Most finish for resilient flooring is a water-based emulsion, so water-based strippers should work best.  Water-based strippers are similar in makeup to general purpose cleaners, except they are much harsher because of their high alkalinity (10 = 12 pH in most cases).  Water-base strippers usually contain either ammonia or amines.  These compounds are alkalis that have the detergency and high pH necessary to remove water-base floor coatings.  The amines and ammonia chemicals have the advantage of being volatile, which means they evaporate.  As these volatile chemicals evaporate with the water in the solution and rinse water, they strip the floor finish without leaving a harmful residue.

After stripping a floor, you must rinse the floor thoroughly with a neutralizer (a mild acid) or neutral cleaner and then pick up the rinse solution with a wet/dry vacuum.  This is a good idea even if you are using a so-called “rinse free” stripper.  This rinsing helps ensure that all the floor-coating residue and leftover stripper is removed.  If they are not, the new floor finish might not adhere to the floor due to a delayed chemical reaction.  Such reactions can include powdering, discoloration and finish coming up in patches.

Stripping floors is a difficult and time-consuming process which can be managed with a well thought out floor care system focused on extending the life of the finish and the floor.  Sooner or later, all floor finishes become worn in high traffic areas.  As a rule, you should strip and refinish a floor only when you have no other choice.  

How do you know when it is time to strip and refinish a floor?  When this wear occurs, another coat of finish can be applied to a floor that is clean and dry.  Although the finish is repeatedly worn away in some places, finish buildup should not occur at edges and in less traveled areas if workers are trained correctly.  See inset box for details.  When this buildup becomes so great that the floor begins to look dark or discolored, it is time to strip the floor.  A good strategy to avoid this problem is apply finish only to the edges on the final coat thereby reducing build up that will have to be removed during the next strip/recoat session.  NEVER apply any finish to the baseboards.

Water-based strippers are not flammable like solvent-based strippers; however, they are very harsh, and you must be careful to use them correctly.  Be sure to mix the strippers and use them according to the directions printed on their labels.  If you do not, they can damage the floor and even be a safety issue.  You must also make sure that the stripper does not get into your eyes or onto your skin.  Be sure to wear goggles, gloves, and waterproof shoes.

Floor care can be as complex or simple as you make it.  

Your comments and questions are always welcome.  I hope to hear from you soon.  Until then, keep it clean…


Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678.314.2171 or