The Pros and Cons of Wood Floor Wax

how to wax wood floorsBack before polyurethane finishes became common for floors starting in the 1970s, wood floors in older homes had wax finishes. The finish is that final layer of protection for a wood floor, and a wax finish can look really great. With wood floor wax, your wood floors have that elegant look that can make your entire home look radiant.

Pros and Cons of Wax Finish

Wax is making a big comeback these days, because the look is familiar but not so common due to the more common use of polyurethane finishes. The look is very laidback with a low sheen, and you can choose between solid paste wax and liquid wax. Either way, you benefit from the reduced toxicity and lower VOCs.

While you can use other finishes (such as polyurethane, acid-cured finish, moisture-cured, etc.), wax offers a set of benefits which you may like, while its disadvantages may be tolerable enough for you. In general, wax is easy to apply, which benefits many DIY enthusiasts. The odor is quite mild, and the wax penetrates deep into the wood and offers a low luster.

On the other hand, wax does tend to stain and darken wood over time. You can avoid this by applying a base coat of shellac or standing sealer. This base coat penetrates and seals the wood, so that even the wax doesn’t cause stains.

Wax is also not as durable as polyurethane finishes, so you’ll need to refinish the wax finish more frequently.

Using Solid Paste Wax

These are the old-style cans of wax you saw many years ago, but now they’re becoming in vogue again. This is the wax for wood floors to use if you have hardwood floors that are unvarnished. You can also use this type of wax for unfinished cork floors, linoleum floors, and even concrete floors.

However, it is imperative you do NOT use solid paste wax on vinyl or no-wax floors. And you also never use them when your hardwood floor has a urethane finish. Waxing wood floors with a urethane finish can make things worse.

waxing wood floorsWax for hardwood floors does not contain any ingredients that can damage the hardwood flooring. So if you want to be sure, check that the wax does not contain ingredients such as tung oil, vinegar, bleach, ammonia, lemon oil, or silicone.

Learning how to wax wood floors with solid paste wax isn’t really all that complicated, although for the best results you’ll need to wax wood floors by hand.

You can start by using an old cotton t-shirt that’s soft and free of lint. Moisten the shirt, and then wring it as hard as you can so that it is almost dry as a result. This keeps the shirt from absorbing too much of the wax.

Now with a little wax on the cloth, lightly apply the wax on the floor surface. Read the instructions on the can of wax, as usually there may be some special tips here depending on the brand. Just work the wax on the surface of the floor.

You can follow the grain of wood on your floor planks. For patterned or square floor planks, you can also use a circular motion.

Once you’re done with the whole floor, wait for the wax to dry. The can should tell you how long this should take. When that happens, you usually end up with a cloudy waxed surface. You can finish off by shining the floor with a clean towel, a sponge mop covered with terry cloth, or an electric polisher.

Using Liquid Wax

Like its solid wax counterpart, liquid wax should never be used for vinyl, no-wax floors, and floors with urethane finishes. It’s only for unfinished cork, linoleum, and unvarnished hardwood floors.

If you don’t want too much time waxing the floor, then liquid wax may be a better alternative. You may have to do this more frequently, but then again each time won’t take as long. That’s because you won’t have to rub as much of the liquid wax.

Some experts say it’s alright to use a mop or a polisher to apply liquid wax, while others insist that using a terrycloth is the only way to be sure that the wax gets into all the spots in the floor surface. When using a terry cloth, just rub in the wax in a linear way by following the grain of the wood.

If you’re using a mop, make sure that you use a new sponge mop or a flat mop to apply wax. A used mop should never be used, even if it may look clean. If you’ve use the mop before to clean the floor, you may get some dirt into the wax and that will just ruin the look.

Now when you’re done applying the wax to every spot on the floor, you’ll need to wait for the wax to dry. With liquid wax, the solvent evaporates to leave the polish on the floor surface. This takes about 30 minutes, although if you live in an area with high humidity it can take longer.

Additional Tips

wax for wood floorsSome people try to point a fan into the room to accelerate the drying process, but the fan should not directly point at the floor. This can mess with the adhesive of the wax.

Once the first layer of wax is dry, you should wax the floor again. Your brand of wax usually has a recommended number of coats for you to apply, but if not you can just apply three coats. Just stop when the wax starts to turn yellow.

Now to make sure you get the perfect finish, the final coat of the wax should be undisturbed for about 8 hours. While you wait, scrub all your tools right away to get rid of the wax. It will be more difficult to remove the wax if they dry up on your tools.

Once or twice a year, wooden floors ought to have an extra layer of wood floor wax. You should also wax every six months if your floor is stone, sealed ceramic, or vinyl. Also make sure that you clean and strip your floor properly before you wax your floor.