How to Wax Hardwood Floors

Keep hardwood floors looking beautiful by protecting them with regular waxing. Here's what you need to know about waxing hardwood floors, the supplies you need, and the secrets to success.


Why Wax?

Wax is used to seal and protect beautiful hardwood flooring. Choose water-base finishes in the correct type of wax for your floor and its finish. Follow wood manufacturer and finish label directions to protect your floor without having a dangerously slick surface. Use nonskid rug pads under all rugs and runners to avoid accidents. See below to learn about the different types of floor wax.

Solid Paste Wax

Choose old-fashioned wax in a can for unvarnished hardwood floors, true linoleum, unfinished cork, and concrete. Do NOT use paste wax on no-wax floors, vinyl, or urethane-finished floors. Apply by hand for a long-lasting shine. Here's how.

  • Moisten a soft lint-free cotton cloth (such as an old T-shirt) and wring it almost dry to prevent the cloth from absorbing too much wax.
  • Apply the wax lightly and evenly (per package instructions), working it into the surface.
  • If you prefer soft wax, use the liquid equivalent of paste wax.
  • As the waxed surface dries, it will appear cloudy. Buff to a shine with a clean towel, an electric polisher, or a terry cloth-covered sponge mop.

Liquid Wax or Oil

Use liquid wax or oil on unvarnished hardwood, linoleum, or unfinished cork. Follow label instructions. It is easier to apply than paste wax, but the finish doesn't last as long. Do NOT use on no-wax floors, vinyl, or urethane-finished floors. Dampen a soft lint-free cloth, a mop, or the pad of an electric floor polisher to prevent the wax from soaking in. Apply polish evenly and lightly. As it dries, the solvent evaporates, leaving the polish. When dry, buff the floor with a clean towel, an electric polisher, or a sponge mop covered with a terry cloth towel.

Water-Base Silicone Polishes

Water-base silicone polishes can be used on all floors EXCEPT unsealed wood, cork, or linoleum. This is the only type of polish suitable for urethane-finished surfaces. Apply these long-lasting polishes in several thin coats rather than one heavy coat, which is difficult to dry.

To apply, dampen a clean mop head. Pour the polish onto the mop and pour some of the polish directly on the floor. Spread the polish evenly to avoid bubbles in the liquid. Allow the polish to dry, and buff the floor with a clean towel, an electric polisher, or a terry cloth-covered sponge mop. Apply second and third coats to high-traffic areas, buffing after each coat dries. Avoid spattering polish onto baseboards or walls because it stains paint and wallcoverings.


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