Why Some Cleaning Products Make Wood Floors Look Dull and Dirty

Published on Aug 16, 2017 | Updated - Jul 24, 2023

How do you make dull wood floors shine again

There's something undeniably enchanting about the warmth and character that wood floors bring to our homes. They exude a timeless charm and create a welcoming ambience that other flooring options can't match.

However, as much as we love our wood floors, improper maintenance and the wrong cleaning products can diminish their beauty, leaving them looking dull and lacklustre.

The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Wood Floor Polish

pros and cons of different wood floor polish types

Wood floor polishes come in various formulations, and each type has its unique benefits and drawbacks. Let's take a closer look at the most common types, including wax-based polish.

1) Water-based Polishes

Water-based polishes are a popular choice for many modern wood floors, especially those with polyurethane or acrylic finishes. They are easy to apply and dry quickly, leaving behind a streak-free, glossy shine. Unlike wax-based polishes, they don't leave any sticky residue on the floor's surface, making them ideal for regular maintenance without the hassle of wax build-up.

Easy to clean with soap and water
Clear and colourless finish

Less durable than oil or wax-based polishes
Less shine


2) Oil-based Polishes

If you have older or worn-out wood floors that require extra nourishment and protection, oil-based polishes are an excellent option. These polishes penetrate the wood, enhancing its natural beauty and providing a durable layer of protection. They are especially beneficial for floors with oil-based finishes, providing a rejuvenated look and guarding against minor scratches and scuffs.

Highly durable for high-traffic areas
Rich, satin finish enhances wood's natural beauty

Strong odour and VOCs
Slower drying time


3) Wax-based Polishes

In the past, wax-based polishes were widely used to add shine and protect wood floors. They contain natural waxes like carnauba or beeswax, which create a lovely sheen on the surface. However, despite their historical popularity, they do have some downsides that may lead to a dull appearance over time.


Provides a rich, antique finish
Deep penetration for good protection


Susceptible to stains
Sticky residue attracts dust and debris


How do I know if my floor cleaner contains wax polish?

Wax is used in floor cleaners to increase light reflection and make the floor look shiny. If your cleaning product promises to make your floor shine, then it probably contains wax.


Why are wax-based wood floor polishes not ideal for my timber floors?

While wax-based polishes may offer initial shine and protection, they come with certain drawbacks that can ultimately make your wood floors look lacklustre and dull.

dull floors from wax polish

1) Floors are dull and lifeless

As the shine of the wax fades away, the wood floors start to lose their vibrancy, looking dull and uninviting. The lack of lustre is a direct consequence of excessive waxing and can make your floors appear lacklustre and far from their former glory.


dull and sticky wood floors

2) Floors become dark and sticky

Continued wax buildup on wood floors can lead to the creation of a dark, sticky film. This unpleasant layer attracts dirt and grime, further compromising the floor's appearance and making it challenging to maintain a clean and polished surface.


crusty wood floors

3) Floors develop a thick crust of dirt and wax

In the worst cases, timber floors may suffer from a thick, crusty layer of wax buildup that accumulates over the course of years. This long-standing accumulation can be difficult to remove, requiring considerable effort and time, often involving the use of paint scrapers and other painstaking techniques.

How to Prevent Wax Build Up From Your Wood Floors

cloudy ammonia cleaner

Floor coating manufacturers like Bona recommend using a neutral cleaning product that doesn’t contain wax. If you are using a floor cleaning product with a wax component, here’s what we suggest to keep your floors looking great:

  1. Dilute the cleaning solution according to the directions on the label. Overuse will quickly lead to product build-up.
  2. Every 5th clean, use ammonia to clean your floor to remove the wax build-up. 1 cup of Ammonia to 4 litres of cool water will do the trick.
  3. If you’ve got a noticeable wax build-up, then double the strength of the ammonia solution, i.e. 2 cups of ammonia to 4 litres of water.
    If you use ammonia, take care to rinse thoroughly and don’t overwet the wood. Water is the enemy of wood!

don’t bring success, call Electrodry Wood Floor Refinishing. Our specialist wood team has a range of products that will allow us to safely strip off the built-up wax and re-coat your floor without the need for sanding.

More Ways You Can Keep Your Wood Floors Dirt and Residue-Free

Electrodry wood floor deep cleaning and polishing

Maintaining the timeless allure of your wood floors doesn't have to be a daunting task. Here are some valuable tips to protect your floors and avoid wax build-up:


1) Regular Sweeping and Vacuuming

Keep your floors clean and free from abrasive particles by regularly sweeping or vacuuming. This simple practice will prevent premature wear of the finish and reduce the chances of wax accumulation.

2) Choose the Right Cleaning Products

Opt for water-based or oil-based wood floor polishes that are compatible with your floor's finish. These products will provide the desired shine and protection without the drawbacks of wax build-up.

3) Avoid Over-Application

Follow the manufacturer's instructions when applying wood floor polish. Avoid excessive use, as this can lead to a thick layer of wax that attracts dirt and grime.

4) Periodic Deep Cleaning

Occasionally, give your wood floors a deep cleaning using a specialised wood floor cleaner to remove any residual wax and keep your floors looking pristine. Electrodry's Timber Refresh Service is the perfect solution for giving your timber floors a deep clean and polish without the need for sanding.

5) Use Area Rugs and Mats

Protect high-traffic areas and vulnerable sections of your wood floors by placing area rugs or mats. They will not only prevent scratches but also reduce the amount of dirt and debris that can come in contact with the floor's surface.


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