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Like new again: How to get buildup off hardwood floors

Like new again: How to get buildup off hardwood floors

If your once beautiful hardwood floor is looking hazy these days, you’ve probably realized it’s due to buildup. Buildup-haze can be an accumulation of cleaning products, dirt and grime, and potentially finishing products if a refinishing project wasn’t allowed sufficient drying time, or used sub-par products. 

But don’t worry! Here’s how to get buildup off hardwood floors, and when you know it’s time to take on the task.

How to tell when it’s  time to attack the buildup on your hardwood floors

You remember when you fell in love with your hardwood flooring, right? 

Whether you’ve been with your hardwood floors since day one, or purchased a property many years into the lifespan of your flooring, think back to how beautiful it looked. 

New and recently refinished hardwood flooring has a striking natural beauty that amplifies the other architecture and features of any room. Well-cared for hardwood flooring can look just as stunning after decades. Did you know that hardwood flooring lasts around one hundred years on average? Impressive, right?

It’s up to you to protect your floors' longevity, not to mention, showcase their natural beauty. If your floors don’t have the same shine they once had, have a hazy, sticky, or pigmented buildup, it’s time to attack that gunk and let your flooring design shine through.

When you need to clean up after your cleaning products, use this instead

Choosing the right cleaning products is an important first step. If you repeatedly notice a hazy buildup or filmy layer after cleaning, your cleaning products may be to blame.

When buying commercial cleaning products, be sure to check the label for chemical warnings and material compatibility. Be aware that products not designed for hardwood or other porous surfaces can damage your hardwood floors. Choose products with low-toxicity or natural ingredients to protect your family and your floors. 

Or, make your own.

We recently posted an article related to care for laminate flooring, and in that article explained that you can make your own laminate flooring cleaning solution at home. Not only will it protect your flooring from chemical damage, it leaves them clear and sparkling. No haze!

Here’s the formula for that cleaning solution recipe:

  1. 1 gallon warm water
  2. 1 cup white vinegar 
  3. ½ cup rubbing alcohol (optional)*

*If you choose this optional step, be sure you’re using rubbing alcohol and not hydrogen peroxide (their packaging is usually similar; alcohol will be in a clear container). Here is a list of household products that can be used to clean, but should never be combined in the same container.

This recipe can also be used for your hard flooring. You can also add 1 tsp of standard dish soap (some work better than others) or several drops of essential oils to add a more pleasant scent. The dish soap will help clean floors that are extra-grimey.

Here are some other options for caring for your wood flooring with DIY cleaning products. Some incorporate vegetable oil or olive oil to help condition and enrich the floors. If your floors take a long time to dry, consider making a smaller batch of solution in a spray bottle and instead of mopping with a bucket of water, spraying and mopping instead. We also recommend this for floors that have already sustained moisture damage. 

Polished hardwood gone wrong: how to remove wax buildup on hardwood floors

When a new finishing or wax product is the culprit behind your hazy buildup, you may need to treat this buildup differently. Do you know if your hardwood floors had a polyurethane finish? If so, they don’t need to be waxed, and doing so will cause buildup. 

Here’s how to get wax off wood floor boards:

  1. First, remove furniture from the room and sweep with a soft bristle brush, vacuum with hardwood floor attachment (to protect it) or a dust mop and dry microfiber cloth.
  2. Next, you’ll need to strip the wax from the floor’s surface. You’ll need a stripping product that’s compatible with hardwood, like this product, this one, or this one. 
  3. Once you’ve constituted the product according to the label, pour the solution into a spray bottle and grab a new scrub brush, sponge with a thick scouring side, or scraper. 
  4. Spray the area and scrub in the direction of the wood grain to loosen the wax. 
  5. Use a clean cotton or microfiber rag to wipe up the excess wax and moisture. 
  6. Mop your floor with a clean sponge-mop (no chemical residue from previous cleaning products) or microfiber mop and your vinegar-warm water cleaning solution.

If you’re a visual learner, you can watch a tutorial for stripping wax here, and a tutorial for reducing cleaning product haze here.  

If you’re looking for another natural alternative to removing wax haze from your hardwood floors, try a more concentrated vinegar solution. Be careful not to saturate or leave liquids on your floor surface, and don’t use tools that are too coarse. A very fine bit of steel wool, a strong sponge or a soft bristle scrub brush should prevent damage. Test a small area in a discrete location first. Always thoroughly dry and clean the floor after removing wax.

Do you think your hazy floor is too much for standard at-home remedies? If your floor has been treated, finished, or neglected repeatedly, it may require a refinish. If you’re not sure whether your floor needs refinishing, get in touch today for your free estimate.