How to Make Wood Floors Less Slippery

Lorna Hordos

Slippery wood floors are a nuisance and a danger; fix the problem quickly and cheaply or by going the extensive, expensive route.

A slippery wood floor can be dangerous, especially when its slickness continues down the stairs. Wood, however, is not naturally slippery, even if it's sanded smooth; it becomes this way from finishes, cleaning products, spills and even use. You can reduce the slip factor in one of a few ways.

With Non-Slip Wax

You may prefer high-shine, well-polished wax for its sparkle, but on a wood floor, it's slippery. Wearing socks act as buffers to the floor, polishing areas that get a lot of use and making some waxed floors extra slick. Lessen the problem with satin or matte wax that touts a nonslip finish, using it not just on the floors, but on wood staircase steps too. Clean the floor with a vinegar and water solution to remove at least some of the old, slippery wax before applying new wax.

Make your own low-toxicity floor wax with 1-cup of olive oil, 1/2-cup of vodka and about 40-grams of each beeswax and carnauba wax:

  1. Melt together the oil and waxes in a canning jar, placed in a pot of simmering water. Mix well.

  2. Remove the jar from the water.

  3. Stir in the vodka. Cool to harden.

  4. Test the homemade product for slipperiness and appearance in an inconspicuous area. Apply it with a clean rag; warm the wax slightly or add a little more oil, if the rag drags.

  5. Warning

    Using homemade products on wood floors may cause damage or void the warranty; refer to the manufacturer's care instructions for product recommendations, especially if you're dealing with new flooring.

Use Rubber-Backed Rugs

  • Area rugs with the right backing serve multiple purposes, including reducing slipperiness and keeping the wood floor dry, which also reduces the chance of slipping. Place them in front of sinks, at entrances to the home and along well-traveled footpaths, such as hallways. Fix slippery wood stairs by installing a stair runner down them, holding the rug tightly in place with tackless strips -- a loose runner is about as dangerous as slippery stairs.

  • Keep Them Clean

  • A clean, dry floor is a less slippery one. To ensure a clean dry floor:

    • Sweep regularly.
    • Mop as needed, again, using a little vinegar in warm water; towel dry for a spot-free finish, and to reduce slickness. 
    • Wipe up spills, bathroom or kitchen splashes, pet accidents and entryway puddles as soon as they happen. 
  • Strip Away Slip

  • When you've exhausted all other anti-slip methods, calling in the pros can be the answer. In a more extreme case, here's what they may do for poorly finished hardwood:

    • Sand the floor. 
    • Seal it.
    • Finish it with an anti-slip solvent-resistant dressing.
  • If having wall-to-wall wood floors refinished is too costly, contemplate having just the stairs redone to save money and to cure slipperiness where it counts the most to limit the risk of injury.