Ruelle’s is the winner in my opinion since it’s 100% safe and non toxic.

    1. UPDATE to this info.

      Rubio Monocoat- amber tone has remained.
      Ruelles wax/oil–very amber/green tone has come through–DO NOT RECOMMEND!
      Tung oil–darkness has lightened and the color is very similar to the original table.
      Miss Mustard Seed Wax–doesn’t change color but offers ZERO in the way of protection-DO NOT RECOMMEND!

      1. Hello! We just got the 1900s Boulangerie table and are considering Tung oil. Did you take the powder coat off prior to using the Tung oil?

  2. Julie,

    I have the same table and for the past year have had a hideous cloth resting over it because of fear of staining it from water and what have you.
    Had you looked into the General Finishes Seal-A-Cell Clear sealant? I don’t want a finish for the table just a sealant and this claims to not alter the color of natural wood.
    Here is a link:
    http://www.woodcraft.com/product/85E91/WoodRiver%20Pure%20Tung%20Oil%20Pint.aspx
    Thank you for blogging about this. Very helpful.

    Michael

    1. I have not, but Woodcraft is the brand of Tung Oil I used. We actually just started fresh with a new table, didn’t wipe the finish off and it was extremely successful. You can always test an area underneath the table or a leaf!

        1. Did you use 100% tung oil with no paint thinner on your new table, or did you mix it like you did previously. And THANK you for this post I know it has saved me many hours of stress!

        2. The recently did it without using paint thinner and we loved the results. Photos coming soon!

        3. Hi Julie!

          Do you have pictures of your new table with just the tung oil and no paint thinner? I would be interested to hear and see the results. Our table just arrived and we have two boys under the age of two. What was I thinking?!? Haha. Thank you. Lastly, what did you do with the edges/sides of the table? Are they also treated? lastly, just so I understand, you use a paintbrush(?) and paint on the oil and then have someone follow behind wiping it down with a cloth? What type of cloth? Specifics here would be extremely helpful. We plan to do this this week!

        4. I don’t yet, but we LOVE it! We didn’t do underneath, but the entire base and top have been treated. I use flour sack cloths {any white cloth will do} to both apply and remove the excess. You can purchase them at Target or Walmart for $4/pack.

  3. It’s next on my list of things to try. I tried the Monocoat, tried the pure tung, tried poly and now am waiting for my beeswax to arrive. I will let you know!

  4. Has anyone used wax only? What did you think? I receive a lot of emails about this post and want to help others achieve their perfect finish!

    1. We have been directed by RH to use Briwax on our table. Their product site recommends using it in liquid form with a brush and use sparingly – it will remove water marks too!

  5. I ordered a sample of pure tung oil from The Real Milk Paint. Co since they had a smaller/cheaper size. It, of course, darkens the table and changes the color, but it doesn’t seem to darken as much or add the amber tone like the Monocoat Oil (linseed) does. I have also since learned that linseed oil can continue to darken and amber over time–no thanks!

    I applied the tung oil without paint thinner and I think my particular table (1900s Boulangerie) is so dry that it just soaked it right up without any problems. I may try a matte varnish before I make my final decision but I really prefer keeping things as non toxic as possible.

    My question is how long did you let the tung oil dry before you started using the table? I’m reading it takes a very long time to cure and harden (which is fine).