How to Polish Hardwood Floors: Technique and Products

How to polish hardwood floors

Polishing hardwood floors confers an attractive glossy finish that enhances their natural beauty. It also helps reduce fading and wear and tear in high-traffic areas, ensuring your floors look great for longer. Polishing acts as a barrier against stains and spills, making maintenance easier, and it can restore old wooden floors by filling and disguising scratches.

The good thing is that it can be a straightforward DIY project. However, achieving the best results requires proper tools, preparation, and technique. Let’s dive into the process.

What types of wooden floors can you polish?

It’s safe for use on various wood types, including oak, walnut, maple, and other species. This polish is suitable for lacquered, varnished, engineered, hardwood, and softwood flooring, ensuring a beautiful finish across different wood surfaces.

How to polish hardwood floors

  1. Start by removing all furniture and belongings from the room. Clear the area carefully, using furniture pads to protect the floor from scratches and gouges when moving large objects.
  2. Next, thoroughly clean the floor by dusting and mopping. Learn more about the best hardwood floor cleaners and top mops, to achieve the best results. Make sure that the floor is completely dry before applying the polish.
  3. Gather the right tools. Polishes can be applied with an applicator pad or a high-density foam roller.

Choose the appropriate polish and calculate the square footage of the room to ensure you have enough for one application. To find the square footage, multiply the length by the width of the room. A 32oz bottle of polish covers 500 sq. ft., while a 24oz bottle covers 350 sq. ft.

For floors with a polyurethane finish, use a water-based polish. For other finishes, go for a wax-based polish. Apply the solution by squirting it onto the floor and wiping it with a microfiber cloth, either by hand or attached to your mop.

  1. Read the instructions carefully. Follow the directions exactly to avoid damaging your floors. Check if you need to sand and wax your floors before polishing them, and comply with all recommended safety guidelines on the label.
  2. Test an area of your floor first. Even if you know the finish of your floor, it’s wise to test the polish to ensure it won’t discolor the wood. Choose a hidden spot, like under a large piece of furniture or in a closet. Apply the polish and wipe it with a microfiber cloth. If no damage appears, proceed with polishing the entire floor. If you notice discoloration, consult a professional contractor. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you need any guidance in the process. 
  3. Start from an interior corner and work outward. Cover 3 by 3 feet sections at a time. Gradually move across the width of the room to the next corner, then continue along the length of the room to the third corner. Polish to the last corner, then move inward to polish the center. Finish by polishing the area near the doorway to avoid stepping on your freshly polished floor.

If your floor has been waxed, apply 2-3 thin layers of polish instead of one thick layer. Allow each coat to dry completely, about 24 hours, before applying the next one.

  1. Allow the polish to dry completely. The floor will feel tacky or sticky until it’s fully dry. 

To be safe, wait six to 24 hours before walking on the floor with socks, and avoid wearing shoes for at least 24 hours. Block off the area with painter’s tape or a chair for at least 6 hours. If you have pets, keep them away from the polished area for at least 24 hours. 

You can move your furniture back after two days.

What not to do when polishing hardwood floors

To avoid a cloudy, milky appearance, handle the polish properly. Here are some tips:

  • Polish should be used within one year of opening the bottle and has a shelf life of 1-2 years unopened.
  • Never pour polish into a spray mop, spray bottle, or bucket. 
  • Use the right tools and techniques: don’t use a sponge, string, or wring mop, and don’t dampen the applicator pad with water. 
  • Avoid rinsing and wringing the applicator pad while applying the polish. 
  • Apply the polish evenly without scrubbing or rubbing it in. 
  • Ensure you apply a sufficient, even layer at the correct application rate. 

Regular cleaning helps minimize dirt and dust, which can act like sandpaper and wear down your floors. Usually, specially-formulated polishes can be used multiple times a year. The frequency depends on the amount of traffic the hardwood floors experiences, but for most owners, polishing every two to four months is ideal.

First Atlanta Flooring is a trusted source for premium hardwood floor tools and materials, featuring a wide curated selection of leading brands and products. Contact us to discover effective solutions that will make wood floors shine!