Wood floor cleaning is not for the faint of heart. I’ve written several blogs in the past regarding how to clean wood floors and they all involve water. Water, sometimes with surfactants and organic solvents added are needed to cut through dirt and grime, even on wood floors even though there is potential to damage them.
The problem of using water to clean wood is that wood absorbs water, and if it gets too wet, it can pucker permanently. That has a lot of folks scared because no matter how many classes they take because they don’t want to buy a new wood floor by puckering it up. Sometimes a wood floor is already puckered because of humidity, previous water damage or a previous cleaner using too much water. Using the waterless restoration process will not remove existing puckering, but it won’t make it worse either.
This blog is not meant to discourage the use of water to properly clean wood floors, but to merely offer a safe alternative for those who may be too chicken to put water on wood.
I am not taking credit for inventing this process. I’m just building on the work that others have started in an effort to create a reliable method that is easy to teach and to use.
Bamboo Wood Floor: dirty from new construction, some cupping from water damage, no areas where original finish is worn thin exposing bare wood
This bamboo floor was cupping in some areas and the contractor was leery about using any water to clean this floor.
This bamboo wood floor is a classic example of not wanting to use water for liability reasons. There was some cupping and warping in some areas yet the polyurethane finish was not worn through in other areas and there was no evidence of water damage.
This home had an abundance of landscaping around it and the home sat low on the property. It was a pretty good chance that moisture from the irrigation system was seeping into the dry foundation and wicking up into the dry wood floor.
Nevertheless, the client wanted the floor ‘refreshed’. It didn’t need to be sanded down, just perked up a little bit. No problem using a counter rotation brush machine (CRB) and dry compound.
Pictured here: CCA TM CRM with optional water tank attachment and CCA dry solvent compound
The Natri-Dry Compound from Carpet Cleaner America is simply the best dry compound on the market. It’s very chunky, like shredded wheat, so that there aren’t a bunch of little particles to go chasing around.
According to the copy writer at CCA:
The compound is composed of soft, organic particles which are loaded with cleaning agents. It works by delivering these cleaning agents into the carpet fibers by “brushing in” with the CRB machine. The CRB brushes distribute the compound throughout the carpet and clean the fibers in the process. As the soil from the fibers become dissolved, the particles then reabsorb it like miniature sponges. Once this “brushing in” is accomplished, you simply “brush out” or remove it by using the CRB with our Renovator catch tray attachments. It’s extremely simple and easy to use.
For more information visit CCA at http://carpetcleaner-usa.com/products/dry-cleaning-compound/
The Natri-Dri compound uses an organic solvent to clean the floor and absorb the dirt posing no danger to the wood floor.
The TM machine from CCA with the Natri-Dri Compound did a terrific job of cleaning without using water. We swept the compound up and used a dust pan to get the compound off of the floor, and then we vacuumed up any leftover particles.
Use a name brand water based urethane finish to coat the floor. Don’t use standard floor wax because wood finishes have additives in them to help the coating bond to the existing polyurethane. I like using Contec wipes to apply the finish because they are non-absorbent and capture stray particles that may be present.
The homeowner was very happy with this demo and my client was able to book this job.
If you look closely at the pictures above and below you can see some evidence of the cupping and warping that made this job a little risky if water was going to be used. It was much safer and easier to use dry compound and a brush machine to clean before recoating.
The final product after one coat of water based polyurethane.
Wood floors develop personality over time and this process does not take away dents, deep scratches or scrape marks. What it will do is totally clean the floor and give it back some luster so as to delay a wood sanding job that would be very expensive and only performed by licensed flooring contractors.
Here is another example:
This abused wood floor was years in the making for a good demo.
With the settling of the sub-floor gaps developed between the planks where water would have settled and be absorbed into the wood. This made me very nervous about instructing my client about using a conventional water based cleaner. Using the Natri-Dry Compound on a floor with gaps poses a danger if you do not vacuum or carefully sweep out the gaps. A simply broom sweep over the top isn’t good enough.
Be generous with the compound in proportion to the amount of dirt and grime. The wood fibers infused with solvent can only absorb so much and when they turn dark you are no longer cleaning and you are only spreading the soil around. Bleah.
Move the machine back and forth and side to side rubbing the compound into the polyurethane coating. Over time the dirt particles have stuck to the poly finish like flies to flypaper, but the organic solvent in the Natri-Dry Compound will soften the poly and then release the dirt with friction caused by the action from the counter rotating brushes.
The floor is clean and dry. No water, no puckering, no fear.
In some cases the client will only want their floor cleaned and not ‘coated’. That’s ok. The slight luster that the organic dry compound leaves is from the solvent in the powder moistening the surface and releasing dirt particles that we stuck in the polyurethane like flies on flypaper.
Using a single part water based coating is safer for those who ‘dabble’ in this kind of work. If you really want to be an expert then learn how to apply permanent coatings like solvent based polyurethane or 2 part water based epoxies for wood.
There you go. One waterless wood cleaning restoration square. This demo was a success and the client was very, very happy.
This process will not take dents and dings out of the wood. Wood floors develop ‘personality’ over time. If a client wants a wood floor sanded down, then in most communities this requires a contractors license.
I do want to thank my good friend Dane Gregory for poking me to publish this blog. I’ve sat on it for a few months because I wanted to see some more testing done. In the meantime, others like Mikey from Mikey’s Board have been using this process on the wood floors in the charitable cleaning of Ronald McDonald Houses across the country and others have made comments on Facebook about it, but I decided after reflection that this process is scientifically sound and it takes a lot of pressure off of people who are afraid to do wood floors because of the ‘water’ issue. I also understand from my conversations is Dane that this process is also being tested by certifying authorities on Luxury Vinyl Composite Tile, otherwise known as LVCT.
Thank you for taking a minute to read my blog. My name is Robert Falzone and I have over 30 years of experience in the world of cleaning and restoration. Some of my methods are ‘old school’, some of my methods are ‘new school’ but either way my goal is to take some of the guess work and risks out of the world of cleaning and restoration in a world where risks can mean a big insurance claim if the job is botched.