How to remove water-based wax from wooden doors

Updated February 21, 2017

Water-based wax is often used on wooden doors and other furniture or flooring subject to heavy wear and scratching. It provides a considerable amount of protection and a high-gloss shine without the need to buff. When it is time to refinish a wooden door coated with water-based wax, the wax must first be removed with an ammonia-based wax stripper. The process is fairly straightforward. With a few tips and the right tools, the job will be quick, easy and painless.

Take the door off its hinges. Start with the bottom hinge and pry up the pin with the help of a hammer's nail remover or a screwdriver. Remove the pin. Repeat with the other hinges (there are normally only two or three) and then pull the door away from the jamb. Place the hinge pins in a labelled plastic bag so they will be easy to find later.

Remove any hardware from the door. Most locking mechanisms and door knobs are affixed to the door via screws. Unscrew these and pull off the mechanism. Place the screws and the mechanism in their own labelled plastic bag for easy retrieval when it is time to replace them.

Place the door on a sheet of dust sheet or plastic sheeting large enough to accommodate the door, a spot for you to kneel or sit, your wax remover's container and any tools you are working with.

Shake the unopened can of stripper to agitate and mix its contents. Prepare the stripper according to its manufacturer's instructions, if necessary.

Paint a thin layer of stripper over the top third of the door.

Wait the manufacturer's recommended time for the stripper to dissolve the wax -- usually between 10 and 30 minutes.

Rub the door in the direction of the wood grain with a scrubbing pad to remove the bulk of the now-loosened wax.

Scrape the wax residue off the door and into a dust pan with a squeegee. Throw it away.

Wipe away any residual wax with a rag well-moistened with the stripper.

Remove any residual stripper with a rag well-moistened with water or the chemical recommended by the stripper's manufacturer to arrest the chemical action.

Repeat steps 5 to 10 for the next two-thirds of this side of the door. Continue to the other side of the door.

Examine the door. If there is any wax left behind, reapply the remover to those spots using steps 5 to 10.

Apply any other finishing techniques (a fresh coat of wax, for example). Replace the door's hardware and put it back on its hinges.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Plastic bags
  • Marker
  • Dust sheet
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Large paint brush
  • Ammonia-based wax stripper
  • Scrubbing pad (non-metal)
  • Squeegee
  • Rags
  • Lined dustbin
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About the Author

Based in Houston, Texas, Meg Butler is a professional farmer, house flipper and landscaper. When not busy learning about homes and appliances she's sharing that knowledge. Butler began blogging, editing and writing in 2000. Her work has appered in the "Houston Press" and several other publications. She has an A.A. in journalism and a B.A. in history from New York University.