Honey, we destroyed the floor
November 1, 2014 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Rug left terrible honeycomb residue on our hardwood floor. Help!

When my husband and I moved in to our apartment, one of the things we liked about it was the hardwood floor. For some reason, the previous tenants painted it blue in one room. The landlord hated the paint and offered to paint it brown. We asked if she could have the floors refinished instead - the blue paint has chipped a lot and the floors were generally uneven and banged up. The landlord said no and offered again to have the floors repainted. We opted to keep the blue paint (character!). That was four years ago.

At some point, we bought a huge rug from Crate and Barrel. It's a natural fiber rug (jute?) with some kind of backing. We recently decided to replace the rug - we had tried to clean it with rug cleaner which discolored parts of it. We ordered a new rug, pulled up the old one to get rid of it, and found this awful honeycomb rug residue stuck to the floor.

We tried vacuuming to pick up the dust, then a variety of tactics including leaving WD-40 and water on the floor, then scrubbing (worked okay), scraping it with a credit card (again, okay), heating it with a hair dryer (okay but it was painstaking), soap and water made it a little better but not much.

So what do we do? How do we fix this? We're going to throw a rug on top of it but how do we prevent the new rug from messing up the floor again? I'm concerned we might have to hire a professional to fix it. What do you think?
posted by kat518 to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps a magic eraser (or ten) with some elbow grease?
posted by masters2010 at 8:20 PM on November 1, 2014

The rubber in the backing has likely chemically interacted with the finish, so even if you remove the rubber on the floor you will probably still see a waffle pattern on the floor. The only solution, unfortunately, is to not use rubber backed rugs and/or rubber carpet pads on wood floors. The floor in your picture doesn't look like it's painted blue, so I can't tell if the rubber interacted with wood floor finish or paint. Either way, one possible cleaning solution could actually interfere with future refinishing, but it is likely to work--Murphy's Oil Soap. I wouldn't apply this directly to the floor. Instead, apply it to the implement you are cleaning with. I would start by using a scraper/credit card to remove as much rubber as possible, then use the cleaning solution to remove any remaining residue.

Another thought--I once used an iron run over bath towels to get candle wax up from a rental carpet. You might wish to try this in an inconspicuous area to see if it works.
posted by xyzzy at 8:20 PM on November 1, 2014

I know you're renting and thus probably reluctant to pay for a professional refinishing job, but if you are planning to live there for a while, and can afford it, that's exactly what I recommend.

When I first rented my place, the floors were in basically the same condition. Looked almost exactly like your photos. I loved the place otherwise, but knew I couldn't live with those floors. So I shelled out for a refinishing job, and have never regretted it.

I've been here for eight years now. I just ran the numbers for what I paid, and it has worked out to less than $20/month for the time I've been here with my lovely floors.

I had the work done before I moved in, but you'll probably have to find a place to stay for three or four days while the work is done. You'll also have to find a way to get your furniture off the floors. I had partially moved in when I finally made the decision, but the floor guys were able to move my furniture into the kitchen while they worked their magic, and even put it back in place when it was all over.

Good luck! It's nice to have nice floors!
posted by trip and a half at 9:10 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

What are the laws on floors and repainting in your jurisdiction?

Do you have any pics or (hopefully!!) emails with the landlord documenting that previous tenant painted the floor?

This is not your fault!

Had the floor been finished with appropriate surface, this never ever would have happened and/or it would have been easily fixable.

My sincere advice to you is to stop futzing with it or adding more chemicals or products. The paint was already damaged, obviously the previous tenant used the wrong type of paint. AND you've been there 4 years. In my jurisdiction, floors are redone every 8 to 10 years.

You tried to do the right thing by saving an already damaged floor by using a rug. Your landlord made the choice to allow further damage by declining to fix previously used improper paint on an already damaged floor.

Document this in a neutral way, but do not accept blame.

If it is past time to have your floors redone under your local laws (hint: it probably is) rest assured that sanding is going to happen at some point and will take care of the whole thing. Zero extra effort will be spent - stripping and sanding is how these floors are redone.

Update with confirmation about requirements from your local rental authority if you need language to address this in writing with your landlord.

Seriously, the last tenant used the wrong paint. This isn't your fault.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 10:00 PM on November 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Get a few free estimates from well-rated local floor refinishing professionals. Depending on the age of the floor, and the material used, you will get very different answers about what can be done and for how much. If it's only one room then maybe you can just have that one room refinished. Worst case it's cheap flooring or very old and can't be refinished again. Refinishers may also know exactly what will work to clean off the rubber residue!
posted by Joh at 11:19 PM on November 1, 2014

Personally I would just sand and re-paint.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:24 AM on November 2, 2014

How long has it been since you took the rug up? Is the residue soft and tacky or dry and hard? There is some hope that the rubber will break down with exposure to air and sunlight. Best case is that it would dry out and become something you could brush off and vacuum away. Worst case is that it would set and become harder to remove. But I would give it at least a few weeks of sun and air exposure before going to your last resort (refinishing).
posted by anaelith at 8:36 AM on November 2, 2014

I agree that you should try and get your landlord to fix this. However, if that does not work out the way you wish, try GooGone. It works miracles on all kinds of things like this. Test a small patch first, of course.
posted by ananci at 8:46 PM on November 2, 2014

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