Hardwood floor woes
May 10, 2013 8:16 AM   Subscribe

We may have made our already-ruined wood floor worse. How can we fix this, at least temporarily?

A couple months ago we bought a 103-year old house with badly damaged hardwood floors. We'll eventually get them repaired and refinished, but not for at least a year (other fixes have higher priorities).

A few days ago we cleaned the grime off the bedroom floors with some scrub brushes and diluted Murphy's Oil, and they look much improved, but when we tried the same strategy on the dining room we got different results. It looks like somehow we've stripped the finish. Photos here. The blotchy matte part is the "after," the stained but shiny part the "before."

As I said, we can't afford to refinish the floors right now. That said, the stripped floor is ugly, and I'm afraid will be super vulnerable to more stains. Is there a way to temporarily fix this? And how do we give the rest of the room a good clean without stripping the finish off? Assume we know nothing about hardwood floors or home renos.
posted by arcticwoman to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There are products that are designed to help with this.

Rejuvinate is one.

Head over to your favorite big box hardware store and see if they can recommend a product and a process.

Also, Murphy's has to be seriously diluted or else it leaves a sticky film. So try wiping with clear water first.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:23 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Your floors may have merely been waxed, this was common until at least the 1950s. This gives directions for waxing.
posted by mareli at 8:33 AM on May 10, 2013

In a pinch, pick up some cheap rag rugs, and velcro them to the floor with command strips. That may protect your floors from staining until you can fix them.
posted by juniperesque at 8:47 AM on May 10, 2013

I have done so much worse to floors in my current 90 yo house, to the point that I thought I'd never get it fixed, but alas-no. As of today, none are visible.
I would recommend mopping the floors very well with water, let them completely dry.
Get yourself 3 bottles of Old English, this stuff isn't made to do huge chunks of wood, but I've used it on floors and it does amazing work. The trick is to do it all by hand, slowly, taking your time, and applying it with a sponge, making waxing motions.
Serious results should happen. I have UNDONE HUGE wood mistakes this way. It is time consuming, as it'd take me four hours to fix what you've shown in your pic.
I would recommend doing a test spot, towards a cornor, and make it small. Take it from there. Good luck.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 9:21 AM on May 10, 2013

The floors in my old house were quite beat up. I removed all the old wax and dirt with ammonia & water, then waxed the floors with traditional floor wax. I buffed the wax with old towels by basically skating on the floors with the towels under my feet. The floors looked good, and the wax held up well, and protected the floors from further harm until I got them refinished.
posted by theora55 at 10:32 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're planning to have a professional fix these in a year or so I'd say avoid putting any kind of "product" down on the floor. Better to go with area rugs or just live with it looking crappy (at least it's a story to tell). Any cheap DIY product is likely to just make the pro's job that little bit harder (and more expensive) when you finally bring them in.
posted by yoink at 10:50 AM on May 10, 2013

When I moved into my old house we did the same thing with similar results. It turned out to be lots of old floor wax that turned into a sort of gummy mess. I panicked when I thought I was pulling up the varnish or something but realized that just mopping with diluted wood soap wouldn't pull up varnish. I got some floor wax stripper stuff (it is pretty strong stuff and not for all floors, should spot test it first) and even then it took two passes to get all the layers of old floor wax off.

I also used mop skates, like theora55! Not for the floor stripper but for cleaning afterwards. I bought two pads for a steamer mop and sewed fabric on top to make mop shoes. My husband likes to laugh but I don't leave any footprints and I can move about as I like on the wet floor.
posted by dottiechang at 11:13 AM on May 10, 2013

That looks like wet wax to me. The first thing I'd do is let it dry for several days and then see what you have. Applying more stuff to gummed wax is a recipe for problems. After it stops looking cloudy give it a few more days before you do anything.

Just let it dry and don't walk on it in the meantime. In about a week you'll know what you've got.
posted by 26.2 at 12:21 PM on May 10, 2013

Don't worry about it too much.

As a newlywed, my best friend decided to refinish the old floors in her new house herself, and midway through the stripping process they, uh, caught fire and were superficially burned from wall to wall.

After she stopped crying, she called in the most experienced floor restorer in the city at that time, and when he was finally able to stop laughing, he simply flipped all the boards over and the end result was beautiful.

I doubt you'll need to go so far, but I've always kept that in the back of my mind as a possible alternative to all the hassles of stripping.
posted by jamjam at 12:37 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: We used the Rejuvenate product and our floors look AMAZING. You would never know that part of it was stripped, and the whole thing looks way better. We're going to do all of our floors now. I'm actually really glad that this incident provided the impetus to try fixing it. I've seen reviews that the product leaves a white film after a few days, but it's been a week now and ours still looks great.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:24 PM on May 18, 2013

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