How to Polish Hardwood Floors

How to Polish Hardwood Floors and Restore Their Shine

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Whether it’s a residential home or a rented property, having a hardwood floor means that you should always think of clever ways to make it last longer. You see, unlike marble, carpeted or tile floors, hardwood floors are highly susceptible to regular damage such as dents, scratches, and scuffs caused by pets, kids, or dragging of heavy furniture when tenants are relocating. And since your floor plays a significant role in the overall ambiance of your indoor acoustics, maintaining its lustrous shine and looks is usually an inevitable endeavor. All you need is to learn how to polish hardwood floors to restore their former glory.

You see, according to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), hardwood floors demand to be swept daily to remove dirt, germs, and grime. Continuous cleaning of the floor using cleaning agents usually dulls the floor causing it to lose its former shine. Although refinishing is considered one of the most effective methods, most often than not, this method usually turn out to be expensive and time-consuming. For that reason, most homeowners are opting to polish their floors as an easy and inexpensive alternative to removing imperfections from the floor to regain its former shine.


How to Polish Hardwood Floors: Do’s and Don’ts


But, before you even think of polishing your floor, there’s a lot you need to be aware of. For instance, the type of hardwood floor you’ve got plays a significant role in the type of procedure you’ll employ. If your hardwood floor is sealed with a protective finish such as urethane, the best method to employ is to polish the floor.

But, if your hardwood floor is unsealed wood or one with a penetrating finish such as tung oil, then waxing such floors will be the safest option. So, with that said, this short guide will walk you through a detailed step-by-step procedure on how to polish your floor to make it shine again.

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

  • Microfiber mop
  • Soft bristle broom
  • Hardwood floor cleaner or homemade based cleaner
  • Dustpan
  • Wood floor polish


  • Step 1: Testing the Floor Finish

Before you commence this DIY project, perhaps it’s important if you can spend some time to test your floor just to be sure of what you’ll be working with. You see, most homeowners, especially tenants, usually make the error of diving into this idea of polishing their floors even before testing it. As a result, they end up messing the floor even more leading to costly repairs not forgetting a waste of time and resources.

Thankfully, there are two methods you can employ to test the nature of your hardwood floor. The first method is scraping off a small section of the floor from a hidden inconspicuous area using a sharp knife. If the material scrapped off appears clear, then it’s a clear sign that the floor is sealed hence safe for polishing.

On the other hand, if the material appears smudged with visible sawdust particles, then it means the floor has a penetrating finish and hence should only be waxed but not polished.

Another test you can consider is to spray some water on a hidden area on your floor to observe the reaction. If the water sprayed forms some beads, then it means you have a protective finish. On the other hand, if the water gets absorbed inside the wood, then it means the floor doesn’t have a protective finish and should not be polished.

  • Step 2: Clean and Clear the Room

Now that you’ve confirmed the type of hardwood floor you’ll be working on, the next step is to clear the room to make it easier for you to clean it up. If the house is a rented one and the tenant has just moved out, then cleaning such a space will be very easy as nothing is standing in your way. However, if the house is a private residential home, then you’ll have to push all your furniture out to create enough space to work on.

When moving your furniture, you need to carry them instead of dragging them to avoid scratching the floor. If you have floor-length curtains, you can consider removing them to make it easier for you to clean the windows.

So, with everything out of the way, start by wiping the windows, especially the inner sills and aprons to remove any tiny dust particles that might be sticking to those areas. Failure to remove such particles can result in imperfections in case they’re blown off the windows and land on top of your wet polish.

Once you’re through with that, sweep the floor using a soft-bristled broom, a microfiber mop, or a vacuum cleaner. When you’re done, deep clean the floor using a recommended cleaner. Alternatively, you can opt to use home-based cleaning products such as mixing a ¼ cup of dish soap with a gallon of warm water or mixing white vinegar with water.

The main purpose of deep cleaning the floor is actually to remove sticky grime and oils from your floor to make it sparkling clean. Always rinse the floor with clean water to remove any cleaner residue then wipe it dry using a clean towel or rag. Leave the floor to dry up naturally for about 30 minutes before proceeding.

  • Step 3: Buff the Floor A Bit

Once you’ve cleaned the floor, the next step is to buff it up just a bit to roughen the surface. This will make the existing protective finish a bit rough to allow the new polish to bond and soak perfectly. But, to do this, you’ll need to get an electric buffer which you’ll have to rent out from the closest home improvement store.

So, to use the buffer, you’ll need to place a sanding screen under the buffing machine then commence the buffing process starting from the edges to the center of the floor. In case there are any areas you suspect might be damaged, then you can cover them with tape to avoid getting scratched. Once you’re done, sweep the floor then vacuum it thoroughly to get rid of dust particles.

  • Step 4: Apply Polish on the Floor

Now that you’ve followed all the previous steps to the latter, it’s now time to apply polish on your hardwood floor. As we have previously mentioned, if your floor is sealed with a protective finish, then you need to use a water-based urethane polish. On the other hand, if the floor has a penetrating finish, then a wax-based polish is the perfect remedy.

Secondly, before you apply the polish, you need to read the instructions carefully to confirm the mode of application. You see, some wood polish can be applied directly on the floor without causing any potential damage on the wood while others demand to be applied on a cloth first then wiped on the floor.

So, once you confirm the exact mode of application, start by partitioning the room into small portions to make the process much easier. Apply a small amount of wood polish on the first section then use a flat-surface mop (or any other applicator of your choice) to polish the floor. Always start from the furthest corner of the room coming towards the exit. Also, ensure that you apply the polish back and forth along the grains of wood to enhance uniformity.

Once you’re done, inspect the room to ensure that the work is perfectly done. In case you notice some imperfections here and there, you can apply another coat to even out the polish. Once you’re done, allow the polish to dry up for about 24 hours before stepping on the floor. In case you need to replace your furniture, you can allow the floor to rest for another 2 days to give it ample time to heal.



As you can see, hardwood floors are considered one of the best as they make your floor warm, safe, and very beautiful. Cleaning these types of floors is also easy as you only have to sweep the dust particles or clean gently using the recommended cleaning agents. But, following regular cleaning, it’s likely that your floor might begin to fade and perhaps lose its lustrous looks.

Thankfully, good maintenance of your floor through regular polishing can help to restore the former shine and allow your floor to last for a longer time. But, since polishing your floor can sometimes turn out to be a tricky and overwhelming endeavor, this insightful guide has discussed four key steps that can be of massive help.

With that said, before you commence with the project, take your time to read through our short guide to gather some inspiration.

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