Let's Talk Polish
POLISH: One of my least favorite words in our industry! No, I am not speaking of the lovely people who originate from the beautiful country of Poland. I mean the chemical unassuming homeowners or housecleaning companies apply to hardwood floors to “shine them up.” In their defense, companies that sell polish directly to the general public in grocery and home improvement stores do say in their instructions that their polish should be applied by a professional. Unfortunately, most folks figure it can’t be that difficult—after all, they took woodshop in high school or they’ve painted their walls before. The problem is, no polish or oil should be applied to your wood floor unless recommended by both your hardwood floor contractor AND the company that manufactures the finish that was applied to your floor.
If you don’t know what the finish is, stick with vacuuming or sweeping your wood floors and then clean occasionally with a spray bottle of water and a mop that has a terry cloth or microfiber pad. Either that, or ask a National Wood Flooring Association Certified Professional wood floor contracting company in your area for cleaning recommendations.
Over time—even as little as one or two applications—polish leaves an acrylic residue that cannot be removed from your hardwood floor by others cleaners. The only way acrylic residue can be removed is by hiring a professional who will either deep clean and mechanically or chemically etch your existing wood floor finish and then apply a new coat of finish or hiring a professional who will sand your floors down to the raw wood.
If you’re not sure your wood floor has been polished, here are three things I have seen when hardwood is polished:
Extreme glossiness or reflectivity, especially in the middle of the floor and less near the walls of the room.
A greasy, almost oily look that doesn’t go away with cleaner and looks worse with foot traffic.
You or your dogs have scratched the finish and the finish looks as if it’s flaking off at the scratched areas. That’s the layer of polish coming off because it wasn’t properly applied. You can see the spots peeling off in this picture and we had to sand the floors to repair them all.
My last recommendation: DO NOT trust the label on the cleaner! Always ask a professional. And by professional, I mean wood floor contractor, not a housekeeper. No disrespect is intended toward housekeepers and they are very valuable help; however, they are not wood floor finish professionals. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner for a heart condition. You would see a specialist! If you treat your floors with as much care as you can, they’ll serve you longer than you expect!