Easy ways to restore shine and finish to your floor

July 27, 2015

Restoring shine and finish to your floor sounds like a big chore, but it may be easier than you think! Here are some tips for buffing up your old floor.

Easy ways to restore shine and finish to your floor

Restoring shine to polyurethane

To bring back the shine and remove greasy film and dirt on polyurethane, go over floors with a damp mop.

  • Use ammonia diluted with warm water — about 1 part ammonia to 20 parts water — as a dampening agent.
  • Or use a mix of 250 millilitres (one cup) white vinegar to 4 litres (one gallon) warm water.
  • Both solutions are non-abrasive and do not leave streaks.
  • Remember to wring out the mop until it's half-dry.
  • Mop up any puddles immediately, or you'll end up with water-damaged floors, which may require costly refinishing.
  • Avoid oil-based soaps — they build up and dull the finish.

Some polyurethane manufacturers recommend a neutral-pH cleaner, available at hardware stores. However, if you use a pH cleaner, be prepared to do a two-step process, using two buckets.

  • Fill one with the cleaning solution, mixed according to the manufacturer's directions, the other with water.
  • Wet a sponge mop with the cleaner, wring until half-dry, then run it over the floor.
  • Dip a second mop into the clean water, wring it well and mop again.

Buffing up varnish and shellac

Unfortunately, you can't damp-mop older finishes such as varnish and shellac; doing so will remove any remaining shine. Instead, clean them with a wood floor cleaner intended for use on unwaxed varnish or shellac surfaces.

  • If cleaning does not restore the shine, you have two other options: wax over the old finish and then care for it as you would any waxed floor; or start anew and have the floors sanded, stained and polyurethaned.

Re-staining floors

Unlike laminated wood, solid wood can be sanded and refinished many times. You can even change its colour by sanding it down to its natural state and re-staining the floor with a different colour stain.

  • Some homeowners choose to do this job themselves with rented machinery, but sanding floors is hard, dusty work, requiring a certain amount of expertise and finesse. If you linger too long in any single spot with a heavy-duty sander, for example, you can permanently damage the floor.
  • Ask friends and neighbours for recommendations for experienced floor refinishers. If you decide to hire professionals, you can cut some of the cost by getting the rooms ready yourself. First, move all the furniture and furnishings out of the rooms in which the work is to be done. (The amount of dust raised will be harmful to draperies, pictures and books, as well as the furniture.) Then gently pry off the baseboard shoe (bottom) molding in those rooms.
  • Sanding, restaining, sealing and finishing a floor can take as long as a week, depending on the size of the floor and the humidity (which affects how long it takes the different finishes to dry). Foot traffic should be kept to a minimum during sanding. While the floor is being stained and given its two or more coats of resurfacing, it should not be walked on at all.

Restoring a floor can really make the room come to life. Keep these tips in mind and give your floor a beautiful shine today!

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