This article, “Murphy’s Oil Soap: A Most Unusual Story” in Popular Woodworking by Bob Flexner is amusing.
And it’s true. You should not use Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean your furniture. Well, I guess if your furniture is plastic you could… but not if it’s wood. At least not wood that you don’t hate and want to punish somehow.
But this is a pretty neat tale of marketing and how it basically totally overwrote common sense and common knowledge within a freakin’ generation.
You shouldn’t use it on your beautiful hardwood floors either. And as I came to find out when I became the new owner of “tile laminate” in my kitchen earlier this year, you shouldn’t use it on laminate either – at least not according to the manufacturer, despite what Murphy’s says on their packaging. (Seems like the more “advanced” flooring gets, the more the technology regresses for caring for it or something. The most efficient way I can clean my kitchen floor is by getting on my hand and knees to wash it with a damp, not wet, rag and vinegar, which I then immediately have to wipe dry, which is why I don’t bother trying to use a mop and doing all that getting up and down.)
But yeah, if your wood is all “dry and thirsty,” what it needs is oil. And Murphy’s Oil Soap doesn’t have any oil left in it by the time they put it in the bottle. That’s how saponification works. Lye + oils/fats –> soap. Not soap and lye and oil, just soap. And soap doesn’t “nourish” wood; in fact, it does the opposite. The only reason you can sometimes get away with using Murphy’s on finished furniture is because some finishes create a water-resistant barrier *that prevents (or slows) the soap from going into the wood at all.* It’s just cleaning dirt that’s on the surface of your lacquer or whatever.
Now that doesn’t mean there’s no use for Murphy’s! I always have some. As far as household cleansers go, it’s among the least potentially icky if you have children or pets running around and/or want to understand what all the stuff on the label actually is and/or get all sneezy around lots of household cleaner scents.
I mean, it’s literally just soap and essential oil. That’s it. You don’t have to have a permit to dispose of it and it’s one of the few things I’ve seen in ages that doesn’t contain something known by the state of California to cause cancer. (Sorry, California, love y’all, but you gotta know what I’m saying, right?)
And it’s a good spiritual cleanser, as well, straight off the shelf. I like having something like that around that I can just “grab and go” even though I have actual floorwashes and sweeps around here, too. And I especially like it because I can pray over it and then give it to someone who needs some spiritual cleansing in their house but doesn’t want to hear that stuff. Boom, benevolent sneaky trick. Or I can use it in someone else’s house if they wouldn’t respond well to my hauling a bunch of herbs over there.
I love Murphy’s. I use it all the time. I wash all kinds of stuff with it. Just not wood, and you shouldn’t either if you give a crap about the thing made of wood.
And I sure don’t love Colgate-Palmolive’s misleading advertising and packaging and the way they basically managed to brainwash North America with this crap. I think that’s pretty shitty of them and I want to know why they hate wood so much and what it ever did to them that they’re out to freakin’ destroy it. But there’s no FDA to protect the health and wellbeing of American armoires and dining room tables to step in and do anything about the stupid labeling and packaging, so I guess we’re stuck with this situation and should at least be glad it smells like good old citronella instead of chemical toilets or whatever.
Seems like we had a “sneaky trick” thread going on a few years back… I ought to see if I can find it. That might be cool. But in the meantime, y’all share your own favorite sneaky tricks and methods of stealth-hoodooing folks, if you’d like. I think everybody got at least one new idea out of that thread a few years back – it was fun.