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How to strip and wax a floor

Waxed floors don't have to be trouble

These are general guidelines for most floor stripping and waxing operations. Different environments may require adjustment in the procedures or materials required, so be prepared to adapt for any changes you may encounter.

Survey the situation

If this is a new job, do an area analysis to try and estimate how much square footage you will be dealing with. Also try and find out what type of floor wax was used for the previous layers. This can help you identify quantities and types of supplies you will need to have on hand to clean. It’s important in particular to try and determine the layers of wax applied, as well as types of stains, spots, or other problem areas.

Once you have done your survey, you can decide what products to stock, safety equipment to bring along, and which chemicals to mix, dilute or otherwise prepare for the job. This is also a good time to prepare a checklist for quality control.

We highly recommend the use of burnishing machine for this job. Read your burnishing machine’s manual and chemical products usage directions. This will not only make you look professional, but will minimize your time on the job and keep everyone as safe as possible. You can use a stripping mop if you do not have the resources, however the job will take longer.

Another machine that will keep your time on the job minimal is an industrial wet-vac. This will be used to remove saturated stripper solution during the operation. Lastly, you will need a clean-finish or micro-fiber mop for application of your floor wax solution.

When you begin your stripping and waxing job, always place caution or warning signs in front of the area being serviced. Apply proper protective gear based upon your cleaning chemical requirements. Be sure that you have your QC checklist available, marking off each step after completion. Many clients will appreciate this touch from their janitorial professional.

Steps for success:

  1. Dust mop the floor to remove any debris and loose material.
  2. Apply enough wax stripper solution to cover the treatment area completely. Allow for manufacturers recomennded dwell time (usually 5 minutes) to soften the current finish. Bubbles generally indicate the wax is being lifted.
  3. Grab your burnishing machine (or strip mop) and agitate the old finish. The stripping solution should look milky or discolored when you are done.
  4. Wet-vac up the saturated stripper solution and inspect the surface as best as possible. This is the time to determine whether or not another stripping operation is required. Repeat as necessary. If the previous coating looks nearly the same, you might need a stronger stripper or even another type of stripper (common with urethanes and epoxies).
  5. If everything looks stripped, do a fresh water rinse to remove residues. Certain types of high strength alkaline strippers may require a neutralization wash at this point. Check your stripping chemical manufacturer’s recommendations.
  6. After allowing sufficient drying time, you can apply your floor wax with your clean-finish or micro-fiber mop. Follow your floor wax manufacturer’s recommendations regarding:
    A) Type of base coats (or even undercoats)
    B) Number of coats to apply
    C) Drying time per coat
    D) Any sealers or top coats necessary
  7. Once drying is completed for all coats, you can burnish the top coat with a blue pad (1000-3000 RPM) to achieve maximum gloss.

Once gloss has been achieved, you are going to want to maintain that appearance. This can be done with daily maintenance programs, a weekly maintenance program, or even a monthly or bi-monthly re-coating process that will not require this level of involvement. Our guides will help you determine what level of maintenance program to implement to keep those floors looking like new.
A note on disposal of used stripping and floor wax solutions: Most sewer systems treatment plants and water management districts are not going to be too upset if you dispose of used carpet cleaning solutions into their systems, particularly if they are green certified carpet cleaning chemicals. But to be sure, always contact water management districts in the area you intend to clean and let them know what you plan to do, particularly if you will be doing this often. They will give you the final word, as well as any guidelines to follow or things to keep in mind. A written assurance may also be wise, if they would oblige. A pollution liability concern is a major concern. Don’t take that chance.

Need more janitorial tips and ideas? Check out our cleaning guides or our tips and tricks section for more helpful information and techniques for professionals.