Brushes, Rags, Cloths, and Pads
Learn more about the choices for applying finishes by hand.
Finishing is uncomplicated if you decide to go the hand-application route. Basically, you can choose from rags, paper towels, and brushes.
Rags, Cloths, and Pads
Almost any clean absorbent cotton cloth will work for applying finishes. I recommend bleached, 100% cotton T-shirt material. Paper towels are also handy for applying wiping varnishes. I prefer a nontextured type of paper towel such as Viva or Scott towels. Linen, 100% wool, and muslin (found at fabric stores) are used in some finishing procedures such as French polishing. Padding cloth for applying shellac and padding lacquers is available from specialty finish suppliers. Tack cloth (sold at paint and hardware stores) is used for cleaning debris and dust from sanding between coats. Lamb’s-wool applicators and short-nap rectangular pads work well for applying finishes to large surfaces like floors and walls. Brush-style foam pads are suitable for most varnishes and water-based finishes.