Glenn Rasin

By: Glenn Rasin on April 8th, 2021

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How to Strip and Wax Commercial Hard Floors [+ Key Benefits]

Your floors are the very first thing people notice when entering a building. Keeping them looking their best is important. 

However, this can be challenging. Everyday soils are tracked inside, and as a result, floors get worn. They get discolored, scratched, and damaged as occupants track dirt and other abrasive soils inside. Additionally, the winter months are especially harsh.

Even with proper daily and interim cleaning procedures, like vacuuming or a scrub and recoat, commercial flooring will eventually need to be restored. 

Restoring your floors can bring back their brilliance, protect them from irreversible damage, and prevent costly replacement procedures.  

The most effective way to revitalize your dull, worn flooring is to strip and wax your floor. Stripping and refinishing flooring is a restorative procedure. 

Restorative floor care is used to revive your floor when the damage is greater than what can be fixed with less intensive floor care maintenance. Restorative procedures like stripping and finishing and are the most labor-intensive, time-consuming cleaning procedures.

Related: How Much Does it Cost to Strip and Wax Floors: 5 Factors

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to strip and refinish a floor, including the steps, timing, and mistakes to avoid. 

What is Stripping and Refinishing or Stripping and Waxing?

The top of your floor is covered with a finish to protect against the accumulation of dirt, scratches, spills, and other effects of foot traffic. But, over time, this finish will need to be replaced or stripped and refinished. 

This process is also sometimes called stripping and waxing. 

Stripping and refinishing is the process of removing old layers of wax and dirt, restoring the floors to a like-new appearance and protecting it from future damage. 

When To Strip and Wax a Floor

Restorative floor care or stripping and refinishing is needed to help reduce permanent damage and restore your hard floor. 

Restorative floor care should be completed at least once a year or in situations when the floor is no longer returning to its original shine after a scrub and recoat.    

Pro Tip: You should reseal your floors before winter begins. It is not best practice to strip and refinish floors during the winter because of the increased harsh contaminates that can be tracked onto your floors. Additionally, the cold weather can negatively affect how the finish dries. Oftentimes, the cold weather causes the floor finish to crack or peel. 

Benefits of Stripping and Waxing Floors: 

While a strip and wax is time consuming and more expensive than daily or periodic cleaning procedures, there are several benefits. Some of the most important include: 

  • Protecting your floor from damage.
  • Reviving your floor appearance.
  • Making your floor easier to clean in the future.
  • Keeping your floors more hygienic. 
  • Reducing the risk of slip and fall accidents.

Mistakes to Avoid

Performing a strip and finish takes time and money, but when performed properly it can revive your floor’s appearance and protect them from future damage.

However, there are several mistakes custodial staff often make when stripping the finish from commercial floors.

Before beginning, we recommend you review the 5 most common floor stripping mistakes. 

  1. The Floor is Not Compatible with the Selected Floor Stripper
  2. Improper Floor Stripper Dilution
  3. Not Enough Dwell Time
  4. The Floor Dries Before Floor Stripper is Removed
  5. The Floor Stripper Remains on Floor after Rinsing

Learn more about each of these mistakes: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Stripping and Waxing Commercial Hard Floors 

Now that you know some mistakes to avoid, below, we provide you the steps to strip and wax your floor.

How to Strip and Wax a Floor

Preparing to Strip

It is important to begin any cleaning procedure with the proper tools, commercial cleaning supplies, janitorial cleaning equipment, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Required Tools, Materials, & Equipment:

For Stripping 

For Finishing  

  • Mop Bucket and Wringer
  • Putty Knife
  • Sealed Back Mat 
  • Dust Mop w/Handle and Frame
  • Black Stripping Pad (for buffer) 
  • Blue or Green Pad (for autoscrubber) 
  • Disposable Mop
  • Floor Stripper Concentrate
  • Wet Vacuum
  • Swing Machine or Autoscrubber w/Extension Cord, if needed 
  • Wet Floor Signs
  • Mop Bucket and Wringer
  • Rayon or Microfiber Mop 
  • Can Liner
  • Floor Finish
  • Wet Floor Signs
  • Fan

Always begin any cleaning procedure by putting on the necessary personal protective equipment. 

Place wet floor signs outside of the area to signal to guests that there is cleaning in progress and could be hazardous if they enter the area.

Step 1: Remove Floor Mats or Objects from the Area 

Begin the cleaning process by sweeping and removing all large debris from the area. 

Make sure to vacuum and roll up any floor mats in the area to be refinished. 

Step 2: Protect Adjoining Areas from Stripping Solution

Begin the cleaning process by removing all large debris from the area. 

Place a carpeted, sealed-back mat at the outside of the area being cleaned.  

Cost of Stripping a Floor

The mat will collect any excess liquid or soil from occupants’ shoes and reduce the risk of it being tracked out of the area and throughout the rest of your facility.  

Step 3: Dust Mop the Area to be Stripped

Perform dust mop procedures. 

For information on dust mopping, check out our article, "4 Daily Procedures to Maintain Your Facility's Resilient Hard Floors".

Then, use a putty knife to remove any substances like gum or tape that may be stuck to the floor.

Make sure there is no large debris left behind.

Step 4: Properly Prepare Stripping Solution

Some stripping solutions are not ready-to-use (RTU) and will need to be properly diluted. 

Always prepare the stripper solution according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Proper dilution is critical to the product’s performance. An over-concentrated chemical will not necessarily work faster or better. Under concentrated solutions may not be effective.

Check the product label for instructions. 

Pro Tip: Use cool water when preparing the stripping solution. Using hot water can increase chemical odors and can decrease the effectiveness of the chemical.

Step 5: Liberally Apply Stripping Solution to the Floor 

Use a clean, inexpensive (disposable) mop to apply stripping solution in an overlapping “s” or figure 8 pattern to the floor. 

Step 6: Allow the Floor Stripping Solution to Dwell

Dwell time is the amount of time the product must remain wet on the surface for maximum efficacy. 

Stripping solution typically needs to dwell for 5-10 minutes but may vary by manufacturer. 

Check the product label for recommended dwell times. 

Warning: Be careful not to let the stripping solution dry on the floor. Apply more solution to areas that begin to dry before the recommended dwell time.

Step 7: Agitate the Floor 

After allowing the stripping solution to dwell, agitate the floor stripper with an autoscrubber or low-speed floor machine and black pad. Black Hi-Pro Floor Pad

If you have an autoscrubber available, this will be the most efficient machine. Do not add detergent to the autoscrubber. It will only be used to agitate and rinse the floor. 

Pro Tip: Not all floor pads will be effective in removing floor finish. Check with a Floor Care Expert if you are not sure of the right floor pad for your needs. 

Read this article for help understanding the different pad types: What is the Best Floor Pad for your Buffer or Burnisher? [VIDEO]

When using an autoscrubber to agitate floor stripping solution, make sure the following settings are applied: 

  • Pads and brushes scrubbing
  • Squeegee up 
  • Vacuum off 

Step 8: Test Floor for Solution Removal 

After agitating, the stripping solution is ready to be removed when the floor underneath does not feel sticky.  Test the floor by running your hand with a glove over the floor. 

Step 9: Remove Floor Stripping Solution  

Remove the solution with a clean mop and bucket, wet-vac or autoscrubber. 

If you are using an autoscrubber to remove floor stripping solution make sure the following settings are applied: 

  • Pad and brushes scrubbing
  • Squeegee down 
  • Vacuum On

Step 10: Rinse the Floor 

Use fresh, cool water to rinse the floor to remove any residue before applying finish. 

If you are mopping, use a figure-8 mopping pattern to damp mop. 

To rinse the floor with an autoscrubber make sure the following settings are applied: 

  • Replace floor pad or scrub brush with a clean pad/brush
  • Pad and brushes scrubbing 
  • Squeegee down 
  • Vacuum on 

Step 11: Clean Baseboards 

During the stripping procedure, the stripping solution can splash onto the baseboard. 

To avoid leaving splash marks and more permanent stains rinse off any solution. The most effective way to do this is to liberally apply clean water with your clean mop.

Step 12: Allow the Floor to Completely Dry 

When there is no stripper residue left on the floor, let the floor dry. 

Warning: After the floor has been stripped, you must refinish the floor before allowing any foot traffic to cross the floor. Stripped floors are extremely sensitive to dirt, debris, foot traffic, and chemicals. 

Step 13: Remove all Residue

Check the floor for any remaining residue. Run your hand over the floor with a glove. No residue should come off the floor. 

If anything remains, rinse the floor again. 

Step 14: Apply Floor Finish

Apply Finish

Line your mop bucket with a can liner before filling the bucket with floor finish. The can liner will allow for easier cleanup and less contamination. 

Related: How to Choose the Best Floor Finish For Your Facility: Types & Considerations

Use a clean mop and bucket to apply floor finish. We recommend using a microfiber flat mop or rayon (finish mop) for applying floor finish. 

Wring the mop out until there are no drips and then begin applying the finish. Make sure to apply thin, even layers of finish in a figure 8 motion. 

If you are using a rayon mop, remember to flip the mop over (use both sides of the mop) before reaching for more finish. 

Step 15: Allow the Floor to Dry 

Allow adequate drying time for each coat of finish. The typical finish requires 30-40 minutes of dry time. 

Do not try to apply additional coats until drying time is achieved. Clarke AM2400D™ 3-Speed Air Mover

Pro Tip: If a fan is used to expedite the drying time, make sure the fan is pointed up (toward the ceiling), not at the finish or you will potentially create ripples in the finish.

Step 16: Apply Additional Coats of Finish

Floors will typically require 3-4 coats of floor finish. The number of coats will ultimately depend on your floor type, floor finish type, and state of the floor. Always confirm the number of coats with your Floor Care Expert. 

Do not apply additional coats until your floor has dried for at least the recommended dry time. 

If your floor does not achieve the desired shine in three coats, a fourth coat can be applied to achieve the desired look. It is NOT recommended to apply more than 4 coats of finish in a 24 hour period.

Pro Tip: Do not buff or burnish the new finish for a minimum of 24-48 hours after laying the last coat of finish.  Allow the finish to fully “set up” before burnishing.


Final Thoughts

The life of your floors depends on a proper maintenance routine. Performing a strip and finish the proper way can greatly improve floor appearance, protect it from damage, and  help protect your investment. 

The key to a proper strip and finish relies on the right products and procedure. Make sure to review the most common floor stripping mistakes and to follow the steps above to reduce the chance of mistakes and floor damage. 

To learn more about how to build an effective floor care program specific to your facility’s needs, or to better understand the steps necessary to implement these procedures so you can keep your floors looking their best, contact an EBP Account Executive today. 

We can perform a free comprehensive review of your floor care program and identify any cleaning and maintenance gaps. 

Request Your Floor Care Program Review Here

We also offer a hard floor care training course that will update you and your front line staff on the latest processes and products to keep your floors looking their best.

Find out more about our Hard Floor Care Training program:

Hard Surface Floor Care for Professionals

In the meantime, don't forget to check out these related articles: 

About Glenn Rasin

Glenn Rasin is the Chemical Specialist for EBP Supply Solutions and Lead Trainer for the EBP Training Academy, which offers CMI-certified training courses for supervisory and front-line cleaning professionals throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. He is an ISSA CMI-certified trainer, with over 35 years of experience in the janitorial and sanitation industry.