How To Clean And Maintain Floors Where The Finish is Unknown

Water based acrylic waxes like Mop and Glo will be harder to dissolve and generally need an ammonia based wax stripper to remove them. Most of these acrylic polishes will give the surface a patchy, dirty appearance when they start to wear off. The most important thing to realize when you find either kind of wax on your floor is that wax by its very nature gets into all the cracks and pores of the wood, and it is impractical and impossible to remove every trace. Wax, will repel any coating you choose to apply to a floor, and if you’re not resanding and refinishing, you should really learn to live with this wax. If you know you have an acrylic wax, you can use a mop stripper to remove it. Then apply a fresh coating of a good brand like Top Gloss, available at the Cleaning Center on Amazon.

If on the other hand, you find that the floors have been waxed

with a paste wax and the finish is unsound, you can continue to use paste wax to give the surface a satin shine. Paste wax is solvent based so you won’t be harming the finish if it’s not sound. Just be sure to clean the finish with a mild solvent like odorless mineral spirits instead of water, so that the wood is not further damaged.

You can use various solvents to determine just what generic type of finish it is. The first solvent to try on the finish is alcohol. Use rubbing alcohol that you find at the drug store. Apply a few drops of this in an inconspicuous spot and observe. If, in a few minutes, it starts softening the finish and makes it sticky, the finish is shellac. This is the least durable of all the film type finishes so that may be why you are having problems washing the floor. A lot of people start waxing these shellac finishes and in order for this test to work, you will have had to remove the wax with mineral spirits or paint thinner first.

The next step is to apply a few drops of lacquer thinner on a different area and watch this. If the finish is a lacquer or a water based finish, the lacquer thinner will start to soften it. Unless the floor has a pale look to it and has been resanded in the last 15 years, it’s unlikely that it is a water based finish. To prove if it is a water based finish apply a few drops of toluene or xylene and if the finish softens it’s a water based coating and not a lacquer finish. If you find that none of these solvents affect the finish, you then have some sort of reactive finish, polyurethane varnish being the most commonly used on wood floors for the past 30 years. There are other reactive finishes but for the sake of maintenance and recoating it really doesn’t matter.

The point is that once you are sure of the type of finish you have on the floor, and you have determined that the floor needs a touch-up or a full recoating, stick to that finish for all future coatings. As long as the floor has never been waxed, a well prepared old finish can, in most cases be successfully recoated. Oh, by the way, that’s the trouble with those renewal kit’s, they all contain a water based coating. Now, why would someone want to recoat an oil based, or lacquer based finish with a water based finish? It sure will get confusing if you have to repair the floor or do a major touch up of damaged finish.