How to Remove Wax Finish From Wood

Updated November 21, 2016

When waxed to a high shine, the finish on wood furniture or floors casts an eye-catching glow. Over time, though, the surface will dull and darken as waxy residue mixes with oils and dirt. Scrubbing the surface with soap and water will eventually compromise the finish and lead to water damage. Removal of the excess wax is important to maintaining the finish. Careful use of the correct chemicals in removing either acrylic or paste wax is a must for this little project. A few hours of work will deliver sparkling results.

Wet a rag with paint thinner and wipe down the wood surface completely.

Allow areas with darker and heavier wax build-up to soak for a few minutes. Wipe repeatedly to remove as much wax as possible.

Allow the paint thinner an hour to completely dry. Apply a new layer of paste wax to maintain a fresh finish.

Ventilate the area with fans and by opening any windows and doors. Mop the surface of wood floors with an ammonia-based wood stripper. Use a soft cloth to wipe the stripping agent on furniture wood.

Allow the wood 30 to 45 minutes to dry. Wipe with a damp cloth to alleviate fumes.

Apply a new layer of acrylic wax. Allow the wood two or three hours to dry completely before using.


Test for the presence of paste wax by scraping slightly with steel wool soaked in paint thinner. Do this in an inconspicuous area. Paste wax will lift easily onto the steel wool, looking like dirty liquid wax. Never leave a previously waxed surface stripped without adding a new layer of wax. The surface is vulnerable to moisture damage. Learn creative and effective methods of caring for furniture from the professionals at


Keep the area well ventilated. Fumes from paint thinner or ammonia-based products are overwhelming. Wear safety glasses and a ventilator mask when working with these chemicals. Do NOT mix ammonia with bleach products. The fumes are toxic.

Things You'll Need

  • Rags
  • Odourless paint thinner
  • Fan(s)
  • Mop
  • Ammonia-based wood stripper
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