Help, My Cleaning Solution Dulled My Hardwood

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I have hardwood parquet flooring. When we moved into the house the previous owners told us to use Johnson’s One Step No Buff Wax liquid on it. I have used it every few months (especially on the kitchen floor) since 2000. The kitchen floor now looks terrible — darker with grime and dirt kind of stuck in/on it. We are having company in May and I want the floor to look a bit nicer than it does now. I am not sure, but I don’t think the floor is sealed because at Christmas time I spritzed our Christmas tree with water every night and it seemed to take the finish off of the floor — with it looking like bare wood. I put the Johnsons on it after Christmas and it perks back up. Looks OK for company. But the kitchen looks bad. Do I spritz water all over the floor to take the old off in the kitchen? Use mineral spirits? Other ideas? Take off the Johnson’s and put on a different kind of wax?
Shiny Happy Wannabe

cleaning solution dulled hardwood floor

Heather says:

Unfortunately I couldn’t find a mash-up of Shiny Happy People and Wannabe, the two songs running through my head this morning…

Today I am the bearer of bad news.

Your cleaning residue built up over a long time and unfortunately, it is going to take time and energy to undo. If you stuck to the one cleaning product over the years, you’ll be in better shape than if you were switching between several varieties as the different chemical recipes could have reacted with one another making a more difficult problem than simple build-up.

Today we’re all about the disclaimer, as flooring is expensive and is not liable for any damage caused by improper use or removal of cleaning products. Defer to your manufacturer’s recommendations. Got it?

Learn more: Are My Hardwood Floors Sealed?

Before we get started, you’ll need to take the Home-Ec 101 Safety Oath:

I solemnly swear to always read the label, consult the manufacturer, test in an inconspicuous area, never feed the mogwai after midnight, and to never, ever mix chemicals without lots of research and coffee.

I did a search on SC Johnson’s site to see how they suggest to strip the old build-up of SC Johnson One Step No Buff Wax and you’re going to love this:

You can remove the old wax by washing it with a liberal amount of SC Johnson® One Step No Buff Wax.


Woah, wait a minute! Actually don’t. Just take a deep breath, they aren’t actually being shady even though the first thought is probably, “Wait, they want me to use more of their product to remove their product?”

The reasoning behind the methodology is this, the solution is designed to not dry instantly when it is applied. The next application of the liquid brings some of the old coat into solution. If you’ve lurked here for a while, we’ve talked about like dissolving like before –usually in articles on stain removal. You’ll need to work quickly and have several rags to work with as you use this method remove the buildup on your flooring. If the No Buff Wax has time to dry, you’re just going to make the problem worse.

Work in small sections, apply generously, remove. Step to the next section and repeat. It’s going to be tedious, so queueing up that audio book might not be the worst idea ever. You’ll probably also want to fold an old towel for under your knees.

If this is not the option for you, the next recommendation comes with a little disclaimer:


especially on hardwood flooring as you can damage the finish.

Orange Glo recommends using dilute ammonia (1/2 cup to 1 gallon of warm water) to strip the residue of their product.

Do not slop the water on the floor.
Do not let water pool on your flooring.
Do not wander off with dilute ammonia on any section of your flooring, even the inconspicuous one, it could become quite conspicuous.

Work in sections, apply as little of the solution as possible and remove; Channel your inner Daniel-san, wipe on, wipe off.

To be very clear:

I am not recommending using dilute ammonia as a regular cleaning solution for hardwood flooring. I am saying that dilute ammonia can be used to remove the buildup of other one step waxes that have created a dull layer on top of the flooring’s finish. As soon as you get to the actual finish, STOP and wipe with a clean rag, that is dampened with plain water to remove any cleaner before it damages the finish.

guide to clean floors
Click the picture for more tips!

When you have finished removing the dull build-up, you may use the product recommended by the manufacturer to shine and protect your hardwood flooring.

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