Floor Wax is Harmful to the Environment

Floor wax is applied on floor surfaces to make it scuff-resistant, water-resistant, slip resistant and glossy. It provides a thin, protective and hard surface layer when applied to flooring. Conventional floor wax has five main ingredients and each one of them has detrimental effects on the environment, not to mention the chemical waste created by the continuous upkeep required. The cumulative effects of these ingredients on the environmental render their harmful actions more potent and difficult to reverse.Polluted Water

These major ingredients are: de-ionized water, polymer emulsions, preservatives, modifiers and film formers. The harmful effects of each of the major components of floor wax will be outlined separately below.

Pure water has minerals that serve several functions, one of which is to buffer the acidity of the water. De-ionized water is used in conventional floor waxes in order to preserve the clarity and color of the floor surface because it is devoid of color-causing impurities. It constitutes a major portion of the ingredients that make up floor wax and de-ionized water has a greater mineral-adsorbing capacity than pure water, hence it is more likely to dissolve otherwise insoluble chemicals, such as mercury, acidic formaldehyde, and it also tends to be several times more acidic than natural water. For these reasons, de-ionized water transports mercury into plants, thus introducing this toxic chemical into the food chain. Mercury causes the death of plants by inhibition of plant photosynthesis and the transport of minerals within the plant. In regards to animals mercury is a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent), poison and toxolytic (infertility-causing substance) agent; as a result it reduces the animal population in the environment, thereby altering the fauna.

For the de-ionized water that finds its way into bodies of water, it acidifies the water consequently killing aquatic animals and plants. Its mineral-adsorbing capacity causes massive pollution of bodies of water. This has a profoundly detrimental effect on aquatic ecosystems and marine life. Altering of the aquatic ecosystem directly affects the food chain and terrestrial ecosystems.


Historically the main preservative used in floor waxes is formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a renowned carcinogen, toxolytic substance and allergen to animals and humans. A person who stays for a long time in a house that has formaldehyde is directly putting their health at risk. The Environmental Health Association of Canada has conducted several studies which have shown that formaldehyde is the most toxic chemical to the environment since its toxic potency takes a short time manifest, and these toxic effects last long due to the long half-life of the substance(1). Also, it is almost impossible to remove formaldehyde from the environment, even with the use of probiotics; so its negative impact on existing flora and fauna is long term. Another preservative used is cresol. Cresol is a volatile compound that imparts the unpleasant smell in conventional floor waxes, and continuous inhalation of cresol fumes can cause renal failure and liver damage over time. Cresol also causes the depletion of the ozone layer once it is released into the atmosphere. Formaldehyde and cresol cause loss of aquatic life because they are toxic to marine animals, and they also form an opaque mat over water bodies thus preventing the sun’s rays from reaching the seafloor.

Polymer emulsions act as a binding agent in floor wax, keeping all the ingredients together. The most common emulsions are acrylic polymers and styrene polymers. Polystyrene is known to have hygroscopic (water-absorbing) properties, meaning it reduces the ambient humidity of the surrounding environment. It should never be used in environments with babies as it causes dehydration and altered levels of consciousness in small infants. It also inhibits the normal growth of plants as it sequesters the available water, creating an artificial drought. Acrylic polymers are bound to butyl to form butyl-acrylic polymers which have the same adverse effects as polystyrene, in addition butyl-acrylic polymers bind to gut microflora, causing constipation accompanied by severe abdominal pain.

Film formers maintain the consistency of the floor wax. It is made from leveling agents, plasticizers, wetting agents, anti-foaming agents and coalescing agents. All these compounds are non-biodegradable and toxic to animal and aquatic life. Anti-foaming agents cause flatulence, colic pain and abdominal distension in humans, especially so for small children who ingest floor wax. Plasticizers and coalescing agents also kill plants. Modifiers are used to improve the performance characteristics of floor wax. They are made from zinc, urethanes, ultra-violet stabilizers, resins and cross-linkers. Ultra-violet stabilizers inhibit photosynthesis and urethanes are toxolytic to animals. Resin causes severe constipation and sigmoid diverticular disease in adults, and fistula formation in babies who ingest it. Zinc concentrates in the body of human beings and aquatic animals, and causes flaccid paralysis associated with jerky movements.


In conclusion, there is ample evidence that floor wax is harmful to the environment, and potentially to your health as well. Green Shield Floors is a company that specializes in offering an alternative, safer and eco-friendly sealer the UV Coat System.

Contact us now and learn how you can go greener.


1.      Environmental Health Association of Canada. (2011). Harmful effects of Formaldehyde and cresol to humans and the environment; Journal of Environmental Health, 55(6), 876-89.

2.      Environmental Protection Lobby of California. (2012). How to make an ecofriendly floor wax using natural substances; Environmental Protection Review; 77(9), 198-209.