All good questions! To determine your best action plan, you must know the type of finish that is on your wood floor. Though most wood floors installed prior to 1970 are finished with wax while most installed after that have been finished with urethane, this is a generalization so don’t rely on age alone to determine the type of finish. Here’s a simple test to conduct…
Put a drop of water on the floor and let it dry. If the spot dries into a white, pasty color you are dealing with a Wax finish on your floor. If the spot leaves just a watermark and does not discolor the wood then you are dealing with Urethane.
To decide if your floors need to be completely sanded and refinished or simply cleaned and polished, take a broad look at your floor. Do you see grey streaks in the wood? If you do, consider a sand & finish job done by a local professional. The wood gets its grey color where the finish has worn completely. Sanding is the only way to bring back the natural wood color in these areas. If you are pleased with the overall appearance of your floor except for the dull finish and carpet pad markings, then a cleaning & finishing is all it needs. Follow one of the following sets of instructions depending on the type of finish on your wood floor – wax or urethane. Both processes can be done as DIY projects with excellent results.
Waxed wood floors should be treated with a one-product process that waxes and cleans. Wood that has a light or natural finish will do well with “Bruce Lite ‘n’ Natural” Liquid Paste Wax with Cleaner – 32 oz. can. For a dark wood floor use “Bruce Dark ‘n’ Rich” Liquid Paste Wax with Cleaner – 32 oz. can.
To get started you’ll need to rent or purchase a buffer machine. Large, heavy weight buffing machines will produce a higher sheen than small lightweight machines so choose the buffer based on your desired results and your ability to maneuver this piece of equipment. Before getting started with the wax, sweep, vacuum or dust mop the floor to remove all loose dirt. Loose particles left on the floor will scratch the wood and become ground into the floor’s surface marring the results. Apply the Liquid Paste Wax with Cleaner and buff. When the job is complete be sure to allow enough drying time before walking on the floor. High humidity climates may require more drying time than standard. The surface should be dry, not tacky, when it’s ready for traffic. To maintain the waxed wood floor, sweep frequently with a soft bristle broom and wipe up spills immediately. Small soils can be cleaned using a Bruce Scrub Pad with a small amount of “Bruce Lite ‘n’ Natural” Liquid Paste Wax with Cleaner – 32 oz. can or “Bruce Dark ‘n’ Rich” Liquid Paste Wax with Cleaner – 32 oz. can then buff with a clean cloth. Repeat the waxing/buffing process every 6 months to a year. Never use water or water-based cleaners on a waxed wood floor because it will damage the finish.
Urethane wood floors require a completely different process. No machines required. Start with the Bona X Ultimate Hardwood Floor Care System & Refresher Kit. This kit contains refresher with applicator pad, spray cleaner and wood floor mop with covers. The directions on the box will take you through step by step. Thoroughly sweep the floor before getting started and use the water-based, non-toxic spray cleaner before applying Refresher. Apply spray cleaner to one small area, 4’x6’, at a time, mopping with the grain of the wood, applying pressure on the mop to remove stuck on dirt. If your floor feels sticky after mopping then you haven’t rubbed enough with the mop or you’ve sprayed too large an area and the cleaner dried before being mopped thoroughly. Just go over the area again to clean. Apply the Refresher the same way, one small area at a time and stay with the grain of the wood. Allow enough drying time after applying the Refresher, keeping in mind that more humid conditions may require longer than standard drying time.
To maintain your Urethane wood floors on a regular basis, use a water-based, non-toxic cleaner. Bona (New & Improved Professional Series) Hardwood Floor Cleaner (a 32 oz bottle is included in the Refresher Kit) or Basic Squeaky –Wood and Laminate Floor Cleaner will both do a great job. Each of these liquid cleaners is available in a range of sizes. It is convenient to have a 32 oz refillable spray bottle of the cleaner and economical to buy the gallon for refilling your spray bottle. You’ll need a wood floor mop with microfiber cover (Bona includes this in their Refresher Kit), available from both lines of product, Bona X Swedish Microfiber Mop Package or Basic Squeaky Clean Floor Care System.
Bona also has an easy Bona Hardwood Spray Floor Mop that has spray cleaner and mop all in one with refill cartridges that just pop into the mop. I use this in my home and love the convenience!
Wood Refresher can be used on your urethane wood floors every six months to a year depending on the amount of traffic your floor gets and how often you sweep and mop. When the finish starts to look dull, the refresher actually fills minor scratches and allows light to reflect on the floor as a flat surface again giving it a brighter appearance.
If your goal is to completely change the gloss or sheen on your urethane wood floor, such as matte to high-gloss, call a professional. The existing finish will need to be screened and coated to change the sheen level and this is not typically a DIY project.
Important Note for ALL types of wood floors: Protect your wood floor from dents and scratches created by furniture sitting or moving on the floor by applying Floor Protectors to the feet and base of all furniture. Equinox makes pads and glides in many shapes and sizes to fit all types of furniture.