Hardwood is one of the most popular choices for flooring because it holds up well over time. With the proper care, hardwood flooring looks great for years. However, many homeowners complain that their hardwood floors have developed a white film. Sometimes referred to as haze, this foggy coating makes floors look dull and dingy. The haze might disappear temporarily while you’re cleaning the floor with a damp cloth, but it resurfaces as soon as the wood dries.

Understanding why this happens is the key to preventing the haze. It also provides clues as to how to get white film off hardwood floors.

What Causes Film on Hardwood Floors?

Have your hardwood floors lost their luster? In some cases, hardwood floors become dull from abrasion and scratches. But in other cases, a cloudy haze forms on the surface. This is usually caused by other types of damage to the finish. 

These are some of the most common causes of white film on hardwood flooring.

Incorrect Sealing Methods

Getting the best-looking hardwood floors begins with the installation. Prefinished hardwood floors are already sanded, stained and sealed. Factory-finished boards usually have a thicker, more uniform sealant application than site-finished hardwood floors. You can walk on them as soon as you install them—no waiting for them to dry.

If you add sealant to factory-finished hardwood, you could damage the existing finish. You don’t need to apply another product over this type of hardwood.

Hardwood floors that are finished on site need to be sanded after they’re installed. Then, the correct type of sealant for the material must be applied. But there is a higher chance of making a mistake when finishing a floor on-site. 

Failing to wait for the coats to dry fully or applying the sealant when temperatures or humidity levels are extreme compromises the appearance of the coating. Improper sealing often leaves behind tiny air bubbles that create a white film on your hardwood floors.

How to Fix Haze Film Caused by Poor Sealing

The best way to get white film off hardwood floors if they were sealed improperly is to sand and refinish the surface. Make sure that you remove all sawdust and reapply the finish in a climate-controlled environment.

Wax Buildup

Wax coatings provide a durable finish for natural wood. This barrier protects against moisture and abrasion. But wax can become dull and cloudy over time. If you haven’t refinished your wax floors in a while, this could be the culprit.

Also, using wax when it’s not necessary can lead to a dull, hazy finish. For example, wax interacts with polyurethane, creating  dull finish that’s difficult to reverse without sanding the floor down.

How to Fix Haze Film Caused by Wax Buildup

Removing the wax buildup and refinishing the floors is usually your best bet. You’ll likely have to tackle the whole floor. Work in sections to make the project easier, using the steps below.

  • Using a soft cloth and moving in the direction of the wood grain, rub mineral spirits into the floor.
  • Repeat the previous step, replacing the cloth as necessary, until the fabric comes out clean.
  • Use the mineral spirits and a steel wool pad along the grain to get into the deeper grooves.
  • Mop the floor with hot water.
  • Dry the floor completely.
  • After all of the moisture has evaporated from the floor, refinish it with wax or another type of sealer.

Using the Wrong Cleaning Products

There are so many types of hardwood flooring cleaners on the market that it can be tough to choose the right one for your floors. Some of the products that are advertised for use on hardwood floors can create a white film. Any product that leaves residue can build up over time and conceal the true brilliance of the wood. 

In most cases, you should avoid regular use of the following types of hardwood cleaning products:

  • Paste wax
  • Oil soap
  • Furniture polish
  • Ammonia
  • Steam cleaners
  • Bleach

One way to test a hardwood floor cleaner before applying it to the wood is to test it on a glass mirror or window pane. If the product leaves streaks or residue after you wipe it off, it might create a white film when you apply it to your floors. You can also check with your flooring installer or manufacturer to identify the ideal cleaning product that won’t leave a haze.

How to Fix Haze Film Caused by Cleaning Products

Although you shouldn’t use harsh cleaners all the time, you might try using ammonia or vinegar to get white film of hardwood floors if you suspect that the culprit is residue from other other products. Try the following method to remove the haze:

  • Combine one cup of ammonia with a gallon of water or half a gallon of white vinegar and half a gallon of water. (Do not combine ammonia with vinegar.)
  • Dip a rag into the solution, and wring it until it is damp.
  • Working in sections, rub the foggy area with the damp rag.
  • Follow up by rubbing the section with a rag that’s dampened with fresh water.
  • Use a dry cloth to dry the area.

Moisture Problems

Water can damage the hardwood’s finish as well as the material itself. If water absorbs into the floorboards from below, it can trap moisture between the wood and the sealant. This, process, called “blushing” or “blushing out” in the flooring industry, generates a hazy appearance. 

If you don’t clean up spills right away, they can impair your hardwood flooring too. Salts and other minerals that dry on the floor as the moisture evaporates stay behind as filmy residue. If this is the case, you’ll likely have round white spots that give the wood a mottled appearance. 

How to Fix Haze Film Caused by Moisture Problems

Splashed liquids are an easier fix than blushing because they only affect the surface of the wood. Use the following method to get white film off hardwood floors that have been exposed to surface moisture: 

  • Wipe the area lightly with denatured alcohol to remove mineral deposits.
  • If the film remains after the alcohol has dried, repeat the previous step.
  • If that didn’t do the trick, sand the area lightly with 180-grit sandpaper to remove some of the sheen.
  • Reapply the same sealant that was previously used.

You should also take steps to prevent moisture damage from happening. If you notice a leak or moisture problem, have it fixed at the source. If you don’t, the white film will continue to rear its ugly head.

Wear and Tear

General wear and tear on your hardwood floors creates scuffs and minor scratches over time. These marks can dull the surface of the material, removing the luster and making it look foggy. 

How to Fix Haze Film Caused by Wear and Tear

If the damage is minor, you can often buff it out. Buffing can bring waxed or polished floors to a high shine. But even without polish, buffing with a fine-grain pad can remove abrasions and restore luster.

Should You Replace Your Floors?

It’s usually easier to refinish flooring that has been finished on site. Matching the color and finish of factory-sealed planks can be difficult. If all else fails, you can replace the affected planks. Work with a professional flooring installer to ensure that you don’t damage adjacent areas when taking on this project. You may also need to replace your floors completely if the wood has structural damage.