If your home or apartment sports a hardwood floor, it is important for you to know if the floor has been treated or finished so that you can clean and care for it in the right manner. It is quite common to find unfinished wooden floors in older homes and apartments, while finished or sealed floors are characteristic of contemporary homes, with different sealing or treatment choices available in the market today.
Real wood floors today are basically treated with surface-sealants (synthetic resins such urethanes or polyurethanes) or penetrating sealants. Sealants can be water, oil or solvent based formulations. As the name suggests, sealants either cover the surface or penetrate into the wood. Apart from these finishes, hardwood floors may either be simply coated with wax or varnish. Shellac and lacquer finishes are sparingly used.
You can carry out a few simple tests in an inconspicuous area of the floor to determine if the floor is sealed.
Drops of water left on a wooden floorImage - Blisstree.com
Water Drop Test
Place a drop of water on the floor. If it simply sits there and stares you in the face, congrats, your floor is a finished one. If it is absorbed, the floor is probably not finished or the sealant has worn out.
Surface Test With Steel Wool
Rub some steel wool on the floor and check for residue. Wax is bound to surface as a grey film on the wool if the floor has been wax-finished.
Check a corner of the wood flooring with an acetone swabImage - Woodmagazine.com
Acetone Swab Check
Wipe the floor with a nail polish remover (acetone based). Varnish, shellac and wax finishes will give way while polyurethane finishes will stay intact.
If you’re absolutely clueless about the finish of your hardwood floors, check out your local retail flooring store for a generic wood-friendly cleaning product to play it safe. If you are trying out a new cleaning product, equipment or technique, a small scale trial is definitely the way to go. Always make sure to choose a small area of the floor that is likely to stay hidden from direct view, a carpeted area or an area in a remote part of your home is a preferable choice for a trial.