Need help maintaining waxed floors

ncamyJuly 24, 2012

My oak floors do not need to be refinished. They are in excellent shape. They just need to be cleaned and spruced up in the high traffic areas such as the steps. Most of the floors are over 80 years old. One room is newer. The previous owner left us a little bit of information. He said that he used shellac because it was easy to repair. I'm assuming he waxed over it because now the high traffic areas look dull and dirty. Damp mopping doesn't seem to freshen the look much.

So the question is what should I do now? Will I need to rent a floor buffer? Will I need to remove all of the furniture from each room (or can I just do the traffic paths?) We have over 2000 square feet of wood flooring and most of it doesn't need anything. Should I buy the floor buffer attachment for our Kirby vacuum cleaner? Would an orbital attachment for the drill work, especially for the stairs? Or should we just do it by hand? Where do I buy the wax? The one time I looked at the store at the floor maintenance products, EVERYTHING appeared to be geared toward no wax floors.

I like the look of the floors and really don't mind the necessary maintenance. They are so much prettier than site finished polyurethaned floors we've had in the past. I would appreciate it if someone would just walk me through the steps I need to do! Thank you.

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Sophie Wheeler

Maintaining waxed floors is why no wax floors were invented. My grandmother would do semi annual stripping maintainence every spring and fall, and owned her own buffer. She refinished the floors with poly in the 60s and never looked back.

You need to strip off the existing wax, and that involves a bucket of hot water and ammonia and a scrub brush on your hands and knees. Allow the floor to dry and then assess the shellac's integrity. If you don't keep rugs down in the traffic patterns to prevent wear paths, you may need to clean with mineral spirits and recoat with shellac. Once the old wax is removed and the shellac repaired, it's time to wax. You need a buffer with an applicator pad. Plain old Johnson's paste wax is all my grandmother ever used, and I doubt if they've improved on it any. Once the wax has dried, switch to a buffing pad and buff to a high shine. Vacuum the floor regularly, followed by the dryest damp mopping with pure water that you can do. If areas begin to become a bit dull you can apply more wax after the damp mopping and buff out again. If you allow the floors to go too long between waxings, you can damage the shellac finish and have to start over again. You will get build up of wax, which will create it's own dulling, so it's best to do the semi annual stripping like my grandmother did.

If you do decide to switch to a less maintenance intensive finish, you will have to sand to bare wood before applying another type of finish. Wax retards adhesion of almost any flooring finish.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 6:25PM
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It's a good thing shellac is easy to repair, because it is way to soft to use as a good floor finish.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 1:54PM
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What about using a floor finish from a janitorial supply that doesn't need to be buffed, just applied with a wet mop?

What did you end up doing with your floors?

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 8:45AM
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