Back story, since I don’t know which facts are useful here:
So i finally got sick of the nasty old wall-to-wall in our house and tore it up, should have done it years ago. Underneath is fairly decent looking wood, possibly red oak? It has some sort of old finish on it which is in poor shape.
I bought some cleaning products to tidy it up, and that’s where things started getting hairy: after pouring a healthy splash of Trewax Wood Cleaner on the floor it quickly got thick and tacky, taking up the color with it into a thick and nasty sludge. Reading closer, the product “deep cleans to lift waxes” and is “frequently recommended by floor professionals for removal of acrylic and wax build-up on sealed and unsealed wood.” Anyway, I was committed after that, and did a room and a half going through three bottles of that product. It pulled up a whole bunch of orange nastiness, and left the floor a bit tacky, but that went away after leaving it to dry for a day or two: likely I didn’t take up all the finish, just a considerable majority.
With half a room left and a subluxed shoulder, I overheard the housekeeper commenting on a spot of bad finish in the living room where she thought someone must have spilled a drink, which made me think, hmmm… long story short, seems I can take up this same finish with rubbing alcohol just as easily and much more cheaply- pour it on, leave it there for a minute or two, scrub at it a bit to loosen the finish gunk, and mop up with shop towels. Meanwhile, I’m taking care of some old cat pee stains with hydrogen peroxide, so it’s a bathroom cabinet operation all the way.
On to my questions!
What the heck is this finish that I’m taking up? It’s shiny and a little orange; my best guess would be varnish except that it comes up so easily with alcohol. It can’t just be floor wax, can it?
Is just taking it down as close as possible to bare wood using isopropyl a really bad idea? I’m loathe to apply a sander to it unless I have to.
What should I do to refinish it afterward? Is Varathane/polyurethane what the cool kids are doing nowadays, or should I just use floor wax, or something else? I know next to nothing, just that it’s probably unwise leaving it totally unprotected.
(It’s not a super awesome floor, and I am a total cheapskate with low standards, so telling me to get a professional to take care of this would fall on deaf ears ;))
Thanks for any hints, instructions, cautionary tales!