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I rent a heritage home and the polyurethane has been lightly wrecked, but also the wood is drying out from the dry weather and curling up and separating. I am extremely confused about cleaning and conditioning this floor.

I have been told to clean according to polyurethane, however I've also been told that the polyurethane is porous so don't wreck the wood underneath. I've been told wax and oil wreck the poly finish, but then that I should be treating the wood so that it doesn't dehydrate (which it clearly has since I have rented). I've been told to not mop or it will wreck the floor and I've been told to dilute Murphy's oil.

I AM SO CONFUSED! My floors are looking so horrible since I moved in. I rented this house with serious references and then sublet to roommates who think I am a freak for being concerned with the state of the floors.

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Murphy's oil soap is a nice gentle soap if you need one. But it isn't magic; it's just a soap. Wood does not need to be "fed". –  keshlam Jun 8 at 21:50

2 Answers 2

The thing that deteriorates polyurethane most quickly is allowing abrasives (like sand) to accumulate the floor. These should be swept up immediately; or just set your roomba to do it for you.

A swiffer, or hard wood floor cleaner such as this between 1ce a week - 1ce a month depending on how heavy traffic is should be fine.

Steam mopping is a bit questionable, but probably fine for finishes that are in good condition.

Sand and refinish the floors every 5 years.


Other things I've seen deteroiate floors is

  • soakings
  • heavy moppings
  • the use of bleach
  • the use of boiling water (not to be confused with steam mopping)
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If your name is the one on the security deposit, then unless your sublets have given you a security deposit sufficient to cover repairing any damage they do, your rules govern. If they don't like it, they can sublet elsewhere.... Developing a "leave shoes by the door" habit is a good way to reduce abrasion. And many households I know are adopting this. –  keshlam Jun 8 at 21:47

The humidity levels in homes play an important part in how well your wood floors keep. The poly is not expanding and contracting as much as the wood and in extreme conditions of large swings in humidity or temperature the poly bond can severe in some areas of the floor. Even slightly and adding on a lot of traffic will break it up even faster.

It sounds to me that the humidity levels need to be fixed first. If you are renting you should contact the landlord and let them know their flooring is getting jacked up because of this. As a renter there is little you can do. The landlord might ask you to use a humidifier that he installs or to keep the house within a temperature range. Everything else is out of your hands.

I would almost guess since you are asking how to clean it - the poly is past the point of return or it was never installed correctly. Basically you should be able to sweep and mop at will with poly. Just no hot water and no chemicals. If the floor is sticky/tacky the poly has started to break down. Again this could have to do with the humidity/temp issues.

The science behind it is the equilibrium moisture content. You may actually be breaking this equilibrium by doing too much to the floor. I can't say for sure. But if you are introducing moisture/wax/whatever to your floor then your floor has to get rid of the said moisture to get to it's balanced level. When it has to continuously do this its properties change and it dries out even faster (initially). You don't hydrate wood with wax or products, wood will hydrate itself. Leave it alone. Give it a good temperature and humidity level. Sweep your floors. Light mop once a week. Give it two months. If they still look dry then the landlord needs to step in to fix.

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