How to care for hardwood floors?

Questions, answers and advice for people who own or work on houses built during the 20th century.

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apcazul
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Joined: Thu Apr 27, 2006 6:17 pm
Location: Sacramento, California

How to care for hardwood floors?

Post by apcazul »

I have a 1939 home, and I'm not exactly sure but I think the hardwood floors are oak. I don't know anything about caring for hardwood floors -- can anyone help? So far I've just been sweeping or using a dry fleecy mop to pick up dust. Is there a liquid product (Murphy's or something) that I should use? The floors are in great shape still, and I want to make sure they stay that way!

Thanks!

apcazul
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Here's a photo

Post by apcazul »


rrobinson720
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Post by rrobinson720 »

It really depends on what sort of finish is on them. If they are coated with ployurethane, it will be one set of insttructioons, but another if it is old shellac or varnish.

txriverwillow
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How do you determine what finish

Post by txriverwillow »

Is on the floors? I'm moving into our new home and don't know what the POs used.

TIA

lrkrgrrl
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Post by lrkrgrrl »

Me mum says: Don't use Murphy's Oil Soap on floors. It leaves slippery film and is dangerous. They do make a floor product which is supposed to not do this.

Vacumming and dust mopping is the first line of defence. For spills, a just barely damp rag and then a dry will do most messes. If Shellac is your finish, you must wax, wax, wax. Traditional varnishes, wax is also a good idea. I've been told never wax polyurethane, but dammit, I've done it and it was ok.

Starr-Point
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Post by Starr-Point »

I'm curious - why all the wax?

I use Wood Preen to clean and polish the floors very occasionally, but I've never seen a lot of value in waxing a floor that has varnish/poly - what good does it do? I do know a lot of the old floors that were unfinished or oiled were frequently done w/Butcher's Wax, but, of course, wax isn't really a finish.

Why the wax on other finishes? Enlighten us.
RSS

lrkrgrrl
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Post by lrkrgrrl »

Wax protects the other finishes, gives a "softer" finish that actually reduces risks of slipping (your shoes have a little something to grab on to). The wax basically is a "sacrificial" finish. You replace it periodically, instead of having to refinish your floors. Scuffs, scrapes, and stains can be buffed out of the wax layer, instead of lifting your finish. Tracked in grit or dog nails, or whatever evil your floors are exposed to, attacks the wax, and not the varnish (regular or poly.) Again, I've been told not to wax poly, but what the hell.

Say someone spills a glass of whiskey on your shellac finish: or even a glass of water. Boom, big ugly mess, since shellac will disolve in alcohol/water, you mop up the spill and lift your shellac. (Good thing: shellac can be spot-finished, so you have hope, but are you really gonna get the shellac out in the middle of the party?). If you have a good wax on the floor, the water or alcohol might soften the wax, but you can mop it up and touch up the wax without taking things down to bare wood.

Wood Preen is my wax of choice, as it is self-stripping, and saves a step, is not to slick and slippy.

Another note on floor cleaners, many of the "wood floor cleaners" on the market assume everyone has polyurethane on their floors, if you do not, they may damage the finish. Again, if the top layer is wax, you can just re-wax.

A good old fashioned floor, if properly maintained, including waxing once or twice a year, even every other year, should not need to be refinished. Too many people skip the old-timey maintenance, instead sanding the shit out of the floor every fifteen years. grrrrr.

Don M
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Post by Don M »

Hey Grrl tell us how you really feel! :wink: Don

apcazul
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Location: Sacramento, California

Type of finish

Post by apcazul »

I did a simple water test on my hardwood floors, and the water slowly gets absorbed into the floor (pretty slowly, but it gets absorbed). This tells me (I think) that it's not a polyurethane finish, but rather a wax-type finish. What I've decided to try is wiping the floors down with a very rung-out (i.e., spun in the washing machine) wet towel, to remove the dirt. The sweeping removes dust and dirt brought in, but the floors need a good wipe-down and I don't want to risk using some product that may hurt the floors.

treewoman
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Post by treewoman »

I just had some wood floors refinished with 3 coats of poly put on them. The instruction sheet I got from the company that did the work said that WATER is the enemy of all wood floors. If you have to wipe up a spill, make sure you dry it completely right away with a soft cloth, don't let any water stand on the floor. They recommended something called Woodpecker to clean the floors with. I haven't had to try it yet, but when I do, I'll let you know.

Also, you need to sweep often with a soft broom or dust mop, the little pieces of dust, dirt and grit will get ground in eventually and mess up the finish. Rugs near your entryways can go a long way in preventing a lot of grit being tracked in. I have friends who had a vacation home on the sand dunes of Lake Michigan; they had hardwood floors and everyone had to remove their shoes before entering because the sand would eventually act as a "sander" and wear down the finish. If it were me, I think I would have chosen another floor for that home! :wink:

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