What It Really Means When Your Freshly-Waxed Floors Are Yellow (And How To Reverse It)

Wood floors are hard-wearing and long-lasting, meaning they can be trusted to merit their initial investment as long as they are maintained properly. They should be cleaned with a mop and the appropriate wood floor cleaner or natural ingredients and then dried off with a clean cloth on a weekly basis. Moreover, every 7 to 10 years they should be refinished, which involves sanding down the top layer and applying a new coat of finish so it looks good as new.

In between these short and long-term maintenance tasks, your hardwood floors should be waxed or polished every few months to help maintain the shine and keep them protected from marks. This isn't always an easy procedure, however, and you may notice discoloration or a yellow appearance on your floors after they have been waxed. Here are some of the reasons your freshly-waxed floors turn yellow and how you can reverse the effect.

Potential causes

Generally, when floors are waxed, the wax is applied thinly and evenly over the surface, and then the floor is buffed with a buffing pad or machine until it shines. After some time, the wax hardens and becomes a protective layer on the wood. This process should be done frequently — roughly every 6 months – if you want your floors to keep their shiny appearance.

In addition, the regular cleaning process and the cleaning that is done before the waxing also affect the results. When cleaning hardwood floors, mopping with too much water can damage the wood, thus changing its color or making it warp. Similarly, applying and leaving too much wax on the floors can cause it to build up and leave stains, which is the main explanation for why your freshly-waxed floors have turned yellow. Other less common reasons could be that you're applying wax to dirty floors, leaving water trails, or using dirty mops or buffing pads.

How to reverse yellow floors

Now that you have an idea of the cause of the problem, how do you solve it? To reverse discolored floors right after waxing, start by looking out for areas where there is too much wax and scraping it off gently. Next, use the buffing pad or machine to go over the area more thoroughly. "This will help remove any excess wax and distribute the remaining wax evenly," explains residential cleaning expert Angela Lee from Hellamaid, per Apartment Therapy.

If it has been some time since you last waxed your floors, but they've started to turn yellow, you'll also need to get rid of the wax buildup. Do this by rubbing the wood with mineral spirits on a soft cloth until the cloth looks yellow — this means that the excess wax has come off. Next, repeat the process with a damp, steel wool pad, going section by section, then mop the floor with hot water. If this sounds like too much work, you can always call in an expert finishing company who will remove the wax safely and effectively.