How to Polish Wood

When you think about polished wood, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Polished wooden floors of course! There is nothing like walking, standing or dancing on lovely polished wooden floors. If you have wooden floors eager for some polishing, this guide can help you out. Learning how to polish wooden floors will not just bring out the natural beauty in wood but will also protect it.

Wood polishing basics

Polishing hardwood floors will instantly bring back the luxurious beauty of any room. Whether you have polished wood before or you are looking for a new efficient technique, these steps will surely be able to help you get started.

Things you will need

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Mop
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Water
  • Spray or solid wax
  • Microfiber cloth


Cleaning wood floors

Step 1

Remove furniture and rugs inside the room you wish to clean. Vacuum or sweep your floors to remove dust and debris.


Step 2

Does your floor have a finish? Polyurethaned floors have a hard finish and the only way to clean this is with a small amount of water. A shellac or lacquered floor does not need water and may need to be regularly waxed.


Shellacked or lacquered floors have to be stripped and waxed periodically. You can use denatured alcohol and lacquer thinner to test your floor finish. Test a small area that you cover with furniture or a rug. Test only 2-3 drops of the alcohol and after a short while checking the spot with an old cloth. If you feel that the area is soft then this is the shellacked floor. If the alcohol doesn’t soften the finish use 2-3 drops of lacquer thinner to another area. If this softens the wood your floor has a lacquer finish. If the floor has turned tacky then it is water-based.

Step 3

Mop floors with a polyurethane finish. Use a few drops of dishwashing liquid with a bucket-full of water. Wring out the mop until its damp and afterwards run the mop along the grain of the wood. Floors that have been waxed should never be mopped. Instead of clean these by vacuuming and sweeping. Buff the floor with a microfiber cloth or a microfiber mop if you prefer to stand. Move in a circular motion until the floor shines.


Polishing wood floors

Step 1

Use the right polish for your wooden floor. Use water-based or urethane polish on floors using a polyurethane finish. For other floor finishes, use a wax-based polish. Avoid toxic chemical exposure, use polish that’s free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Follow manufacturer’s instructions to avoid damaging floors. Find out if the manufacturer wants you to sand and wax your floors before you use polish. Follow all recommended safety guidelines as well.


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Step 2

Test an area of polish on your floor. This is very important even if you know what kind of finish your floor has to make sure it won’t discolor the floor.

Test on an area under a rug or a large piece of furniture. Apply a small amount of polish and wipe this with a microfiber cloth.

If the polish tests OK then apply it on your floor. Whether you are using a spray or solid wax, use the feathering technique or wiping the polish in a semi-circle. Be sure to create a streak-free finish by overlapping your feathering strokes.

Work from the interior corner outward and cover 3 by 3 feet sections at a time. Move across the width of the room to the next corner of the room.


Step 3

Continue your feathering strokes along the length of the room to the third corner. Move inward to polish the center of the room and finally, polish the area by the doorway to prevent ruining your hard work.


For waxed floors, apply 2-3 thin layers of polish. Wait for each coat to completely dry before applying the next one. Each coat will dry approximately a day. Let the polish completely to dry. If possible, wait for six to 24 hours before walking on the floor. You can place your furniture and rugs back after two days.

Do not allow anyone to walk on the area. Seal off the area with painter’s tape for at least 6 hours.


Polishing wood is necessary to protect its grain, improve its luster and enhance its beauty. Find out the finish of your wood before you dive right in. Knowing this can help you clean it more efficiently and thoroughly.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY