7 Steps to Remove Wax From Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are popular because of the natural beauty they bring to a home. Wax on hardwood floors never really hardens. Sooner or later, the wax will collect enough dirt and cloud the finish.  Here you will find all the information you need to remove wax buildup from your hardwood floors.

To remove wax buildup from hardwood floors, use odorless spirits that dissolve wax without affecting the floor’s finish.  Dab a cloth with mineral spirits. Working on small sections of floor continue rubbing while adding more spirits to the cloth. Use a pad of fine steel wool moistened with mineral spirits and rub over the cleaned area.

Removing wax is not an expensive process.  A few simple supplies are all you need to remove wax buildup and get the job done right. In this article, we are going to walk you through everything that you need to know.

To Remove Wax Buildup, you need a Solvent

To better understand how to remove wax buildup from your hardwood floors, it is a good idea to know the ingredients in floor wax.  While most waxes vary, most of them contain an emulsion of paraffin or Carnauba, an extract from Brazilian palm trees in a solvent.

When the wax is applied, the solvent will evaporate, and only the wax coating will remain. The wax doesn’t cure and will remain soft.

You could scrape the wax off a floor with a sharp blade or putty knife, although this would be time-consuming and would probably damage the floor finish. The efficient method to remove wax buildup is to redissolve it in a solvent and wipe it off.

So, What Dissolves Wax Buildup?

The best solvent for dissolving carnauba wax or paraffin is the solvent in which it was already dissolved when applied, which is usually mineral spirits.

Mineral spirits are the ingredient that gives wax products their characteristic odor.

Stronger solvents, like lacquer thinner and acetone, will also remove wax, but they will also remove the finish. These products are not recommended.

Hot water will dissolve wax, mainly if it contains vinegar, washing powder, ammonia, or a similar cleaning product, but no flooring manufacturer would recommend its use.

Leaving hot water on your wood floor long enough to dissolve wax will let the water seep through the cracks; the wood will swell up and ruin your floor. Using any water-based product to remove wax buildup from your hardwood floor is not recommended.

Removing Wax buildup on Hardwood Floors: What you need  

  • Knee Pads or Knee Cushion
  • Broom and Dust Pan
  • Mineral Spirits
  • Microfiber Cloths
  • Bucket
  • Mop
  • 0000 Steel Wool
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Spray Bottle

When removing wax buildup from hardwood floors, it is recommended to work in small sections of the floor at a time.  Start with a roughly 4-foot by 4-foot area, making it easy to reach from any single position.  Protect your hands by using rubber gloves.  It is a good idea to wear old clothing because stripping wax is a messy process.

Wax buildup removal is a big job if you have a large hardwood floor. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to getting on your knees and removing the wax one section at a time.  It would be best if you planned on working for 4 to 6 hours for an average living room and kitchen.

7 Easy Steps to Remove Wax Buildup.

Step 1: Rub with Mineral Spirits and Soft Cloth.

Use a broom and sweep up any loose dirt and other debris to create a clean working surface. After that, dry-mop with a microfiber pad and vacuum the floor using the dust brush attachment.  You should remove any dust and loose wax from the floor.

Fill a spray bottle with odorless mineral spirits. Even though the name suggests odorless, mineral spirits are not odorless. Mineral spirits give off VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), so ensure to open the windows and keep the room well ventilated while you are stripping.  If you’re sensitive to VOCs, wear a respirator.

Moisten your cloth with mineral spirits. Spray in the cracks to dissolve the wax there too.  Work on a tiny section of floor at a time. Start working from the corner of the room until you are out of the room. 

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Start rubbing the mineral spirits into the wax coating by rubbing in the same direction as the wood grain.  Wax will come upon the cloth as you rub.  When one section of your cloth gets dirty, moisten another section of the cloth and keep rubbing. 

As the wax continues to come off, you will notice that the cloth turns yellow. When your notice moistened cloth comes up clean, the wax has been effectively removed from the wood.  Continue rubbing the hardwood floor with mineral spirits and clean cloth until all the wax has been removed from the section.

Step 2: Rub with Mineral Spirits and Steel Wool.

Once all the wax has come upon your cloth, and your cloth comes back clean, it is time for the next step.  Moisten a fine steel wool pad with mineral spirits and rub it over the cleaned section of flooring.  Ensure to rub along with the wood grain. You can efficiently work the steel wool into any deep grooves featured on textured wood planks.

Step 3: Repeat with the Next Section.

A soon as you have stripped the wax layer with mineral spirits and both cloth and a steel wool pad, start on to the next section of flooring.  Make sure you move along in a pattern to keep track of where you have already cleaned and what part of flooring still needs to be cleaned. Knee pads or gardening cushions will help protect your knees as you strip the wax buildup from your hardwood flooring.

Step 4: Mop with Hot Water.

Once your whole floor is stripped of old wax, give your floor a final cleaning by mopping the surface of the hardwood floor with hot water.  Ensure to dry any remaining water with a cloth, as water can easily damage the surface of your hardwood floors.  Work in small sections with the mop and go over it with a dry microfiber cloth on a dry mop to make sure all traces of water is dried up completely.

Step 5: Tough Stain Removal.

If it is an older floor, there might be some deeper stains.  Spray the stain with the mineral spirits.  Then carefully scrape using a putty knife or scrub with a toothbrush. Wipe the stain with a clean cloth and repeat, if necessary.

Step 6: Dry

Make sure there is enough time to let the floors dry completely before applying a new finish. When you have finished stripping wax from the floor, the floor should be clean, dry, and ready for a new coat of wax. 

Step 7: Refinish.

When re-applying a new layer of wax on the floors, read the label and make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If you decide to re-apply wax to your floor, significant commercial wax products are listed below.

If you decide NOT to re-apply wax to your hardwood floor, you could apply a polyurethane coating. Polyurethane is more durable than a wax coating and can be a more robust and longer-lasting alternative if you want to prevent another wax buildup in the future.  However, do not apply a layer of polyurethane until you are sure all wax is removed.

What Type of Wax Should you Use to Refinish your Hardwood Floor?

Unfortunately, not all floor wax is the same.  It is advised to research available products and read the label before you buy any product.  It must clearly state the wax is suitable for a wood floor, not just wood.

Furniture polish can work for wood, but furniture polish creates a slippery, dangerous finish if you apply it on the floor.  Avoid water-based or acrylic waxes. These kinds of waxes can damage unfinished hardwood floors.

Do not use “No-Buff” wax. This kind of wax is stickier than most other waxes and will collect dust and dirt a lot faster.

There are two favorite types of wax appropriate for wood floors, solid paste, and liquid. The liquid wax is thinner because it contains more solvents.  Liquid wax applies faster and dries faster but may not save you time. You will need to apply multiple coats of liquid wax to get the same protection and finish as paste wax.

Here are a few commercial waxes that will do an excellent job on hardwood floors.

  • Trewax Paste Wax contains Brazilian Carnauba, which is the hardest natural wax. Homeowners love the finish but complain about the container. The wax usually dries out after an extended period.  Ensure to cover the container of unused wax with some plastic wrap before covering the container and storing it again.
  • Lundmark Liquid Paste Wax that contains Carnauba Wax is available in a liquid floor cleaner and wax combination that contains carnauba wax. The manufacturer of this product says it can be used for Plank, Parquet, and all Finished Hardwood Flooring.
  • Holloway House Pure Wax.   This product is a liquid wax that you can apply straight from the bottle. It is a favorite with customers as it has a beautiful shine, but you will need to apply more than one coat on the wood for an excellent finish.

Should you Use Commercial Floor Wax Removers?

Before you use any commercial floor wax strippers, check to see whether it is wax on your floor or a polyurethane finish.

Almost all commercial wood floor waxes use mineral spirits to dissolve the wax to make it soft enough to apply.  The most recommended hardwood floor wax remover is mineral spirits.  Potent solvents like lacquer thinner and acetone will remove the wax, removing any other finish and stain the floor. It is advised not to use them.

There might be homemade recipes that use hot water with ammonia or vinegar and detergent; however, the hot water will soften the wax and ruin the wood.

I do not recommend water-based floor strippers because the water will seep into each tiny crack, causing crowning and stains on your floor.

Most commercial wax removers are too harsh for wood floors. Always read the label carefully before you decide to buy one.

You need a product formulated for hardwood floors. If you buy a wax remover for linoleum or vinyl, it can seriously damage your floor’s finish.

Don’t Use These Products to Remove Wax Buildup from Hardwood Floors

Here are a few products that you should NOT use to strip wax buildup from your hardwood floor.

  • Trewax Instant Wax Remover – Not Recommended

Trewax Instant Wax Remover is not the ideal stripper for hardwood floors. This product is water-based and should only be used on sealed or finished wood. Using this product on unsealed or unfinished wood can allow the product to soak into cracks or crevices and cause swelling or lifting.

  • Lundmark Wax High Power Wax Remover – Not Recommended

Lundmark Wax High Power Remover is another wax remover that is not meant for hardwood floors. The label on the bottle clearly states, “This product is NOT intended to be used on unprotected wood surfaces.” Unfortunately, some websites will recommend it because they get a commission.

  • Liberon Wax and Polish Remover – Not Recommended

Liberon Wax and Polish Remover are for furniture, railings, and molding.  This product will make your floor slippery.  Be careful of wrong information.  Sometimes websites promote these products as usable on wood floors.  Make sure you read the label first.  Check with a flooring or paint store before you use this product.

Conclusion

Stripping years of wax buildup from your hardwood floors can be a labor of love, but with a little bit of work and using the most straightforward cleaning supplies, it is easy to restore the finish of your hardwood floors.

Sources

How to Strip Wax Off Hardwood Floors

How to Remove Wax Build-Up on Hardwood Floors

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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 HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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