How to Clean Old Hardwood Floors


Judy asked: How do I clean old hardwood floors with paint and drywall residue to make them look better? I bought a house with old hardwoods. They have build up on them as well as scratches.

When you uncover an old hardwood floor only to discover a mess of dried paint spills, drywall dust, scratches, and other damage, the best way to restore them is by attacking the entire floor. Of course, this can be profe$$ionally done as well. If you have a working knowledge of floor repair, these basic steps will have those floors gleaming in no time.

You Will Need:

  • Floor buffer (widely available as a rental from home improvement stores)
  • Floor stain
  • Paintbrush (several)
  • Old clean rag
  • Sandpaper
  • Clear floor finish
  • Broom
  • Damp rag

Steps to Restore the Floor:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the floor buffer before you subject your floor to the machine. It is possible to literally dig a trench in your floor by sanding in one place too long, so ensure that you can operate it and keep it moving before you turn it on.
  2. Pass over the entire floor with the buffer. You probably won’t be able to get the corners, so don’t spend too much time trying. You may damage the walls or buff a depression into the floor if you stay in one spot too long.
  3. Turn the machine off and grab the sandpaper. Scuff the areas you were not able to buff along with any remaining spots of paint or debris stains. Remove anything you don’t want to be visible on the new floor.
  4. Clear the floor of all dust, debris and loose materials. Use a broom to get most of it, then follow behind with a damp (not wet) rag or mop to remove the rest.
  5. Apply wood stain. Follow all directions and precautions on the can. Remember not to paint yourself into a corner. Always work with the grain of the wood and towards the direction of a door. Most stains are applied with a brush, with any excess immediately wiped up with a clean rag.
  6. Allow the stain to dry.
  7. Follow up with a clear coat. Apply with a brush moving in the direction of the wood grain (unless the label directions say otherwise). Do NOT walk on the floor until it’s completely dry.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If you need more detailed instructions for refinishing a wood floor, you can obtain DIY repair guides at most home improvement stores and on many websites. Buy one that has color photos and extensive instructions.
  • Use a high quality paint brush when applying the stain. You don’t want strands of the brush coming out and sticking to your beautiful new floor.
  • When applying stain, be sure to keep the color even across the floor. Once you have applied the liquid, wipe away any extra that may result in darker areas.

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