Everything About Wood Floor Wax Removers and Stripping
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Hardwood floors are the most popular choice for homeowners across North America. Waxing hardwood floors have been a natural way to preserve hardwood floors since the mid-1800s. In wealthier homes, craftsmen would hand scrape intricate parquet hardwood floors and then seal them with wax to protect against moisture and spills.
We’re not talking about floors with a polyurethane finish, that’s not wax, and you should never wax that finish. Instead, we’re talking about hardwood floors that have wax as their protective coat
Wax is still a popular topcoat that brings out the beauty of each hardwood plank. However, despite regular cleaning, wax can collect fine dirt and become dull over time. Reapplying wax rejuvenates the hardwood floor, but eventually creates a hazy build-up. The wax needs to be removed using a hardwood floor wax remover and reapplied to make the hardwood floor look new again.
In this article, we’ll cover what wax is, how to use it, and the best hardwood floor wax stripper to use without damaging your hardwood floor.
Why Wax Hardwood Floors?
Hardwood floor wax typically contains two types of wax, carnauba, and beeswax. Carnauba is a hard-yellow substance derived from a Brazilian palm tree. Beeswax is a by-product of processing honey and is naturally soft. By combining the two with a solvent, they form a thick paste, or a liquid if it has more solvent. After applying the wax, the solvent evaporates, leaving the hardened wax behind, and sealing the hardwood.
There are two reasons to wax a hardwood floor:
- First, the wax is impervious to water. It protects the wood from spills, preserving the finish and stain of the hardwood. Because you have time to mop up spills, wax prevents accidental staining.
- Secondly, buffing wax leaves a pleasing satin shine that makes the hardwood floor look spotlessly clean. There are also colored waxes in various tints of brown that can add a deeper color than clear wax alone.
Other benefits of waxing hardwood floors include:
Covering minor scratches - Wax diminishes or eliminates the appearance of light surface scratches and scuffs marks.
Extends the Life of the Hardwood Floor - Waxed hardwood floors have more protection. They can last many last years longer than unwaxed hardwood floors with regular maintenance.
However, hardwood floor wax is not permanent or as hard as polyurethane. Wax does wear off and can become dull. If buffing doesn’t bring it back to life, it’s time to use a hardwood floor wax stripper to remove the old wax and apply a fresh coat.
Finding the Best Hardwood Floor Wax Remover
Before you go hog-wild throwing wax strippers all over the floor, check to see if it’s wax on the floor or something else. The National Wood Flooring Association has a pdf brochure that you can download, called “Maintenance and Recoating of Hardwood Floors.” In it, they offer three suggestions to determine if there is wax on the hardwood floor. Be sure to test an inconspicuous area.
- Add a few drops of mineral spirits on a clean, white rag. Rub an out of the way area. If a smear of yellow or brown color appears on the cloth, then it’s probably wax.
- Use a piece of screen or sandpaper for sanding the floor lightly. If residue balls up, it’s wax.
- If white spots appear after putting two drops of water on the floor (about 10 minutes), the finish is probably wax. Afterward, remove the white spots by gently rubbing them with a soft cloth or synthetic pad dampened with wax.
There are homemade hardwood floor wax removers and commercial, ready to use products. The National Wood Flooring Association suggests using mineral spirits to remove wax. There are less toxic alternatives, but most solutions use water, which isn’t suitable for a hardwood floor.
A Solvent That Dissolves Wax
Most hardwood floor waxes use mineral spirits to dissolve the wax to make it soft enough to apply. Therefore, your best hardwood floor wax remover is mineral spirits.
Yes, strong solvents like acetone and lacquer thinner will remove wax. Unfortunately, they will remove any other finish and could adversely stain the hardwood floor. Don’t use them!
You may see a homemade recipe that uses hot water with ammonia or vinegar and detergent. Again, the hot water will soften the wax but will end up ruining the wood. Water-based hardwood floor strippers are not the answer. The water will seep into every crack, causing crowning, cupping, and staining.
Beware of Commercial Wax Removers
You can buy commercial wax removers, but most of them are too harsh for hardwood floors. Always read the label carefully before buying one.
You need a product specifically for hardwood floors. If you buy a wax remover for linoleum or vinyl, it could seriously damage the floor’s finish.
Here are three products that you should avoid.
- Trewax Instant Wax Remover – Not Recommended
Trewax Instant Wax Remover is not the ideal stripper for wood floors. Why? When people asked, “Can I use your wax stripper on my hardwood floor?” The company’s response was, “As this is a water-based product, it should only be used on sealed/finished wood. Using on unsealed/unfinished wood can allow the product to soak into cracks or crevices and cause lifting or swelling. We recommend testing in a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure desired results. For questions or more information, please contact email@example.com.”
If you are searching online, do not get this product confused with their other product, “Heavy-Duty Floor Stripper.” They are not the same, and it would be even worse to use this product on a wood floor.
- Lundmark Wax High Power Wax Remover – Not Recommended
Here is another wax remover not meant for wood floors. The label clearly states, “This product is not intended to be used on unprotected wood surfaces.” Yet, websites are recommending it because they get a commission.
- Liberon Wax and Polish Remover – Not Recommended
This product is for furniture, railings, and molding. It could make the floor slippery.
Beware of wrong information. Websites promote these three products as usable on wood floors. Read the label. Don’t rely on websites alone. Check with a flooring store, a paint store, or reviews on the internet.
So, what can you use for wood floor wax stripping?
Go with mineral spirits, plain and simple.
What type of Wax Should You Use?
Not all hardwood floor wax is alike. Do your research and read the label. The wax must be suitable for a hardwood FLOOR, not just wood.
Furniture polish works for hardwood, but if you put it on the floor, it creates a slippery, dangerous skating rink. A couple of other waxes to avoid are water-based or acrylic waxes. They can damage unfinished hardwood floors.
Also, don’t use “No-Buff” wax. It’s slightly stickier than the other waxes and collects dust and dirt faster.
There are two types of wax appropriate for wood floors, solid paste, and liquid. The liquid is thinner because it contains more solvent. It applies faster and dries faster but may not save you time. You’ll need multiple coats to get the same protection as paste wax.
Here are a few waxes that will do a great job on wood floors.
Trewax Paste Wax contains Brazilian carnauba, the hardest natural wax. Reviewers love the finish but complain about the new container. Apparently, the wax can dry out after an extended period. Cover the surface of the unused wax with a piece of plastic wrap before covering the container and storing it.
Lundmark Liquid Paste Wax with Carnauba Wax is a liquid floor cleaner and wax combination that contains carnauba wax. The manufacturer claims it’s for “Parquet, Plank, and all Finished Wood Floors.”
Holloway House Pure Wax is a liquid wax that you apply straight from the bottle. Customers say it has a beautiful shine, but you’ll need more than one coat on the wood.
Caution: Some websites use “Wax” interchangeably with “Reviver,” “Polish,” and “Restorer.” They are not the same thing. These products are for wood floors that already have a polyurethane finish, not bare wood.
Don’t Wax Your Hardwood Floor If…
Use wax on hardwood floors that don’t have polyurethane or varnish on them. Wax works over natural or stained wood, but not with a synthetic topcoat. It won’t bond properly and will look unfinished as a result.
It’s becoming harder to find wax products due to the popularity of prefinished hardwood and polyurethane finishes. It’s no wonder since the synthetic finishes are more durable than wax.
If you are considering installing a solid hardwood floor, look at Easiklip’s line of prefinished floors. They are ready to walk on the moment you install them, and there is no waxing required to maintain them.
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- Easiklip Floors - Harry Chu