Waxed hardwood floors can be hard to figure out how to clean. I’ve read that mineral spirits can clean waxed floors.
Low Odor Mineral Spirits is supposed to be a gentle cleaner that can lift grime that gets into the wax finish. So, Can mineral spirits clean waxed floors?
I test them out on some very old and very dirty waxed wood floors to see if it makes any aesthetic improvement. Results are modest but encouraging. Verdict: Yes, mineral spirits can clean waxed floors.
Why are wood floors waxed, ever?
Hardwood floors these days typically have some kind of polyurethane finish. Usually it’s water based, as well, these days. But back in the day, they used paste wax to protect the floors. You were supposed to wax them several times a year and occasionally strip off all of the old wax buildup and start again.
All of this sounds like an impossible amount of work to me, but we live in a house with a lot of old, waxed wood floors, and I’ve got to do something. I feel like it’s hard to find clear answers online.
Beautiful Patina and Character
When we first moved in I thought we’d strip all the hardwood flooring and polyurethane all of it.
But then I read a blog post Laurel Bern wrote about wood floors. She argues, convincingly, I think, that waxed floors have the most beautiful look, shine, and patina, if you can stand all the maintenance. In her view, acrylic polys kind of take all the life out the floor. She likes oil based polys, but they are getting harder to come by for environmental reasons, and they’re very stinky. She linked to an Apartment Therapy tutorial about waxing (not stripping, but just waxing) old wood floors that makes it seem very accessible. I’ve read and reread that post over the years, but done nothing about my floors. But they’re at a tipping point now, I think. Five years of heavy traffic and they need some loving. Heck, they needed loving when we moved in, but now they really do.
Mineral Spirits: Quick, Easy Solution to Clean Grimy Wax
I’m still intimidated by stripping and waxing our wood flooring, but I thought I’d take a baby step, which felt scary enough. I decided to wipe one of the floors down with low odor mineral spirits, otherwise known as paint thinner. First I went over the floors with a dust mop, then a damp mop. After that, I just mopped on the mineral spirits with a paper towel wrapped around a mop head.
I definitely have clean wood floors now. The mineral spirits took up a ton of dirt and brought up the wood grain of the floor.
Rewaxing Might Not Be A Big Deal
Just taking the step to clean them has made me more confident however. I think that pretty soon I’ll have gathered the courage to strip the old wax with wax stripper, which I think could be mineral spirits applied with more intensity. After that, rubbing on new paste wax actually sounds pretty easy. Any time I can do something with my own two hands and not a gadget, I tend to feel better.
It’s been hard to find tutorials online about the kind of job I need to do on our floors. The Apartment Therapy article is the best thing I’ve found. And Laurel Bern’s advice.
In the meantime, if you have dingy waxed floors, and very little time, mineral spirits can clean waxed floors. They will leave you with clean wood floors and you’ll be able to see more of the wood grain, even if they’re not super shiny yet.
Here’s the video I made about the process. It was a good first step, but while it cleaned, the mineral spirits did not shine. Please enjoy the video. If you prefer reading, it’s all written out right below the video.
Can You Clean Dirty Old Waxed Floors?
Hey this is Kathleen from oldworldfarmhouse.com. Today I wanted to figure out what to do if you have waxed floors. We live in an old house and it has beautiful wood floors all over, all different kinds, and they are all waxed. So, how do you take care of them?
Don’t Use Those Quick Shine Products
When we first moved in I thought I could just get a product like this, quick and easy. Liquid Gold, yay and then you read the back and it says right here,
“do not use floor restore on unsealed, unfinished, waxed, or oiled floors.” Full disclosure, I have put that stuff on the floors and products like it in the past, but um, I don’t want to continue because I think it contributes to the dullness and gloppiness of them over time.
So I was looking for other solutions and I read several different places on a floors forum and also at bobvila.com that you could go over the floors with mineral spirits.
I am going – today I’m going to give that a try. I’m going to go over these floors with mineral spirits and see if it helps. As you can see, the floors are in good condition, but they are very scratched and they are very dull and we are in a phase in our life with everything else we have to do in the house – and I’m sure that you can relate – where if we could just get them to look shiny we just wouldn’t worry about them at all. You know, we’re just not in a place where we could refinish.
We just want them to look nice, or as nice as possible, and right now I don’t think they do. I think they look dull.
How Can You Tell If Your Floors Are Waxed?
You might be wondering, how do I even know what’s on my floors? How do I know if they’re waxed? Well, the easiest way to tell is to take a little bit of water and drop itonto your floor just a little bit.
And then wait. If your floors are wax, water after it dries will leave a milky white haze like this. This is the kind of white discoloration you’re going to see if you have wax on your floor.
There was an umbrella stand here that probably had a leaky bottom and you can see, if I get my camera to focus, that it’s this. There we go. It just puts this – it looks like you accidentally painted, but actually, it’s not. It’s just what happens, I guess, when the water interacts with the wax.
I have attached just a paper towel to this Swiffer head because i want to be able to throw these away afterwards. Mineral spirits is flammable and you can’t wash rags that have mineral spirits on them, so I just want to get rid of it.
What I’m going to do is take some mineral spirits out of here and I’m just going to…
On the paper towel, even on the floor a little bit. I’m just going to – I’m hoping that this can clear up the cloudiness of my floor.
So yeah, it’s cloudy and it’s supposed to be able to just clear away the grime that’s in the wax that’s sitting on top of the floor.
So, Did The Mineral Spirits Improve the Floor?
The floor is dry now, so let’s take a look at the results. It’s definitely cleaner. I can tell that there’s some kind of grayish haze that’s gone and it’s brought up some of the wood grain again that we couldn’t see before. I guess my expectations were a little unrealistic.
Mineral Spirits Clean, Don’t Shine
I was hoping it would give a glossy glossy sheen, but why, that doesn’t even make any sense. So I think as far as it went, cleaning the floor with mineral spirits was a great idea. If you’re watching this because you’re looking for solutions, i would say wiping down the floor with mineral spirits is very easy and it definitely lifts some grime. And i would totally recommend it, so go for it. Maybe your floors are in better shape than mine, and it’ll make an even bigger difference for you.
I hope this video was helpful to you if you’re looking for solutions to get your wood floors clean and shiny. If you liked it, could you please help me out by giving me a thumbs up there down below, and please check out my blog at oldworldfarmhouse.com for more resources on old houses, French English, and Swedish country styles. Thanks.
If you’re looking for more noninvasive ways to brighten up the wood around your house, you might like my post, Make Old Furniture Look New.