Tips for Waxing Floors

Waxing floors is one of the jobs that most people dread. Put it up there with washing windows. Do the job right, and nobody really notices. Do it wrong, and it's obvious. If you're tired of battling with wax and mops, take a break and look over these tips that will make your next floor waxing a success.

Why Wax?
Any flooring that can be waxed will look shiny and clean when the job's done. If you've got hardwood floors, waxing should be a priority for more than just looks. Regular waxing will prolong the life of hardwoods, because it-

  • Helps to hide small nicks and scratches on your flooring
  • Helps to protect your floor from water damage
  • Helps reduce scratching and grinding on your floor
  • Helps prevent warping.

Remember that your hardwoods are easily scratched and damaged by dirt and moisture. Regular waxing puts a protective seal between the world and your floor, helping to preserve its natural beauty.

Steps for Waxing Floors

  1. Remove any furniture, carpets or rugs that you have in the room.
  2. Vacuum thoroughly to remove dirt and dust.
  3. Mop lightly to remove any dirt and allow the floor to dry completely.
  4. Beginning in the middle of the room, apply your wax using a clean mop head or sponge head, moving outwards toward the walls. Apply thin coats of wax.
  5. Allow the wax to dry thoroughly. This usually takes around 45 minutes, but check the label on the wax you choose.
  6. Apply one or two more coats, as needed.

When it comes to wax, one thick coat won't do the same job as several thinner ones. That can make this a tedious job, but when you see a clear surface that shows off your flooring, rather than cloudy bubbles that look like spots, you'll be glad you took the extra time. Bubbles of wax are also more likely to crack or come loose over time, leaving the flooring beneath vulnerable to moisture and dirt.

Types of Floor Waxes
There are three basic kinds of floor waxes: water based, solvent based and polymer based. Water-based floor waxes are best to use on rubber-tiled, vinyl and asphalt floors.

A water based floor wax will provide a shiny, high-gloss finish without buffing. Damp mopping floors covered with water-based wax will not affect the polish, but using detergents will dull it over time.

Solvent-based waxes require buffing for a high-gloss shine, while polymer waxes are self-polishing and do not require buffing. Polymer waxes will, however, turn yellow over time and need to be stripped and reapplied. Stripping wax can be a very difficult process, so think carefully about whether you'd rather buff or strip.

With concerns about the chemicals used in household products growing, companies are developing greener floor waxes. Older floor wax formulas include chemicals such as formaldehyde that are quite toxic. Newer formulas replace these toxic solvents with organic materials. You'll pay a little more for an all-natural floor wax, but if the air quality in your home is a concern, it's probably worth the extra money.

Removing Wax Buildup
Even if you do a perfect job waxing every time, you'll eventually need to deal with wax buildup on your floors. You'll notice a yellow tinge to the floor or a grimy, cloudy quality to the surface. This is when it's time to strip.

What You'll Need

  • Rubber gloves to protect your hands
  • Wax stripper (you'll save time with a rinse-free formula)
  • Scrubbing pads
  • Rags to wipe up excess fluid
  • Mop
  • Buckets (one for the stripping solution and one for clean water, if needed)
  • Dustpan
  • Squeegee
  • Putty knife to scrape off thick substances

Optional Equipment:

  • Floor scrubber
  • Fan
  • Wet/dry vacuum

If you use a scrubber and a wet/dry vacuum, you will not need a squeegee.

Start in the corner furthest from the door. Prepare your stripper according to directions, then use a mop to spread the stripper into a small area, roughly two feet by four feet. If you are using a scrubbing machine, you can go bigger. Use just enough fluid to cover the area; too much and the stripper will soak into the floor, which can cause hardwoods to stain or warp. Allow the stripper to stand for the time recommended by the manufacturer.

Remove the wax with the scrubbing machine or with your scrubbing pads. Push the wax and excess stripper into your dustpan using the squeegee or vacuum it up with a wet/dry vac.

Alternate soaking and scrubbing sections until you reach the exit. You may have to repeat the process in areas where you have thick wax buildup, typically in corners and around the edges of the floor. Don't forget to rinse if your product requires it.

Tips for Washing, Stripping and Waxing Floors

  • Keep on top of spills between waxings. Letting spills dry only creates a stubborn, grime-attracting spot on your beautiful floors.
  • It's best to sweep high-traffic areas daily to keep dirt from embedding itself in the wax. Damp-mop with water only once a week to remove anything sticky.
  • Test your stripping product in an inconspicuous place before you strip the whole area.
  • After applying each thin coat of wax, inspect the floor carefully to see if there any places that weren't covered. Fill these voids and let them dry before applying the next coat.
  • Crank up your favorite tunes while you work. Music makes waxing a little more fun.
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