How to Remove Wax Buildup on Hardwood Floors

Over time, hardwood floors have remained a popular flooring choice. Not only are hardwood floors highly durable and easy to clean, but they’re also a great way to enhance the appearance of your home. However, when wax builds up on your hardwood floors, it can leave them looking dull and lackluster.

Before removing wax buildup on hardwood floors, it’s essential to broom and mop thoroughly. To remove wax from hardwood floors, use mineral spirits on a microfiber cloth to scrub the affected area. In some instances, you may need to sand your hardwood floors to remove difficult wax.

In this article, we’ll break down everything you need to know about removing wax buildup from your hardwood floors. From why this waxy substance has collected on your hardwood floors to removing it and applying a new finish, we’ll guide you through it all. Your hardwood floors will be glistening in no time!

How to Remove Wax Buildup on Hardwood Floors

Earlier in this article, we discussed the reasons behind your hardwood floors’ dull, cloudy appearance. Often, the resulting residue that has built up is due to a combination of these reasons. Luckily, we’ll guide you through removing this buildup and restoring the natural shine of your floors!

What You’ll Need

  • Dustpan
  • Broom
  • Bucket
  • Clean water
  • Mop with microfiber mophead
  • Microfiber cleaning pads or cloths
  • Rubber gloves
  • Mineral spirits
  • 0000-rated steel wool

1. Sweeping Your Hardwood Floors

The first step towards cleaning your hardwood floors should always be to remove any visible dirt and debris from the floors. To do this, you’ll want to make use of a broom and a dustpan. Sweeping and mopping will help you create a clean working space and make restoring your hardwood floor’s shine that much easier.

2. Damp Mopping Your Hardwood Floors

Using warm water and a microfiber mop or cleaning pad, you’ll want to mop your hardwood floors once you have swept them gently. You do not want to use too much water, as this could damage your hardwood floor. You’ll want to ensure that the mop head or cleaning pad you use is only damp and not soaking wet.

Once you have swept, this damp mopping process will allow you to remove any remaining dirt from the surface of your floors. Properly cleaning will allow you to better directly tackle the cloudy layer formed on your hardwood floors’ surface.

3. Using Mineral Spirits to Target Wax Buildup

How long this step takes will ultimately depend on the floor size of your hardwood floors. For this step, you’ll need mineral spirits and microfiber cleaning pads or cloths. When doing this step, you’ll want to wear rubber gloves and start at one side of the floor, working your way towards the other side.

Start by pouring a small amount of the mineral spirits on your hardwood floors. Then, using a microfiber cloth or cleaning pad, you’ll want to start gently rubbing the mineral spirits into your cloudy hardwood floors. Ensure that you rub your hardwood floors in the direction of the grain!

You’ll need to add more mineral spirits as needed as you work your way across your hardwood floor. You may also need to use different parts of your cloth or cleaning pad. That is because the wax will start coming off of your hardwood floors.

While you’re busy with this step, you’ll notice that the wax begins to come off. It will be most evident when you look at your cloth or cleaning pad, which will show signs of a yellow residue that you removed from your floor.

4. Checking Your Progress

Once you’ve gone over your hardwood floors with mineral spirits and a microfiber cloth or cleaning pad, you’re ready to check your progress on removing the built-up wax. To do this, you’ll want to use a clean microfiber cleaning pad or cloth with mineral spirits.

Essentially, this is a repeat of step three. However, with some luck, your cloth will now be coming up clean and free of that waxy yellow residue. You should already be seeing some progress here! However, this step will also allow you to identify areas of your hardwood floor that need to be targeted more directly in the next step.

5. Using Steel Wool to Target Stubborn Wax Buildup

Once you’ve completed step four, you will have identified any stubborn wax buildup. Luckily, the mineral spirits would have partially targeted the area, making the next step even more effortless. For this step, you’ll need steel wool that is rated 0000.

Using the same mineral spirits that you used in the previous steps, you’ll need to moisten the 0000-steel wool you’ll use to target the stubborn wax buildup. While using the steel wool to target these areas, you must ensure that you scrub gently in the direction of the grain.

As with the previous steps, you’ll want to target these areas in a logical pattern so that you can monitor your progress. Once you’ve successfully removed the remaining wax buildup, you can move on to the following step.

6. Damp Mopping Your Hardwood Floors Again

Once you’ve removed the wax buildup from your hardwood floors, it’s time to mop them again. To do this, you should use hot water and a microfiber mop or cleaning pad. Once again, you’ll be damp mopping your floors along the grain of the wooden floors.

Mopping in the same direction as the grain of your hardwood floors is an excellent cleaning practice. That’s because it will help prevent streaks from forming on your floors, ensuring that you genuinely leave them shining and spotless!

Once you’ve finished damp mopping your floors, you can dry them. To do this, use a dry mop or cleaning pad and go over your hardwood floors one more time. They should now be free of wax buildup.

Removing Stubborn Wax Buildup from Hardwood Floors

If the above cleaning process wasn’t sufficient to remove the wax buildup from your floors, you might wonder what options remain for reviving your hardwood floors. Don’t fret because you’re not out of options!

Depending on how long the wax has been building up on your hardwood floors, you may find it rather difficult to remove the hazy buildup. If the process outlined earlier wasn’t successful in removing the wax buildup on your hardwood floors, it might be necessary to sand down your floors.

Sanding your floors will allow you to penetrate this layer of wax buildup. However, this can be a very laborious process. For the best results, you might want to hire a professional to sand down your floors in the event of impenetrable wax buildup.

A professional will use a specialized disk sander to sand down your hardwood floors. This is often a safer way to sand hardwood floors instead of using a drum sander. Unless you have the necessary experience utilizing these tools, this is something you’ll want to let a professional handle for you!

Sanding your hardwood floors is a perfectly safe practice. Flooring experts have estimated that most hardwood floors can be sanded up to ten times. Sanding is often done to refinish hardwood floors by adding a new protective coating.

In the last section of this article, we’ll take a look at refinishing your hardwood floors once you’ve removed the wax buildup. There are a few different options for you to choose from!

Reapplying a Finish to Your Hardwood Floors

Earlier in this article, we looked at removing wax buildup from hardwood floors. Once you’ve done this, you’ll likely want to apply a new finish to your hardwood floors to protect them from dirt and grime fully.

Once you’ve removed wax or cleaning product buildup from your floors, you’ll want to let them fully dry before applying a finish to them again. Once your hardwood floors are completely dry, you’ll be ready to apply a new protective coating.

If you were removing wax buildup from your floors, chances are you’ll want to re-wax them properly now that they’re clean. If you decide to apply a new wax coating to your floors, you should carefully follow the provided instructions.

Furthermore, as discussed earlier, it’s important to note how often this coating should be applied. When you reapply the wax coating after cleaning the buildup, you should ensure that you stay on track with reapplications.

However, once you’ve removed this layer of wax, you can even opt to apply a different type of finish to your hardwood floors. Many homeowners find that alternative finishes to a wax coating provide longer and more durable protection.

Polyurethane remains a prevalent, long-lasting finish option for hardwood floors. Once you’ve removed all of the wax from your hardwood floors, it will be possible for you to apply a polyurethane coating to your floors for maximum protection.

It is also possible to apply a varnish finish or a sealer to your hardwood floors. These finishes can be used to enhance the natural look of your hardwood floors while still protecting them. However, these finishes may be less durable than polyurethane.

At the end of the day, there are many great finishes for you to choose from and consider. Regardless of which finish you decide to apply to your wax-free hardwood floors, one thing is sure: your floors will be gleaming in no time!

Why There’s Wax Buildup on Your Hardwood Floors

When it comes to the different flooring options out there, hardwood floors have remained a classic choice. Whether you get maple, oak, or ash hardwood floors, one thing is for sure: it adds a certain elegance to your home. Wax buildup on your floors, however, isn’t part of that elegance.

Unfortunately, no floor is perfect. Over time, many factors contribute to dull or hazy hardwood floors. Below are two of the main reasons why wax builds up on your hardwood floors:

  • Buildup from waxing your floors
  • Buildup from soaps and other cleaning agents

The first step towards combating these factors and restoring the natural shine of your hardwood floors is understanding these factors. Let’s take a look at what you should be looking out for on your hardwood floors!

Buildup Due to Waxing Practices

If you’ve recently noticed that your hardwood floors have a cloudy appearance, this could likely be due to the practice of waxing hardwood floors. Different types of floors have different waxing needs. It’s important to know how often you should be waxing your floors.

In fact, many modern hardwood floors don’t need to be waxed due to specialized finishes applied to them to prevent damage. Thus, waxing these types of hardwood floors could result in a cloudy appearance.

In fact, waxing hardwood floors with specialized coatings such as polyurethane could interfere with the eventual re-coating process. If you’re unsure whether your hardwood floors have been coated, you should reach out to the manufacturer of your flooring. They’ll be able to give you the correct care instructions for your floors.

If your hardwood floors do need to be waxed, make sure to not over or under-wax. As a general rule of thumb, hardwood floors should be waxed at least once every 36 months. However, ideally, you’ll want to wax your floors once every 12 to 18 months.

If your hardwood floors receive a lot of foot traffic, waxing the floors every six months may even be necessary. At the end of the day, how often you wax your floors will depend on your specific needs. When you do wax your floors, you should ensure to follow the correct instructions.

Of course, waxing is a practice designed to restore the shine of your hardwood floors, so why would it diminish it?

Buildup from Soaps and Cleaning Agents

Often, the cloudy appearance of your hardwood floors is not due to the buildup of wax but rather due to the soaps and cleaning agents you use. That’s why you must choose a cleaning product that is suited to your hardwood floors.

If your hardwood floor has a polyurethane coating, for example, the use of an oil-based cleaner could negatively react with the coating, leaving your floor looking dull and cloudy. Water-based cleaners can also leave hazy marks on hardwood floors.

Using the wrong product could result in the buildup of a hazy residue that’s difficult to remove. Additionally, using the correct product too frequently can result in this cloudy buildup on your once shining hardwood floors. For the best cleaning results, you should use a product recommended by the manufacturer of your hardwood floors.

Luckily, once you become aware of this, you can correct your floor cleaning practices. This may mean changing the product you use to clean your hardwood floors or even cleaning them less frequently. First, however, you’ll need to remove that hazy residue that has built up on your floors.


This article explained everything you need to know about wax buildup on hardwood floors, from the causes of removing it to what comes after. By understanding the reasons for this buildup and properly cleaning it, you’ll be able to keep your hardwood floors protected and shining in the future!

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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