How To Strip And Wax Floors

strip and wax tileClean, shiny and well maintained flooring can create a welcoming environment to your future clients or anyone else that walks into your building. Over time however, flooring may begin to lose it luster becoming dull and even discolored. When this happens it is time to strip the old wax finish and apply a new coat of wax to the flooring. Not only does this make your flooring shine, but it more importantly protects it. Here are 10 steps to strip and wax your floors.

Stripping the floor

Choose the best stripper for your floor type. Not all floors are created equal. Before you begin it’s often best to check the manufacturer’s instructions on whether the stripper is best suited for resilient or non-resilient floor types. Worldwide Janitor offers a wide variety of different commercial floor strippers.

Clear obstacles. Once you have selected a commercial floor stripper, you want to clear the affected area of any desks, tables, rugs and anything else that could be in the way. Once all the furniture has been removed, sweep and inspect the tile. Be sure to remove anything you see stuck on the tile such as stickers, gum or tape.

Dilute product. Always follow the directions on the bottle for proper dilution level. Once you have successfully mixed the stripper, you want to test it in a small corner or a place that is not as visible. If the stripper bleeds or discolors the floor, the solution is either too strong or your need to change to a different type of stripper.

Apply stripper. Pour floor stripper into a mop bucket and begin to apply it to the floor by flood mopping. Liberally mop the selected area with the floor stripper. It is important to not let the floor stripper dry on the tile. Once you have mopped the selected area, allow the stripper to dwell for 5-10 minutes. Also, if you will be using this same mop bucket for anything other than floor stripping, you may want to use a plastic trash bag as a liner to avoid cross contamination.

Floor scrubber. After the product has been allowed to dwell, proceed to scrub off the old wax. This can be done either manually or by an electric floor scrubber. Some areas, such as corners, receive less traffic and thus have more wax build-up. Make sure to take your time in these areas as to remove any build-up. As you are scrubbing the floor, you will notice the area will start to appear duller and duller.

Discard remaining wax. Once you have finished scrubbing the floor, it is time to remove the wax. This can be done with a floor squeegee. Afterward, use a wet/dry vac to suck up any left over residue and help dry the area.

Rinse. It is important to rinse the floor with a neutralizer after the wax has been stripped. This will ensure the complete removal of any remaining residue or stripper. Chameleon Floor Prep/Neutralizer is a great neutralizer, even changing colors to indicated whether the floor is ready for waxing. After you have rinsed the floor with the neutralizer, once again use the wet/dry vac to suck up the remaining water. This is an important step as any remaining stripper on the floor will result in the wax peeling off later. Rinse the floor twice more using wet/dry vac to suck up the solution.

Completion test. Before you are ready to begin waxing your floor it is beneficial to conduct a test to ensure all wax and residue has been removed. There are two ways to check if all the residue has been removed. First, before the floor is allowed to dry, place a black or dark colored towel on the floor. If white residue appears on the towel this means not all has been removed by the stripper. These areas may need to be treated again. For the second test, allow the floor to dry and then lightly pass a putty knife over the flooring. If any wax if found on the knife, you may need to re-strip these areas.

Applying wax to flooring

Wax sealer. After the floor is completely dry, fill the mop bucket with wax sealer. Again, to avoid cross contamination between products, it is often best to use a plastic trash bag as a liner for the mop bucket. From there, apply the wax to the flooring. Unlike applying the stripper, be sure not to flood the floor area. Rather, apply a thin and yet even layer of wax across the floor. Allow to dry. Dry time can vary on different products, but generally wait 45 minutes between coats.

Apply another coat. After the wax has been allowed to dry, test a small area before walking out onto the wax as this can leave footprints in the wax. If the floor is tacty or even slightly sticky, avoid walking on it until completely dry. Apply as many coats as desired or needed allowing the appropiate dry time in between coats.

Apply the above steps to make your flooring look new again.

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25 Responses to How To Strip And Wax Floors

  1. Jackie says:

    I work in a school. The floors that are tiled (I believe it is VCT) look beautiful the first few weeks of school, but after that … horrible. There is a white powdery residue that gets all over the soles of shoes. It is now March, and there are no signs of it letting up. It’s frustrating to wear dark pants and accidentally touch the sole of your foot on the pants. Forget about even beginning to actually KNEEL on the floors. What do you think the problem could be?

    • ChrisH says:

      Hi Jackie,

      Sorry for taking so long to respond to your question.

      The white powdery residue you are seeing is the finish “walking off” of the floors. Low quality finishes oxidize because of lack of stability, and once that deterioration starts, it turns into that powder you are seeing. There are numerous reasons this could be happening:

      • Schools are one of the harshest environments for floor finishes
      • Too low of a percentage of solids in the finish, or solids that evaporate
      • Improper application (although that usually results in the finish peeling off)
      • A manufacturing defect in the finish

      While we do sell some cheaper hybrid finishes that have zinc in them, our new Titanium Matrix floor finishes are the best choice for these harsh environments. They utilize titanium and a synthetic resin that make them stronger, much longer lasting, and they reflect more light. With proper application and maintenance, these finishes could last a few years in most schools.

      To get the most out of these finishes, you must properly strip, neutralize, and seal the floor to prepare it. Click here for our guide on prepping the floor.

      Here are the products you will need:

      1. Floor Stripper (Supernova is best)
      2. Floor Neutralizer (Chameleon)
      3. Floor Sealer (Delta Phase is probably what you need)
      4. Titanium Matrix Finish (choose based on application style)

      By following the steps in our floor maintenance guide, and using our Titanium Matrix products, you will have nicer looking floors that require less maintenance, and you will save money in the long run.

  2. Thanks for the information! My tile floors have been looking rather dull for the past few weeks, even though I wash them very well a few times each week. It seems like stripping and waxing my floor will make it shine like new. I’ve never stripped my floors before waxing them. It’s good to know how important it is to use the best floor stripper that I can find, and whether it’s for resilient or non-resilient floor types. What types of flooring would count as a non-resilient floor type? I have a tile floor, so it seems as though I should know whether it would be best to buy a stripper that’s made for resilient or non-resilient floor types.

  3. George says:

    Why is it so hard to strip a VCT when it has not been stripped in a number of years? You always need to strip and re-strip sections over and over to remove all of the old wax. What is the reasoning for this?

  4. Worldwide Janitor says:

    @Deanna, non-resilient floors are going to be the hard stone type, whereas resilient types are flexible, like vinyl tile. Most of our floor strippers work on both, except Super Strip, which is meant for only sealed and resilient floors.

    @George, it sounds like it could be an issue with the quality or dilution of the floor stripper. You may need to try some of our better products, like Supernova or Meltdown.

  5. Paul says:

    Is the replicator used as a wax sealer

  6. Chris H. says:

    Replicator is a finish restorer for floors that have already been sealed and finished with TMT products. It is a maintenance product designed to restore shine when floors start to dull.

  7. Crs says:

    Hello , how do i do a deep scrub to the floor? I apply some quimicol to the floor but when i put the new wax looks yellow o r brow… even before i scrubbed the floor , the floor looked white buy after… a deep scrubbed looks dark….

  8. Worldwide Janitor says:

    You should always test a product on a small inconspicuous area before using it on the whole floor. Use a wax stripper like Meltdown to remove the wax coat. After that you can scrub with a neutral cleaner. Make sure to use a neutralizer after stripping.

  9. Kaeen Swanson says:

    Hello
    I desperately need your help. I live in an apartment that is covered in 12″ x 12″ hard tiles with thin grout inbetween. There was some rust color discoloration on some of them from water standing on then a long time before I moved in. A maintenance man came in the apartment and tried to take off the discoloration by using striper but he didn’t wipe the stripper off the floor and my cat walked on it. He also didnt tell what he did so a lot of the stripper dried on the tiles. My cat has been very effected by this because it got on her fur, skin a d paws which lickedl alot. I ve spent $1700.00 taking her to the vet and they have tried fluids for months but it seems she having internal damage because of injesting stripper. I ve tried so many things to get the stripper off the tiles but it is hardened on and it the grout. Today I am trying to hand sand the tiles but it is darn hard to do becauuse I cant see where the strpper is and I have back problems. Also I dont know if I am getting the stripper off or not. The management will not do anything to help and I am broke now because of all oc this. Even a floor steamer wouldn’t remove all it. I cover my entire apartment floorn with large sheets of plastic several times but. It keeps tearing. I thought abouylt just waxing over the stripper to seal it in but I dont know if it will work and how long it will last. CAN YOU PLEASE SUGGEST SOMETHING ( not yelling just begging for help) The management will not allow carpeting.Thank you
    Karen Swanson
    swansonkaren2@gmail.com

    • Worldwide Janitor says:

      Hi,

      I am really sorry to hear about what you have been through. It sounds like you have already mopped the floor a few times to remove the stripper, and this is normally enough to get the job done. Maintenance people typically use a neutralizer to restore the pH back to normal after stripping and before waxing – but doing a really good job of mopping more than once is going to have a similar effect. If you are still seeing something on the floor (you said “it has hardened on and in the grout”), it is likely etching of the tiles that is a result of the floor stripper being left on them in a high concentration. The grout could also be discolored because of this. Etching is a visible change in the surface of the tile that is a result of the stripper being left on too long. There is nothing you can do about the etching – it will not come off. It is not harmful either though, it only looks bad. Grout discoloration is a similar issue. There are some tools that you can use to sand grout though, and it can be re-done, but this is labor intensive. It sounds like you’re not really sure what type of stripper was used also – which further complicates things. Perhaps if you knew what was used, you could buy an appropriate neutralizer, but I can’t recommend anything in this case since there is really no telling what this guy put on your floor.

  10. RaShell says:

    I hold the janitorial contract for a small city building. The gymnasium floor is maintained by a floor company, so I do nothing as far as waxing, etc. However, in one of the police department bathrooms, the wax finish (which is apparently NOT maintained by the same floor company) has become extremely sticky (like a human fly-trap). Is this because of the ammonia in the urine? No matter what I’ve used to clean it, the stickiness remains. Incidentally, in the police department, there are other rooms with the same type of flooring that have been waxed at some point. I have no issues with these floors. I’m not contracted to strip/wax or buff any of the floors, but I can’t stand the way the bathroom looks and feels to walk on. It goes against my nature to leave the place looking as if I’ve not mopped.

    • Worldwide Janitor says:

      Hi, not sure why it would get that way, but if it is vinyl tiles you can always try some of the recommended methods of stripping and waxing them.

  11. Michele L Brown says:

    I have a elderly neighbor who is head custodian at the local elementary school. She is a peach with the children and unfortunately the new principal has made life miserable. She demanded that she and her crew strip the cafeteria floor ever and over last summer. Of course now it is very dull. My neighbor described it as they stripped the color off. What would you recommend? She is really upset over this and I know it would bless her if I could share any advice from you. Thank you so much.

  12. TL says:

    What is the procedure for stripping and waxing Vinyl wood floors? The kind that looks like wood but ain’t. And what’s best to use on it?

  13. Martin says:

    Hello if my stripping solution starts to dry is it safe to walk on it with non slip shoes and apply more water

  14. Frustrated in Canada says:

    Hello I work in a school and we strip and seal the floors every summer. I’ve been doing this for years but my last 2 yrs my floors haven’t been turning out great. We use just sealer 4-5 coats after stripping. My sealer isn’t setting right almost looks like waves in it if that makes sense. No one else is having the issue but I have no idea what I could be doing different. They are dull and look like crap I’m limited on time and already been told to redo one room. I need to figure out what I’m doing that could cause this. Any help greatly appreciated

  15. ANN ARMSTRONG says:

    I WORK IN A NURSING HOME FACILITY AND ITS THAT TIME AGAIN TO STRIP/WAX FLOORS.
    MY PROBLEM IS WHEN STRIPPING THE HALLWAY FLOORS THE SOLUTION TENDS TO RUN INTO THE RESIDENTS ROOM AREA CROSSING FROM THE HALLWAY JUST INSIDE THE RESIDENTS LIVING AREA THIS AREA IS ALSO TILED WHAT CAN BE USED AS A BARRIER TO PREVENT THIS TRANFERING INTO THIS AREA ? IN THE PAST WE HAVE PLACED TOWELS DOWN AT DOOR WAYS AND THE STRIPPER SEEMS TO RUN AND CAUSE INSSUES INTO THE ROOM FLOORS JUST INSIDE THE TRANSFER AREA INSIDE THE RESIDENTS ROOM WE ARE VERY CAREFUL AS NOT TO ALLOW TO MUCH STRIPPING SOLUTION TO RUN BUT WE NEED TO GET INTO CORNERS AND JUST OUTSIDE THE DOOR ENTERANCE THIS CAUSING STRIPPER TO EFFECT THE RESIDENTS ROOM FLOORS WE HAVE VINYL FLOOR TILE.

  16. David Jonassen says:

    We own a professional cleaning company and have been in business for over 15 years handling everything from post construction cleaning on new projects residential to commercial.
    We also do the cleaning and maintenance of schools and office buildings on a daily come weekly basis , year round.
    We do stripping and waxing of floors in all types of intuitions
    Our business continues to grow primarily based on our experiences and reputable reputation within the profession .
    The majority of our business increases are heavily influenced by our past and current customers
    Overall Life is Good !
    But, I have a problem ( actually two ) that may even be related that you may be able to help us on .
    In a school that we clean regularly and have done so now for over 5 years we are having what we consider to be premature issues relative to life of the tiled floors and well as maintaining long term lustre and shine we expected.
    The tile floors in the classrooms , common area and hallways are cracking , moving, lifting and starting to curl up. The floors are about 10 plus years in service. To some that may seem pretty good for this application , wel it is not, I am finding other floors in other schools and even local universities are that well over thirty years old in service and still looking and lasting better that we are experiencing.
    I have been told that moisture is contributing to the problem but in the same breath they tell me that should not be the cause because if the tiles were installed correctly the ( glue/mortar . products ) used will not allow moisture to ever penetrate to the actual tile .
    The 2nd issue here which also may be related is that after we strip and wax these floors ( currently twice annually ) . To date after following the best maintenance procedures that we are aware of . We are losing our like new shine and lustre on these floors anywhere between 1 and 3 months . This is after we sweep, wash and mop these floors daily and then machine varnish the floors monthly or bi weekly .
    Prior to this year we have been installing 5 coats of wax throughout the school and Have decided this summer to apply 6 coats in classrooms and common areas and 7 coats in the hallways .
    One school of thought here is with that amount of wax on the floors and maintained correctly , the wax on the floors will act as a strong enough moisture barrier to try and get more or the maximum life out of the tile floors in this application .
    We want to be part of the solution not the problem here , we are not on a witch hunt or pointing fingers we just need top fully understand the problem and potential solutions and then make a good decision .

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