Don't Strip & Wax Polished Concrete Floors, Here's Why

It may seem like a no-brainer to wax and strip on polished concrete, but it's the wrong choice for polished concrete.

Why You Should Not Strip and Wax A Polished Concrete Floor
The darker (at top) shows before - with wax - and lighter is after the SmartFloor Refinement.

When properly maintained, polished concrete floors are a work of art. Taking a proactive approach to sweeping, mopping and rinsing concrete floors on a regular basis will help to maintain the distinctness of image (DOI), or the expected mirror-like finish of the floor. Polished concrete is relatively low maintenance. However, improper maintenance by stripping and waxing can take away from the appearance of the floor and damage polish. It also adds unnecessary labor and cost.

Many building service contractors (BSCs) and in-house maintenance teams fall back onto what they know best when it comes to floorcare. Being used to stripping and waxing vinyl composition tile (VCT), it may seem like a no-brainer to use the same process on polished concrete. Unfortunately, while waxing and stripping is a common choice, it is the wrong one for polished concrete.

Costly, Damaging & Disruptive

Stripping and waxing polished concrete floors is a labor-intensive process that requires harsh chemicals and products, including strippers and a wax sealant. The larger the space, the more product and labor required to complete the process. A large warehouse or grocery store could need to shut down for multiple nights to complete the stripping and waxing process, impacting operating hours and the bottom line of a business.

Stripping and waxing concrete floors can also damage floors.  Wax is hydrophobic and will not allow the porous concrete to breathe. It traps any leftover moisture and creates a superficial layer over the floor that will not hold up against regular use. Being porous, concrete can act as a sponge. Using water to clean before stripping and waxing will trap water underneath the wax coating. The water will eventually try to work its way out, causing a whiting effect in the concrete. This diminishes the appearance of concrete floors and creates the need for another round of maintenance. The abrasive pads used to strip wax are also much too abrasive for concrete, causing further damage that wax cannot fix.

Furthermore, stripping and waxing is a long, disruptive and demoralizing activity. Regardless of if the floor is public-facing or back of house, stripping and waxing typically requires shutting down normal processes within the business. Even when completed overnight to avoid closures, crews may require overtime pay, and finding crews willing to work overnight shifts can be challenging. Adding to the labor load, stripping is only the first step – crews also need to apply multiple layers of wax, allowing each to dry before the next can be applied. Even with proper machinery, it’s a process that takes many hours, and crews can become demoralized when faced with the mountain of work involved.

Save Time & Money With Proper Processes

The good news is that while stripping and waxing is the wrong process for polished concrete floors, a more effective, efficient and cost-effective process exists. Rejuvenating and maintaining polished concrete floors to a high shine can be done during normal business hours and with tools that cleaning and maintenance crews already have in place.

If the floors have not yet had too much damage, daily maintenance using composite resin abrasive pads that provide the proper level of abrasion on an auto-scrubber or polishing machine can bring back floors’ high-shine finish in a matter of a few weeks.

If the floor is heavily deteriorated from years of stripping and waxing or other damage, it may require a more aggressive approach. A three-step process that includes different levels of abrasion to remove scratches and etching, followed by polishing and sealing the floor with a breathable product can help rejuvenate floors to their original shine.

An Easy Maintenance Plan

Maintaining polished concrete floors properly will improve the appearance and shine of floors, while reducing the costs associated with labor-intensive stripping and waxing. It will also help to protect floors and extend the life of polish.

Beautiful floors can enhance customers’ perception of a business.  By using the proper products and techniques for polished concrete, BSCs and in-house maintenance teams can protect a business’s brand – and its bottom line.

About the author

Justin Brown is a technical support specialist at Ameripolish.