Q: We have a Brazilian Cherry floor that has developed an almost “greasy” residue on it. The floor is 4 years old, and has never been cleaned with anything other than Bona floor cleaner.
The floor was originally acid-cure finished (not our choice) and then it appears two coats of polyurethane were applied over that. We have tried everything from windex, TSP, acetone, lacquer thinner and naptha, and nothing will remove the residue. It almost seems as if the surface coat has softened and has become a greasy, smeared mess.
I have had a wood floor installer look at it, and also a mfrs rep for the finish company looked at it, and neither of them have any idea why the floor looks like it does.
Have you ever seen this problem and, if so, do you have any ideas on how to correct it?
I did a bit of follow-up to find out where this residue issue is occurring, how long it has been a problem, and where in the country the house is located, to help get a better idea of what is likely causing this problem.
Follow-up: The residue appears to be primarily in the high traffic areas throughout the first floor (kitchen, hallway, office, family room). Areas that are under throw rugs do not have this on them. Areas that do not have throw rugs but don’t have a lot of traffice like the dining room and living room, look perfect, like they did when we moved in.
We do not wear shoes in the house, but we usually have socks on.
We are in the Chicago area.
The home was new construction in June 03. The floor was site-finished with Synteko acid cure first. When we bought the house, we asked for an additional coat of finish because we have dogs. We can’t be sure, but we think they then put two coats of polyurethane over the acid cure.
The residue seemed to start appearing in about Oct 07. I had thought it was from a new detergent I used that maybe left a residue on our socks, but I stopped using the detergent and the residue seemed to continue to get worse. Everything we’ve tried to remove it has failed. You can actually take your nail and scrape into the surface and get it shiny again, but then if you wipe the floor down after that, it goes right back to having the greasy, smeared look again.
I would agree that it appears to be on the surface. I actually had a tech from Synteko look at it and he is the one who thought the surface coat is a polyurethane. He suggested screening the floor and re-coating with polyurethane. Quite frankly, after I read about acid-cure finishes, I was mortified that it was used on our floor. My wood floor guy isn’t real excited about trying to screen the floor and put poly over it, since he’s not sure how that will react with the acid cure.
Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated!
A: You have quite the conundrum here, but there is a solution and some explanations. I sat down for a chat with Tad A., iFLOOR’s director of install, to discuss what is going on. Before we get into a solution, let’s do some background to explain the most likely cause of this issue.
Now if the polyurethane coats were added shortly after the acid cure Synteko was applied, this is the most likely culprit. With any acid-based or acid cure finish, you are applying a two-part compound which is mixed, then applied. Due to how this is made, typically a hardener and sealer as your components (Synteko is this with a high enough gloss to not require further acid cure mixtures, but rather just multiple coats of this mixture over time). This initial layer only takes a few hours to dry, but it requires 90 days to cure – this is critical! During this cure period the acid-base finish off-gases. If another finish is applied over the top of this layer before it cures, even another coat of an acid cure finish, the escaping gas will get trapped, meaning that it causes a orange peel like effect with lots of small dimples across the finish. In the case of polyurethanes which are applied over the initial layer of acid-base, this off-gassing can break down the urethane. This residue you are encountering is then, broken down finish which has occurred as the formaldehyde found in the acid cure finish continues to off-gas during its curing period.
To fix this, you can try to screen the floor and apply a new coat of polyurethane, but your floor guy should be able to tell right away if a screen is not enough. When screening, if the current finish layer does not powder, but rather stays greasy and gums up the screen rather quickly, you will need to do a full sand and refinish. Screening will save you about $2 – $3 per square foot, but your floor may require a full sand down to the bare wood, then new finish applied. If this is the case (and even in the case of a screen) apply new polyurethane, water-based being your best bet. As far as finish choices, I would look into Bona Traffic as it is one of the best water-based polyurethanes in the industry. Now the good news here is that if you only need to screen, a polyurethane will adhere to an acid-cure finish (once it has finished curing), so you can stick to a environmentally safe finish.
The other cause of this residue is typically due to environment. If you happen to cook quite a bit, especially if you do a decent amount of frying (this is common in the south), then greasy residues can accumulate on the floor, but typically the cleaning regime you have tried will resolve this. Another environment issue is climate while the floor is being finished. Overly moist environments can cause problems while a finish is curing, which can result in similar issues as to what is occurring.
Basically, you will need to screen, if not fully refinish, your floor in order to rectify this problem. Once a finish gets to this point and cleaning will not remove the residue, it typically means it has affected the finish itself.