The wax used was not real wax?

Q: I moved into a house that has 50 year old B**** hardwood, wax finished floors. The floor is dark, with dirtier sections that are darker. It has few scratches, gouges, etc. When I moved in last year I waxed the floor with J******* but that did not do much to help with general appearance.

Last weekend (the cold one), I decided to do what I could to clean the floors up. I started on the worst section at the front entry. First I used mineral spirits to try to clean up the floor, which did not do much. Then I tried using combination floor cleaner/wax that I got from a local flooring shop (D*** ****), but the stuff did not really clean the floor up.

In a fit of exasperation, I used an orbital sander and gave this section a very light sanding using 100 grit paper. The floor cleaned up almost immediately and it looks great–all discoloration, darkness, unevenness and even wear spots gone. It looks just like new.

Then I had the idea that maybe the wax used was not real wax (and that is why the cleaners did not really work), and I tried using ammonia, which after some rubbing on a test spot, took off all the finish. Probably too much. So I concluded that the floor was waxed with acrylic.

I wonder if there is a safe method of removing the old acrylic wax short of sanding the entire floor? I have heard many warnings about using water based solvents on waxed floors.

One more note- I own a Koblenz floor scrubbing machine if that will be of use.

Sorry for the long question, but the issue of what to do with dirty old waxed floors with acrylic polish has not been addressed on the net or in other sources I often use. It seems a waste to sand a wood floor when the only problem is getting a huge amount of grimy darkened acrylic floor wax off!

A: What about a solution of TSP?

I haven’t been involved in waxing a floor in close to 30 years. I don’t know that I am going to be of much help. I’m not sure if you used the same product, but Dura Seal makes Renovator which is suppose to strip off the old wax and leave a small amount of resin on/in the wood to freshen it up. I recommended it to one lady who’s old waxed floor could not be sanded again. She tried this product and said it did wonders.

Follow-up Q: The stuff I tried was Clean and Wax. I will buy some Renovator and see what happens.

I think my problem is more common than is thought. My guess is that with waxed floors, most people cannot distinguish between a floor that has been paste waxed and acrylic waxed. It would seem to me that this must be very common. Waxed floors were commonly sold fifty years ago, and then acrylic floor wax came out shortly thereafter. The dangers of acrylic wax + waxed wood flooring did not seem to be documented. Certainly, pouring on the wax was heavily advertised and much easier to do than paste waxing and buffing.

In any case, local floor refinishers just want to sand/poly, which in my case seems to be unnecessary, at least since I discovered a light sanding will help a lot.

I will let you know if Renovator works.

You also suggested trying TSP–won’t the water ruin the floor?

A: Sure, let me know how it goes. I don’t know it all, and never too old to learn.

I don’t think TSP would ruin the wood. I’m not suggesting soaking the floor. Just wetting a cloth or sponge and giving the surface a wipe down.