How Do You Remove Haze from Hardwood Floors? Fixing the Cloudy Look

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how to remove white haze on hardwood floor

Noticing a hazy or cloudy film on your hardwood floor after you’ve cleaned it can be frustrating. You just spent all that time cleaning so why the heck does it not look clean and how can it be fixed?

A hazy floor with a cloudy film after cleaning is a sign of buildup that’s left behind from your cleaner. It can make your hardwood floors look milky, hazy, and old. The good thing is, you can quickly identify what’s causing the haze and restore your wood floor’s luster easily. 

Here’s how I get rid of haze on my wood floor.

Hazy, whitish, or cloudy hardwood floors can be caused by bad cleaning agents, the buildup of wax, or floor cleaner residue. To get rid of the cloudy film, dampen a microfiber towel using lukewarm water and gently rub the area until the cloudy film is cleared. Pat dry with a soft cloth and allow the area to air-dry.

If water moisture is the cause of the hazy look, screen the floor and coat it with a fresh finish. Steam cleaning and also using olive oil with mayonnaise will help get rid of the white cloudy substance on the wood floor.

Why Are My Hardwood Floors Hazy?

The most common causes of a hazy or cloudy film on hardwood floors after cleaning are a buildup of floor cleaner, wax buildup, trapped moisture, and bad floor cleaners. All these can make wood floors appear to have a milky, white substance on top of the surface even after cleaning.

Identifying and understanding the causes of white haze will help in taking an appropriate removal and restoration method to get it off the wood floor.

I have explained how these distort the shine of your wood floor and how to restore the look below.

What causes whaite haze on hardwood floor. What makes my floor hazy?

Here are the possible causes of cloudy haze hardwood floor:

Use of Improper Cleaners

The use of improper cleaners is the most probable reason you may have a hazy look on your wood floor. The market is flooded with many cleaning products and solutions, so it is possible you’re using a solution that’s not suitable for your type of wood floor.

Oil-based cleaners tend to react with the polyurethane seal on your floor leaving it looking dull (hazy) when the oil penetrates the floor. Water-based cleaners can also leave cloudy streaks on your wood floor.

Pro tip: Always read the instructions on your preferred cleaner because some cleaners can have a damaging effect on the hardwood floors if not used correctly.

Avoid paste wax, oil soaps, and wood and furniture polish that will leave your floor with sticky build-ups or make it a cloudy hardwood floor. Always pick the appropriate floor cleaner meant for use on the hardwood floor.

Cleaner Residue Buildup

Some cleaning products for hardwood floors contain water. These cleaners sometimes leave cloudy streaks on your floor. A hazy cloudy look or residue happens especially when you apply too much cleaning solution on your hardwood floor.

I recommend using a small amount of cleaner on your wood floor if you want to prevent leaving behind a milky, whitish substance after cleaning. Always choose to use residue-free cleaners for your hardwood floors.

Keep in mind that extreme cleaning especially using steam mops on your wood floor may cause damage to the seal and finish.

Many wood floor manufacturers do not recommend daily cleaning of hardwood floors because it can lead to residue build-up, leaving the wood floor with residue haziness.

Improper Application of Finish

If you are a DIY person like me who fixes their home’s floor imperfections on their own, you may have applied the finish incorrectly. Poor application of floor finish can leave air bubbles trapped beneath the finish that will form a cloudy film on your floor.

In case you finished your floor over scuff marks, scratch marks, and spots, it may lead to a cloudy film every time after cleaning. At times the white haze may appear when you use the floor before the wood finish is completely dry.

Wax Buildup

While there are some wood floors that can be waxed, some may not do so well with waxing, especially those that are chipped, old, scratched, warped, and discolored.

Waxing a wood floor can easily lead to the build-up of wax that can turn into a cloudy look after cleaning.

So, did you just wax your floor with a polyurethane finish? Sometimes, if you are a DIY kind of a homeowner you may end up unnecessarily waxing your wood floor. On many floors, you do not even have to wax, which may end up reacting with your finish, giving it a dull or white hazy look.

Trapped Moisture

Hazy hardwood floors are common in winter seasons because you get snow into the house with your shoes. Snow is usually loaded with salt that may leave a hazy look once it melts and evaporates.

Unfortunately, it may be hard to get rid of the hazy appearance at this point with just a normal hardwood floor cleaner.

The cleaning water you are using to clean may also contain salt deposits unknowingly. Minerals and salt deposits present in cleaning water may end up reacting with floor finish, leaving a cloudy look with uneven sheen.

Moisture and humidity are other causes of haziness. If the floor was sanded and finished during installation, it may turn the finish cloudy as it swells as a result of increased humidity levels. This is due to the water seeping up from inside the wood as the trapped moisture comes out forming cloudiness (Blushing out).

How To Remove Haze From Hardwood Floors 

Using the appropriate cleaner for your hardwood flooring will prevent the buildup of cloudy or milky substances after cleaning. If you already have the white stuff forming, however, you might want to explore some ways to fix the problem.

Here’s how to remove a cloudy buildup from your hardwood floors:

  1. Remove the carpet or the furniture or any item on the cloudy area
  2. Fill a bucket with luke-warm water
  3. Dip a microfiber cloth in the lukewarm water and wring to leave it just damp.
  4. Gently rub and wipe the area with the cloudy film with the damp cloth until it is gone.
  5. Pat the area dry with a clean cloth or Re-washable Microfiber Mop Pads.
  6. Allow some time to air dry before you return your area rug and furniture in place

Here is a video of how to remove dull old haze floor with wax build-up.

How to remove wax and other buildup from prefinished hardwood floors

Below are more tips and ways to get rid of the dull film and how you can prevent the mess on your hardwood floor:

Use the Right Hardwood Floor Cleaners

When cleaning hardwood floors, make sure to use the recommended floor cleaner. Some cleaners may contain wax, or may be too soapy and can leave behind a whitish residue. Check the floor cleaner to see what kind of wood floor it can be used to clean. 

For example, Pine-Sol is a great floor cleaner and some of its versions are good for cleaning wooden floors. On other floors, it may not be suitable and can leave a hazy look.

Pro tip: Avoid using water-based cleaners for your hardwood floor.  Instead, use safe hardwood cleaning agents that are carried in ethylene glycol instead of water.

Always pick residue-free hardwood floor cleaning products that will leave your floor clean. Cleaners’ residue is known to cause sticky floors after mopping

To determine a good cleaner, carry out a simple test: pick the cleaner and spray on a mirror or glass. In case it leaves build-up, do not use it on your wood floor since it will leave a sticky mess.

Use of Mineral Spirit

For white haze on wooden floors caused by a layer of old wax, the only remedy is removing it. But, removing old wax is not easy. Use a rag and mineral spirit to get rid of the old wax and hazy residue, as well as make the floor shine again.

Use of Vinegar

White Vinegar is one of the effective natural non-toxic cleaners for salt deposits. It is one of the most commonly used remedies and gives results when used appropriately.

Use it sparingly to avoid wood floor finish damage. Apple cider vinegar may also be used instead, as well as customized with a few drops of preferred scented essential oil.

Fix Hazy Hardwood Floors From Snow

  • Mix one-to-one ratios of vinegar and water to make a solution.
  • Dampen a microfiber cloth or Swiffer sweeper dry and wet mop and rub off the cloudy areas by hand.
  • Dampen a clean rag with water and rinse the rubbed area.
  • Pat dry the floor with a microfiber pad immediately with a clean dry rag.

Here is a video of how to use vinegar to remove residue build-up haze:

How to Clean Buildup on Wood Floors : Wood Flooring

Tip: Take precaution when using water and vinegar, avoid excess, it might leave dull film on your hardwood floor.

Use of Mayonnaise

Use olive oil in mayonnaise to leach out water in cases where the cloudy haze is a result of blushing out.

Here is the procedure for using olive oil in mayonnaise.

  • Take the mayonnaise and spread it on the cloudy deposits.
  • Leave it overnight to seep in and replace the water in the cloudy area.
  • Wipe off the mayonnaise in the morning with a dry cloth.

Use of Steam Cleaner

Steam cleaning remains one of the best ways of removing stains and stubborn dirt and grime on the hardwood floors when used appropriately. Steam cleaning is capable of getting rid of white haze out of the hardwood floor. It has an added advantage of sanitizing the floor by killing 99% of household germs and even getting rid of bug menace on your floor.

Always pick the best steam mop for hardwood floors to avoid floor damage as well as get effective results. Another main benefit is steam uses water but not harsh chemicals thus leaves your floor safe for pets and kids.

Only use a steam cleaner machine on sealed floors. Take precautions to avoid over-steaming one area, otherwise it will damage and leave white spots on your hardwood floor.

Use an Ammonia Solution

An ammonia solution is a powerful cleanser for sticky stains, stubborn scuff marks and notorious black spots on the floor. One not-so-impressive characteristic of ammonia is the smell it produces.

Precautions need to be taken when using ammonia. Always ensure you use diluted ammonia and avoid at all costs combining it with chlorine, which can form toxic fumes.

Here Is How to Use Ammonia to Remove the Cloudy Look on Wood Floors:

  • Sweep or dust mop to remove excess dirt and dust particles.
  • Fill halfway the bucket with Luke-warm water.
  • Add a cup of ammonia solution and mix well.
  • Dip the mop and wring it thoroughly to just leave it damp, gently rub the affected area in a circular motion.
  • Rinse your floor thoroughly to remove any ammonia residue on the floor.

Pat it dry with a dry cloth or Bona Microfiber Cleaning Pad.

Tip: Diluting ammonia with a lot of water reduces its smell. Ensure you remove any traces of ammonia on your floor, they can damage as well as attract dust particles making them hard to remove on your floor

Remove the Existing Finish

When the entire floor is affected or looks cloudy, the best remedy would be to scuff the finish and sand screen the floor. In extreme cases of blushing out, it may lead to entire floor cloudiness. Screening the floor should give a long-lasting solution.

Refinish and Polish the Wood Floor

Cleaning, washing, wear and tear eventually do catch up with the hardwood floor. One of the easiest ways to rejuvenate floors is to apply new wood polish and restorer. Oreck buffer and polisher machine is a good bet and all you need to get the job done without hiring a professional.

You may also consider applying a flesh finish such as Minwax in the appropriate humidity conditions for preventing further floor dull film look or damage.

Cleaning Tips to Prevent Haze on Floors

  • Take cleaning like sweeping or dust-mopping to get rid of large particles of dirt and debris on a daily basis.
  • When damp cleaning, use a pH neutral cleaner, gentle on your hardwood floors.
  • Use a fine spray mist when cleaning in sections to help avoid putting too much liquid or water on your wood floors.
  • A microfiber mop is a good start for cleaning the wood floor. Traditional mops can also work, but they usually leave excess water or liquid on wood floors.
  • Is Pine Sol good for a hardwood floor?
  • Is Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner good?

Hardwood Haze Can Be Fixed

There are many tips and tricks on how to remove haze from hardwood floors. From using proper floor cleaners to household ingredients such as vinegar or mayonnaise, there is a potential solution for just about any floor.

Once you’ve removed the haze and regained your clean hardwood floors, share your experience in the comments below. What worked? What didn’t work? I’d love to hear all about it!

Read More:

Best Hardwood Floor Cleaner Solution.

Best Cleaner for Dog Urine on Hardwood Floors.

Photo of author


Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

2 thoughts on “How Do You Remove Haze from Hardwood Floors? Fixing the Cloudy Look”

  1. I know of no manufacturer of wood flooring that warrants steam cleaning of their products. Additionally ammonia is not recommended for cleaning wood floor finishes whether oil, wax, poly, conversion varnish etc. Most neutral ph maintenance cleaners are water based or at least the vast majority of the ingredients is water.
    Mayonnaise? Olive oil? Please publish ANY warranty that includes these (excuse the expression) old wives tales. 42 years in the wood flooring industry, all in distribution, and some of your suggestions absolutely void warranties and minimally can cause contamination of the factory or custom finish.
    Regardless of my comments I’m sure some of your suggestions have efficacy however following manufacturers warranty supersedes any outside home remedies. Thank you.

  2. I was using bona cleaners on my laminate flooring and found I always had a white haze…I switched to water and vinegar and sometimes there is no haze and sometimes there is…what could be the problem…thanks


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