How to Apply Wax on Wood (Wax Finish)

If you purchase a product through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Details

Whatever wooden items you have in your home, you would like them to look smooth and shiny. There are many different types of finish that you can apply to wood surfaces to make them look sleek. Waxing hardwood floors is a good and economical way of restoring life into the wood.

In the mid-1900s, wax was the popular way of putting a shine on wooden furniture. With the development of different types of synthetic and natural wood finishes, waxing became less popular. However, you will find that wax is an excellent addition to existing finish like, for example, on top of a varnished layer. You can apply it to raw wood as well, as a sort of “bare minimum” coating to wood.

Wood wax usually consists of a blend of carnauba wax, beeswax, paraffin, and a mix of wood enhancers and pigments. You get wood wax in a variety of colors to match the shade of the wood. It is a quick fix for shining up a wooden surface when you want only to add a bit of gloss to your wood.

How to Apply Wax to Wood

WALRUS OIL - Wood Wax, 3 oz Can, FDA Food-Safe, Cutting Board Wax and Board Cream
Wood Wax. (Image: Amazon)

When you apply wax to wood, you get a shine and added protection, sometimes even more than other wood coatings. When you wax a wooden object, you also ensure that it gets protection from moisture and it will hold the color of the wood for a long time. We’ll discuss more of the benefits of wax later on. For now, let’s jump into the general procedures of waxing wood, shall we?

General Procedures

Applying wood wax bears a resemblance to the way you wax a car. It would be best if you used a dry cloth, and use the wax sparingly. A thin coat of wax is sufficient for attaining a satisfactory outcome. Excessive use of wax could lead to the product clumping up, and the overall finish will not be as desired.

Apply a thin coat of wax to the area that you want to wax. Then, you need to “push” the wax into the grain of the wood by rubbing the surface with strong, firm strokes. Now, allow the wax to dry for about five to ten minutes before giving it a final rub down with another dry cloth or furniture brush.

To re-apply wax, clean the surface with a damp cloth. If the wax is old, it may not shine after buffing. If so, you have to remove the old polish before applying it freshly. Wipe the surface with a rag dipped in mineral spirits or naphtha. After wiping the surface, and cleaning off the old wax, wait for about half an hour for the surface to dry before applying a fresh coat of wax.

How to Apply Paste Wax

Minwax 785004444 Paste Finishing Wax, 1-Pound, Natural
Paste Finishing Wax. (Image: Amazon)

Applying paste wax is quickly done with the aid of a lint-free rag or a wax brush. Apply a bit of wax to your applicator and gently rub it into the surface. Using a circular motion is usually the recommended procedure. If the wood has a prominent grain structure rubbing the wax along the lines of the grain also works well.

Take care not to apply excess wax, because although you won’t damage the surface, you will end up in wasting the product. After initially applying the wax, leave it to rest on the surface for the time recommended by the manufacturer. Finally, give a good hard rub. Using quick strokes in the final buffing process helps because the friction generates heat that melts the wax to help it spread more evenly on the surface of the wood.

Precautions to Take While Waxing

  • Ensure that your work area is well-ventilated because wood wax tends to generate fumes that can be harmful.
  • Wear gloves to protect you from possible harm from chemicals.
  • Sometimes a wax-soaked rag can combust spontaneously due to an exothermic reaction with the highly-flammable solvents. Wash wax-soaked rags with water and later spread them out to dry to prevent a fire hazard.
  • Dispose of rags according to your local safety and environmental regulations.

Pros and Cons of Waxing Wood

We may use a colored or clear wax to polish wood surfaces. The process is beneficial in many ways, but there are a few disadvantages as well. Here are the ways wax is useful with a few downsides mentioned:


  • Wax prevents stains from developing on the surface of the wood.
  • It covers up blemishes, scuff marks, and superficial scratches to some extent.
  • Wax also prevents oil, dust, and grime from accumulating.
  • It prolongs the life of wooden items.
  • Wax imparts a sleek, and glossy appearance to wooden items and surfaces.
  • It is one of the easiest surface treatments for wood with instant results.
  • Provides a certain level of water-resistance.
  • Easy to take off with a solvent.
  • Food safe and non-toxic waxes are available.


  • You need to apply and re-apply frequently.
  • It is easily damaged by heat, causing white rings by hot cups and bowls.
  • If left without maintenance, it can become dull.
  • Only limited resistance to dents and gouges.
  • Partially water-resistant.
  • Not suitable for all surfaces, particularly unsuitable for urethane-finished surfaces.

Wood Wax FAQs

Now that we have covered a few fundamental aspects of wood wax and how to apply it, you may still have some questions about this subject. Hence, we have compiled an FAQ section with answers to the most commonly-asked questions about wood wax.

Q: Which wax product provides the clearest finish?

A: There are many brands that you can get in the market that will give an extremely clear finish to your wooden surfaces. Choose a wax polish that specifies “light, clear” on the packaging. Keep trying small quantities of different brands until you achieve a clear finish to your satisfaction.

Q: What are the advantages of wax?

A: There are several advantages of using wax, most of them that we mentioned above. The primary benefit you get from using wood wax is that it makes the wood look sleek and classy. It is quick and easy to use, and you can apply wax any number of times without the risk of surface damage.

Q: Can I apply wax over previously-waxed wood?

A: Yes, you can, any number of times. However, you shouldn’t apply it over a urethane finish, and do not apply wood finishes over wax.

Q: How do I use wax to get a highly-durable but clear finish?

A: You can use hard wax oil which is an alternative to regular wood wax. This category of wax contains a mix of substances to create a wax that gives a tough, and durable surface to wooden doors, floors, and furniture.

Q: Can I cover a light wax with a darker one?

A: Yes, you can. However, it would be a good idea to apply some on a test area to see how the final color looks. The light-colored wax will have some effect on the overall appearance, so you should do a quick check before you do the complete job.


Wood wax is easily the most user-friendly wood finish that you can get. You can open a can of wax and start using it immediately. However, to get the best out of your wood wax, you need to follow some necessary procedures. The tips we have provided here will go a long way in helping you use wood wax in the best way possible.

The benefits are many, as we have highlighted, but there are some negative aspects which we included as well. In our value-added section of FAQs, we provided some additional information in case you have any further questions. You can derive great satisfaction from using this age-old remedy for treating wood surfaces.

Happy Woodworking!