Discovering a hardwood floor under old and worn-out carpeting is very much like winning the lottery. Hardwood floors are beautiful, add a touch of warmth to a home and require little maintenance. It is possible to restore a floor to its former glory with a simple cleaning, even if it has been under a carpet for a long time.
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Determine the type of surface finish used on the hardwood floor. Old hardwood floors usually have a wax finish while more recent hardwood floors have a polyurethane finish. To discover the type of finish on the floor, place a drop of water on the floor and wait for it to dry. If there is a white spot on the floor when the water dries, then the floor has been treated with wax. If not, then it has been treated with polyurethane.
Remove any remnants from the carpet installation. This includes staples, tackless strips and nails. Vacuum the floor to remove all dust and debris.
Mix a wood-floor cleanser with water, according to the manufacturer's directions. You can use a neutral cleanser or one made for the type of wood finish on your floor. Dip a sponge mop into this mixture then squeeze it until it is slightly damp. Mop the floor.
Examine the floor for stains. If there are small stains on the floor, remove them with rubbing alcohol or fine steel wool. If the floor has large and stubborn stains, it may be necessary to refinish it. This involves sanding the floor and then applying a wood stain and a wood finish. It is possible to complete the job yourself but you may wish to consider hiring a professional to handle the labor-intensive process.
Complete the cleaning process by applying a surface finish. Use wax on a waxed floor and wood-floor polish on a polyurethane finish. Buff the waxed floor with terry cloth rags to intensify the shine if it still looks dull.