How to buff a hardwood floor

A buffed hardwood floor can really make a room shine. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Joseph P. of Latham, N.Y.)

A buffed hardwood floor can really make a room shine. (Photo courtesy of Angie’s List member Joseph P. of Latham, N.Y.)

Your home's beauty is often defined by the appearance of your hardwood floor. More often than not, you can improve the overall quality of your floor by polishing it rather than refinishing it completely.

Buffing wood floors can remove minor scratches or scuffs and can also give your floor an attractive and lustrous shine that can last for years. Although the basic process of buffing a floor can be simple, affordable and sometimes even fun, it is still very time consuming. Hiring a professional to assist isn't a bad idea if you have more pressing priorities.

The right equipment for buffing hardwood floors

To buff a wood floor successfully, you'll need to either rent or purchase a stand-up floor buffing machine. These types of machines will typically feature a high RPM rate, and you will probably be surprised at how efficiently they work. Before you attempt to operate the machine, always remember to remove any obstacles that may be in your path.

Accidents do happen, but you can lessen the risks by simply removing these types of items:

  • Furniture
  • Long window treatments
  • Floor vents
  • Floor transitions

Remove old wax before buffing if necessary

If you're just buffing your floor and not refinishing it completely, you should remove any wax that's left behind from a previous polishing. This step is fairly simple and will commonly require the application of a wax stripper or mineral spirits. These chemicals have varying application methods, and you should make sure to follow these instructions to the letter.

Clean and dry the floor thoroughly

Before you begin polishing, you should prep your hardwood floor by running a dust rag or mop over it to remove loose particles and then use warm water and the appropriate cleaning solution to mop the floor thoroughly. This will allow for the polish to absorb evenly and will also help to maintain the final shine. After you mop the floor, let it sit for about 15 minutes or until completely dry. Never, ever dry it with a towel because this can damage the already swelled grain.

RELATED: How to Care for Your Hardwood Floor

Ensure your personal safety while buffing

Nothing is worse than experiencing a home improvement-related injury that you could have easily prevented. Take your time when attempting any project and remember to wear protective gear like safety glasses, gloves and a respirator. Floor buffing machines generally operate under high speeds, which can cause serious personal injury. The solutions necessary are also toxic, so you should handle them with care. Seek medical attention immediately if you accidentally ingest or experience prolonged and direct exposure to polish solution.

Plan your buffing route carefully

Before you begin using your stand-up buffing machine, make sure to check the polish pad for general wear and tear. If it's ripped or caked with polish solution, replace it accordingly.

Although some units have options to reverse the pad's rotation, floor buffing machines traditionally spin in a clockwise direction, so it is generally advised to work from left to right in a smooth, sweeping motion and never let the unit sit in one spot or you can cause unsightly buff-burn. You should also work backward toward a door so that you don't corner yourself, and plug the machine into a socket located behind you if possible.

The buffing process is fairly simple once you get the hang of it; just take your time, spread some solution and polish to a wonderfully bright and brilliant shine.

For more information, please visit the Angie's List Guide to Hardwood Flooring.


Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally posted on June 10, 2013.


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Knowing the difference between finished and unfinished hardwood floor can help you know the proper cleaning technique to use, says Pelletier. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Carly P. of Medford, Ore.)
Knowing the difference between finished and unfinished hardwood floor can help you know the proper cleaning technique to use, says Pelletier. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Carly P. of Medford, Ore.)

Hardwood floors can add class and style to homes, but caring for your wood floors properly is an integral part to keeping them looking nice for years to come.

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