6 Steps to Remove Wax From Hardwood Floors

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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. 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 floor sections, continue rubbing while adding more spirits to the microfiber 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 will walk you through everything you need to know.

To Remove Wax Buildup, you need a Solvent

To better understand how to remove wax buildup from your hardwood floors, knowing the ingredients in floor wax is a good idea. While most waxes vary, most 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 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  

When removing wax buildup from hardwood floors, working in small sections of the floor at a time is recommended. 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.

6 Easy Steps to Remove Wax Buildup

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. Spot cleaning can be done in a few minutes. However, It would be best if you planned on working for 4 to 6 hours for an average living room and kitchen.

1. Rub with Mineral Spirits and Soft Cloth.

Use a broom and sweep 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 loose dust and wax from the floor.

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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. 

Start rubbing the mineral spirits into the wax coating 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 area 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 a clean cloth until all the wax has been removed from the section.

2: Rub with Mineral Spirits and Steel Wool.

Once all the wax has come upon your cloth and is 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.

As soon as you have stripped the wax layer with mineral spirits and both cloth and a steel wool pad, start on to the next flooring section. Make sure you move along in a pattern to track where you have already cleaned and what part of the 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.

3: 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.

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4: 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.

5: Allow the Floor to Dry

Make sure there is enough time to let the floors dry 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. 

6: Refinish the Wood Floor

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

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 much faster.

Two favorite types of wax appropriate for wood floors are 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 with Natural Carnauba Wax, Clear, 12.35-Ounce
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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 with Carnauba Wax, 32-Ounce, 3208F32-6
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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 you can use it for Plank, Parquet, and all Finished Hardwood Flooring.

Holloway House Pure Wax 27oz | A buffable, Waterproof Finish for Regular and Hardwood Floors | Restore Protect Refresh, 27 Fl Oz, 27 Fl Oz
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Holloway House Pure Wax 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.

Homemade recipes might 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. Buying a wax remover for linoleum or vinyl can seriously damage your floor’s finish.

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

Here are a few products 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 water-based product 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 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.

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, removing the hazy buildup may be difficult. If the process outlined earlier wasn’t successful in removing the wax buildup on your hardwood floors, it might be necessary to sand your wood 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 sanding hardwood floors than 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 look at refinishing your hardwood floors once you’ve removed the wax buildup. There are a few different options for you to choose from!

Re-applying a Finish to Your Hardwood Floors

sealing hardwood lg

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.

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 remove wax buildup from your floors, 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 re-apply 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 alternative finishes to a wax coating to 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.

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

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

Hardwood floors have remained a classic choice when it comes to the different flooring options. 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

Understanding these factors is the first step toward combating these factors and restoring the natural shine of your hardwood floors. Let’s look at what you should look 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.

Many modern hardwood floors don’t need to be waxed due to their specialized finishes to prevent damage. Thus, waxing these hardwood floors could result in a cloudy appearance.

Waxing hardwood floors with specialized coatings such as polyurethane could interfere with the eventual re-coating process. Contact your flooring manufacturer if you’re unsure whether your hardwood floors have been coated. They’ll be able to give you the correct care instructions for your floors.

If your hardwood floors need to be waxed, ensure 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 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. You must choose a cleaning product suited to your hardwood floors.

For example, if your hardwood floor has a polyurethane coating, using 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 your product to clean your hardwood floors or cleaning them less frequently. First, however, you’ll need to remove that hazy residue that has built up on your floors.


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


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.