3 Simple Ways to Wax Hardwood Floors and Restore Shine

Keep hardwood floors looking beautiful with these simple tips on how to protect them with regular waxing.

Hardwood floors can add gorgeous texture and character to your home. Whether coated in a rich stain or left unfinished, this popular flooring type lends natural charm to dining rooms, living areas, hallways, and more. Hardwood stands up well to daily use and, if properly maintained, will last for decades. For many types of hardwood flooring, regular waxing is a key part of the upkeep. Especially in high-traffic areas, such as kitchens and entryways, hardwood floors can quickly become dull or dingy from everyday use. Floor wax helps restore shine and adds a glossy feel to hardwood flooring. More than just a shiny polish, however, wax is also used to seal and protect hardwood flooring's beautiful surface. After applying wax to floors, the product hardens as it dries, creating a seal that helps guard against stains, preserve the finish, and minimize the look of small scratches or dings.

infographic waxing hardwood floor to restore shine

BHG / Xiaojie Liu

Before waxing hardwood floors, carefully clean the surface with a broom or mop to remove any dust or dirt that could get trapped in the floor wax and impact the finish. Be sure to use the correct type of wax for your floor and finish. For example, some types of modern hardwood flooring have a sealed surface that should not be waxed; these finishes require a water-based polish instead. Always follow the instructions from the flooring manufacturer and the directions on the product's label to protect your floor and avoid creating a dangerously slick surface. You should also use nonskid rug pads ($6, Bed Bath & Beyond) under all rugs and runners to avoid accidents. Check out our guide below to learn about the different types of floor wax and the best way to wax your hardwood floors.

dining room with table and black chairs
Edmund Barr

How to Use Solid Paste Wax on Hardwood Floors

Choose old-fashioned paste wax in a can ($6, The Home Depot) for unvarnished hardwood floors, true linoleum, unfinished cork, and concrete. However, you should never use paste wax on no-wax floors, vinyl, or urethane-finished floors. Apply this type of wax by hand for a long-lasting shine. Here's how to wax hardwood floors with paste wax:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
white shiplap living room
Edmund Barr

How to Wax Hardwood Floors with Liquid Wax or Oil

Liquid wax or oil can be used on unvarnished hardwood, linoleum, or unfinished cork. Be sure to carefully follow the label's instructions. Although liquid wax is easier to apply than paste wax, the finish typically doesn't last as long. Do not use this product on no-wax floors, vinyl, or urethane-finished floors.

  1. Dampen a soft lint-free cloth, a mop, or the pad of an electric floor polisher ($150, Target) to prevent the wax from soaking in.
  2. Apply polish evenly and lightly. As it dries, the solvent will evaporate, leaving the polish.
  3. When dry, buff the floor with a clean towel, an electric polisher, or a sponge mop covered with a terry cloth towel.
black, white, and warm tones modern kitchen
Kim Cornelison

How to Shine Floors with Water-Based Silicone Polishes

Water-based silicone polishes ($12, Walmart) can be used on most flooring types 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. You should also avoid splattering polish onto baseboards or walls because it stains paint and wallcoverings.

  1. To apply, dampen a clean mop head.
  2. Pour the polish onto the mop and pour some of the polish directly on the floor.
  3. Spread the polish evenly to avoid bubbles in the liquid.
  4. Allow the polish to dry, and buff the floor with a clean towel, an electric polisher, or a terry cloth-covered sponge mop.
  5. Apply second and third coats to high-traffic areas, buffing after each coat dries.
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