How to Strip and Wax a floor

by George Eastman House

How to strip and wax a floor

Over time the build up of wax, or other floor finishes, will give your hard floor surfaces a dull, hazy, or yellowed look. If burnishing or polishing your floor does not correct the problem, then the only solution is to strip off the old floor finish and refinish the floor.

The use of a good quality floor stripper will make your life much easier, it’s better to have the floor stripper remove the wax rather than using elbow grease to do so. Purchase a stripper that can handle the job. For best results, use a floor finish stripper that is the same brand or better as the finish, be proactive not reactive.

Make sure that the floor you are stripping does not and will not have traffic. Use warning signs to defer traffic from the area you are stripping.

You will need to start in the corner that is farthest from an exit and work your way toward the exit.

Removing the old floor finish is done in four steps.

Apply floor stripper and let it sit on the old finish for awhile

A Floor stripper is a chemical solution that helps to dissolve and loosen the old floor wax on your floor. Make sure that your floor has been prepared for stripping.  Clean the floor removing as much dirt and debris as possible. After the floor has been prepared vacuum or dust mop the floor to remove any dust.  We recommend that you spray your dust mop with a dust mop treatment to remove as much dust as possible.  Make sure to remove anything stuck to the floor because this will gum up and rip the floor pad.

Follow the directions for your specific floor stripping solution (some may need diluting), but most will require you to distribute the solution generously over the floor. Stripping a floor requires a mop bucket, cotton or blended mop, gloves, a black towel, floor machine (175-300 rpm’s) and a black floor pad. Fill the mop bucket up 1/2 way with floor stripper.  Dip the mop into the stripper and lightly wring. 


Break the floor down into 6′ by 6′ sections and start applying the stripper. Apply the stripper in a figure 8 motion overlapping each stroke by about an inch.  After you have applied the stripper let it sit on the floor (follow the product directions for time frame) usually for 5-10 minutes.  This will give the stripper a chance to react with the floor finish.

Remove the floor stripper from the floor

Place a black floor pad on your floor machine.  When stripping a floor move the floor machine back and forth on the floor overlapping by at least 1 inch on each pass.  As the floor finish is removed from the floor it will become duller.  You may need to spend extra time on areas with finish buildup.  The main traffic area on the floor will have less buildup than low traffic areas.

Remove the stripper from the floor using either a blended mop or wet dry vacuum preferably one that has a front mount squeegee.

If you have a very large area to work on then an automatic scrubber floor machine will help your job go a lot faster. The same floor stripping pads you use on a rotary floor buffer can also be used for an automatic scrubber.

An automatic scrubber, either walk-behind or ride-on, can be used to vacuum up the stripping solution and dissolved floor wax in one quick pass, eliminating the slow removal with a wet-dry vac and hand squeegees.

Do not let the stripper finish mixture dry. If the area does dry apply more stripper to loosen the finish. 

Rinse the floor and neutralize the floor stripper.

After you have removed the floor stripper from the floor rinse the floor with warm water.  Rinse the floor two more times with cold water. 

After the third rinse with plain water, rinse the floor with a floor stripper neutralizer.  Neutralizer will reduce the white residue left by the floor stripper so that the floor finish can adhere to the floor easier and better.

After the neutralizer dries check for white residue on the floor using a black towel.  If residue still exists rinse one more time with cold water.  Once all these steps have been completed check the floor for shiny spots.  If shiny spots are evident you may need to re-strip these areas.

If you don’t use a neutralizer you run the risk of your new floor wax gradually flaking or peeling off the floor.

Clean your equipment

You will want to thoroughly rinse out all tanks after each usage. If you used the solution tank to apply stripper, you would not want to put any stripper down when going to scrub your next floor, because it could ruin that floor. So, make sure to thoroughly clean out the solution tank after each usage. You also want to make sure you clean out all recovery tanks, vacuum hoses, and squeegees, because if any stripper or old floor wax were to dry in any of those areas, it can clog, or ruin your machine, putting you and your machine out of commission.

Apply the new Finish

Let the floor thoroughly dry before your next step of applying the new floor wax or finish. Floor fans or air movers might be necessary to speed up this process. When completely dry you’re ready to apply your new finish.

Apply a commercial quality wax solution to the floor – If you really want to your floor to shine contact Peoples Supplies  877-230-4390 to purchase some excellent floor care products.

Peoples Supplies-Changing the World One Product and One Client at a time since 1969. Your Single Source Supplier for Janitorial, Foodservice, Facility Maintenance, and Paper.

References/Resources: Rekhelman, Michael. General Chemistry Course-ABC Compounding. “General Chemistry of Industrial Chemicals.” The ABC’s of General Chemistry Volume I (Feb 1993): Course 1


Melanie Harris resides in Locust Grove, Georgia. She is a Service Consultant for Peoples Supplies & the Editor & Creative Director of N Tune Georgia. She also dabbles in freelance writing, and Website/Graphic Designs. Work is wedged in between parenting two children, a lot of diet coke and a limited amount of sleep.

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