A 5-Step Guide to Stripping and Waxing Floors

Remove floor wax and reapply it for a squeaky-clean shine

Sharon Greenthal
Written by Sharon Greenthal
Updated June 20, 2022
 A living room with a corner beige sofa and hardwood floors
Photo: Photographee.eu / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Intermediate

Learn a new skill while beautifying your home.

Time to complete

24 hours

Or more, depending on the size of your floor.

Cost

$25–$50

Just a short shopping trip (or online order).

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.

What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Electric floor scrubber (rental)
  • Electric floor buffer (rental)
  • Wet/dry vacuum
  • Broom
  • Dust pan
  • Rubber gloves
  • Putty knife
  • Knee pads

SUPPLIES

  • Face mask
  • Floor wax stripper
  • Floor wax (either liquid or solid)
  • Dry mop
  • Microfiber cloths
  • Steel wool

Think of everything we put our floors through: dirt and water tracked in on our shoes, pets and toddlers making messes, and the inevitable spills and splashes of food and drinks. It’s no wonder that floors need to be cleaned, swept, and maintained regularly. 

Whether you have hardwood floors or vinyl composite tile flooring (VCT), stripping and replacing the wax on your floor will help to keep it in great shape. Use our step-by-step guide to stripping and waxing floors to maintain a long-lasting shine.

  1. Purchase the Appropriate Floor Wax

     A restored hardwood floor
    Photo: Paul Maguire / Adobe Stock

    The first step is to ensure that you purchase the correct type of floor wax stripper for your floors. Determine whether you want to use solid or liquid floor wax, which requires different kinds of applications. Hard wax requires more elbow grease to apply since it must be done by hand with a soft cloth, while liquid wax can be applied using a mop. You can use liquid wax on unfinished cork, linoleum, and unvarnished hardwood.  

    Make sure the wax you choose is made for floors, not furniture because it will be much more slippery if it’s a furniture wax. Floor wax should be solvent-based and buffable.

  2. Strip the Floors

    When you’re ready to strip the floors, remove the furniture and all other items from the room. Remember to wear a mask during the stripping process to avoid inhaling the fumes, and wear gloves to protect your hands.

    • Apply the wax stripper to a 3-foot area of flooring at a time, starting at the back of the room to avoid boxing yourself into a corner. 

    • Use your wet/dry vacuum to remove the stripper and the floor wax, following the floor wax instructions.

    • Repeat the previous two steps for stubborn areas or use steel wool to get the remaining wax off of the spot.

    • Wet mop the area to remove all of the wax stripper

    • Once all of the wax has been removed, dry mop the area to pick up any remaining dirt or dust.

    • Repeat this process until the entire floor is complete.

  3. Ventilate and Dry

    After stripping the floor, open the windows and doors in the room for ventilation. Be sure to leave the window screens closed to prevent debris from blowing into the house and landing on the floors. The drying process should take about 30 minutes, but it could take longer in areas with high humidity. If you have large fans, use them to help speed up the drying process, but point them over the floors, not at them.

  4. Apply the Floor Wax

    A man on his knees waxing with a microfibre a wood floor
    Photo: dusanpetkovic1 / Adobe Stock

    Once the floor is completely dry, it’s time to apply the floor wax. Note: It’s a good idea to wear a mask during this step of the process. Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions listed on your floor wax, as well as the following guidelines.

    To apply solid wax:

    • Put on knee pads for comfort and support.

    • Use a microfiber cloth and a putty knife to smooth out the wax on the floor.

    • Apply wax in 3-foot areas, similar to the wax stripper.

    • Apply additional coats as recommended by the manufacturer. Allow each coat to dry between applications.

    To apply liquid wax:

    • Apply approximately one teaspoon of liquid wax to a 3-foot area of the floor. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure this amount is appropriate for your product. 

    • Use a floor mop to spread the liquid wax across the floor.

    • Let the coats dry completely before any additional application.

    • Continue this process until the entire floor is complete.

  5. Buff the Floors

    It’s critical that the floor wax completely cures on the floor before you complete the final step, so check the manufacturer’s instructions for an exact dry time. If you’re buffing the floor by hand, use a soft towel or a mop to buff in a circular motion. To help make this step easier, rent a buffing machine. After buffing the floors, don’t step on them or replace the furniture for eight hours.

    Tips for Maintaining Stripped and Waxed Floors

    Follow these tips to keep your freshly waxed floors looking great:

    • Enforce a “no-shoe” policy in your home.

    • If areas of the floor start to fade or look dingy, use a dry cloth to complete a spot-buff.

    • Re-wax your floors every six months to two years, depending on the floor wax manufacturer’s suggestions.

DIY Stripping and Waxing Floors vs. Hiring a Pro

With the right tools and equipment, reinvigorating your floors is a doable DIY project. However, if the floor stripping and waxing process seems too complicated or time-consuming, don’t worry; you can hire a local flooring company to complete the project for you. Before hiring a pro, get project price quotes from multiple local companies to find the best deal possible.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.