Organize & Clean

How To Care for Waxed Wood Floors

published Feb 8, 2010
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Though newer hardwood floors are often coated with polyurethane, those of us living in older homes are sometimes puzzled by how to care for floors with more traditional coating. I grew up in a pre-war apartment in DC with beautiful waxed wood floors, and didn’t realize until I was in college that not everyone waxes their wood floors 2 to 3 times per year! For those of you with waxed wood floors, here is my mom’s guide to caring for them.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

What You Need

Restor-a-Finish in appropriate shade
Johnson (or other) paste wax
Rubber gloves
Old cotton towel
Old pair of cotton socks

Floor buffer (or a lot of elbow grease!)


1. Your first step is to find out if you in fact have waxed wood floors. Put down a drop of water about the size of a dime and let it sit on the floor for 15 to 20 minutes. If it soaks right in or even if it sits on top but then creates a white spot on the floor, then you have a wax finish. (I don’t have a picture of this step because I know the floor is waxed.)

2. Wipe down the floor with Restor-a-Finish, especially if your floor hasn’t been treated in a while. It will help pull up the color of your floor and restore some of the original beauty. Once you have wiped on the Restor-a-Finish with an old sock or t-shirt, leave it for an hour to sink in and dry.

3. Wipe on a layer of paste wax with a different sock or t-shirt. The wax should be applied in a light layer- you want to see a dull sheen not the wax itself on the wood. Rub the wax into the floor following the grain of the wood, then let it sit and dry for 30-45 minutes.

4. Buff, buff, buff. Though my mom now has an electric buffer, for many years she buffed by hand; make sure you use a thick towel if you are hand buffing.

5. Admire your lovely new floor! Though you can’t see much of a difference in the before and after pictures above, that is because my mom waxes her floors three times a year; if your floor hasn’t been done recently, you will definitely see a difference!

As we look at another round of snow in DC, this might be an excellent project to keep you from going stir crazy in the storm. Thanks Mom for agreeing to wax your hall floor so I could get some action shots!