Is Wax Right for Your Floor?
Your floor's original finish, and the condition of that finish, determines whether or not waxing is right for you. Your floor was either finished with a coating, which sits atop the wood and acts as a barrier for dirt, or with a sealant, which penetrates and makes the wood itself more resistant to dirt. If your floor is very shiny (or used to be) then chances are a coating was used. If it appears more matte, it's likely to have been finished using a sealant.
Floors with shiny coatings are generally not suitable for hardwood floor wax. Instead, you should thoroughly clean and then buff the floor to renew the shine. If your floor is so old or damaged that clean and buffing don't work, then hardwood floor wax can provide a temporary renewal of the floor's shine and luster. Just keep in mind that eventually, you'll need to invest in a good refinishing.
Vacuum your floor thoroughly, sweep and mop before beginning to apply hardwood floor wax. After all, you're trying to improve the look of the floor, not make it worse by sealing in dirt and grime! Ensure that the floor has dried completely before moving on.
It's important to follow the direction on the wax precisely. If you're unsure about something, look it up on the internet or ask somebody at a home improvement store. These are general guidelines for hardwood floor wax, but each brand is different, and the manufacturer's directions will alert you to any special steps their particular brand requires.
You'll begin with a very thin coating of wax. If you can see thick gobs or streaks, you've applied too much. Let this first layer sink in, which can take from half an hour to an hour. You'll repeat this step until the floor can't absorb any more wax. Hardwood floor wax is designed to sink in and penetrate the wood, and so you're only done when the last layer won't sink in. When that happens, simply wipe it off, and leave the floor alone for at least a few hours (overnight is best) to dry completely.
Buffing comes next. A heavy-duty rented buffer is best for this, because the weight of the machine will actually make the job easier, no matter how bulky and cumbersome it might look. Buffing is going to bring out the shine. Follow the directions very carefully, since you're dealing with a large machine. When you're done, your floor should have a brilliant shine.
If the shine dulls over time, don't re-apply...simply buff the floor again. Hardwood floor wax can easily and economically extend the beauty of your floor for years to come, if applied and maintained properly.