When you refinish the floor, refinish a small test panel as well. When you think your floor may be dry enough to put down your rug, put a cotton dish towel over the test panel and walk over it. If the towel discolors, wait longer.
Opinions about how long you need to wait before putting rugs back down on hardwood floors after refinishing vary greatly. Your floor's drying time will depend upon the refinishing method and both the temperature and the humidity of your house. You should also take into account the comparative vulnerability of your particular rug, Rugs made from natural fibers, such as wool or silk, and using organic dyes damage more easily than rugs using synthetic fibers and dyes.
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Confirm the refinishing product used on your floor. A urethane dries quickly. With normal interior temperatures and humidity, you can lay most rugs over urethane-finished floors within 24 hours. An oiled floor, on the other hand, can take several weeks to completely absorb the oil, and fully air dry. A traditional varnish will usually harden sufficiently within three to five days, but not always. To be safe, wait at least a week. A good test in all cases consists of taking a wad of facial tissue and rubbing it over the floor. If it seems the slightest bit sticky, or if the tissue discolors even slightly, you should wait before putting down a rug.
Adjust your wait time to both humidity and interior temperature. As the humidity climbs, all refinishing products will take longer to dry. Temperature also affects drying times. A varnish that will fully dry and cure within 48 hours at 70 degrees will take significantly longer at 50 degrees. Similarly, higher temperatures will speed drying times. You can speed up drying times with a good dehumidifier, set the humidity as low as possible for the first 24 hours.
Include wax drying times in the calculation. Homeowners commonly introduce one or more relatively heavy wax coatings on new floors after they have been finished. Wait at least another day after waxing the floor before putting down most rugs.
Exercise special care when laying down Oriental rugs without pads. You can easily damage an antique Oriental rug by allowing petroleum-based varnishes, solvents and waxes to penetrate the fibers and dissolve the dyes in the rug. In such instances, wait a minimum of two weeks.
Take the pad's material into account. Many synthetic pads are relatively resistant to damage from petroleum-based oils because they will not readily absorb them. On the other hand, a natural-fiber pad will absorb the oils and, if you lay down the pad too soon, these oils may work their way up into the rug itself. Some floor refinishers will supply a temporary thick felt pad to absorb oils remaining after a normal drying time.