How to Remove Wax from Vinyl and Linoleum Floors


Mary asked: How do I remove wax build up from vinyl flooring? My vinyl flooring is about 20 years old, and the wax is built up. The vinyl is looking yellow. How can I get the wax out or off the vinyl?

When wax builds up on vinyl and linoleum flooring, it can result in a discolored, yellow tone. Applying more wax only makes the problem worse. The original wax must be removed first. Then, a fresh layer of wax can be applied to the clean floor to give a fresh, clean start. Here’s how to remove the wax build up, whether it’s been a couple of months or many years.

Removing Wax Build Up from Vinyl Flooring

You Will Need:

  • Hot water
  • Household ammonia
  • Powdered dishwasher soap
  • Bucket
  • Towels or rag
  • Mop with scrubber

Steps to Remove the Wax Build Up:

  1. Start by filling your bucket with the following mixture:
      • 2 parts hot water
      • 2 parts ammonia
      • 1 part dishwasher soap
      1. Work in sections for the best results.
      2. Use the mop to completely cover a section of the flooring with the mixture. It is alright to have standing water at this point.
      3. Scrub the floor gently with the mop.
      4. Remove the excess water with the mop.
      5. Move to the next section and repeat.
      6. Pay special attention to edges and corners. These areas may need several repeated cleanings to thoroughly get them stripped and cleaned.
      7. Once the original cleaning water is mopped up, dispose of it.
      8. Refill the bucket with warm clean water.
      9. Use the clean water to rinse the floor.
      10. Dry the floor with old towels or cloths.

      Removing Wax Build Up from Linoleum Flooring

      You Will Need:

      • Warm water
      • White vinegar
      • Cream of tartar
      • Bucket
      • Towels
      • Scrub brush
      • Knee pads
      • Rubber gloves

      Steps to Remove the Wax Build Up:

      1. Start by filling your bucket with the following mixture:
          • 1 gallon vinegar
          • 1 cup cream of tartar
          1. Work in sections for the best results. This method requires scrubbing the floor by hand. Protect your hands with rubber gloves and wear knee pads to keep from getting sore knees.
          2. Dip the scrub brush into the mixture and apply it to the floor.
          3. Use a circular motion as you scrub away the wax build up.
          4. Moisten a towel with warm water and wring it out well.
          5. Use the towel to rinse the floor by wiping away any remaining cleaning product.
          6. Once the wax is removed, rinse the floor with clean water.
          7. Dry the floor with old towels or cloths.

          Additional Tips and Advice

          • There are a variety of commercial products that are designed to remove wax build up. These can be applied following the manufacturer’s instructions. Check the label carefully to ensure it is safe for your flooring type.


          1. Anita says:

            What is a “part”? I can’t believe that if I use a gallon of water (to remove wax build up from vinyl flooring), and a gallon of ammonia, I will have to use a half-gallon of powdered dishwasher soap. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Please advise.

          2. Lisa says:

            Could you tell me how much dish washing soap to use? I love this web site. Thanks!

          3. Terry says:

            1 cup of powered dishwasher detergent.

          4. Mary Anne says:

            My vinyl flooring was discolored from waxing and I tried the recipe above and it worked perfectly. Thank you so much.
            A word of caution – ammonia is very strong and a mask should be worn when using. Also, the area should be well-ventilated to quickly remove the odor, especially if you have pets.

          5. Brandy says:

            Thank you for these tips! I live in a rental home & ever since I have moved in, the floors have never looked as clean as I would like them to. My bathroom floors always look really dirty no matter how much I scrub them; that is embarrassing to me. :( So, now I am going to give this a try!

          6. Angie says:

            Wow! This really works! I have linoleum floors and they look grungy after living here for two years and even a steam mop didn’t get them clean like when I moved in. I did the ammonia/water/powdered dishwasher detergent mix and right away I could see it working as soon as it splashed onto the floor. It was picking up dirt and moving it. It’s not as easy as mopping. I did use a non-scratch kitchen sponge to scrub it, but holy cow. The floor looks like new again! A part is whatever size you choose to make it. I tried a small batch at first to see how it would work. I did one cup of ammonia and one cup of water and half a cup of detergent. It worked great and cost less than five bucks! One word of caution; it does dry quickly so only work in sections or you’ll be having to scrub dried mixture off your floors. I’m so happy I found this tip! Thanks!!

          7. Terry says:

            Twenty years of build up came right off. Used a scrubbing brush, but make sure you have a well ventilated room; the fumes can get a little strong. Thanks again. My floor looks like new.

          8. Valerie says:

            Dangerous!! Never mix ammonia and bleach products together! Look it up on the web! Can cause fatal gas exposure! It creates lethal gas fumes similar to gases used in past wars. Using a mask will not stop you from breathing the fumes! All dishwasher soap products contain bleach, so do not mix with ammonia ever! I hope this message saves your lungs and your life!

          9. Judy B says:

            Going to try it today. Wish me luck.

          10. Jim T says:

            What is the difference between vinyl and linoleum. Wouldn’t both mixtures work?

          11. Calvin says:

            What dish soap is the best and safest?

          12. Truly Amazing. I did a test patch on my 30-year-old vinyl flooring in my laundry room using the ammonia/hot water/powdered dishwasher soap. The fumes weren’t very noticeable. I’m going to continue by tackling a 3ft square patch at a time. I didn’t use a scrubber brush or sponge; simply good cleaning towels and elbow grease. Incredible contrast. I wish I knew how to attach a photo of before/after comparison. A picture is worth a thousand words!

          13. Tim says:

            I know the more ammonia, the faster it cuts the wax, but why powdered dishwasher detergent? Why can’t it be a liquid?

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