About finishes, oil/wax systems and why the right cleaning and care is so important for parquet and hardwood floors.

Why varnishing?

That’s an easy question to answer: you want to be able to enjoy the appearance of your parquet or hardwood floor for as long as possible. So a protective layer should be applied to the wood which will prevent contaminants from penetrating it, and which will stop mechanical forces from being applied directly to the wood.

While care agents are used to apply a renewable wearing layer to the wood, the varnish acts as the working layer, keeping all kinds of rough and coarse materials away from the wood. The varnish can also be used to change the appearance of the parquet or hardwood floor.

Accentuating floor varnishes enhance and intensify the natural colour of the wood – other varnishes allow the wood to retain its natural tone.

Varnishing parquet – what with?

There is a broad range of products available. We distinguish between the classic systems and waterborne systems. Classic systems contain solvents and are based on alkyd resins (oil-modified / synthetic resin varnishes) or polyurethane systems (DD® varnishes). They have the significant disadvantage that they emit solvent fumes.

Waterborne systems, on the other hand, are based on water and are very highly rated among varnishing systems today due to their environmental friendliness. We have been producing water-based parquet varnishes for more than 15 years, thus helping to meet the requirements of the TRGS 167 regulation. This German technical rule for hazardous substances stipulates that surface finishes and procedures for parquet and other wood flooring which are high in solvent content must be replaced by others carrying lower health risks wherever technically possible.

Today, more than 80% of all parquet varnishes produced by LOBA are water-based. In terms of their chemical and abrasion resistance, LOBA waterborne finishes are either on a par with solvent-based products or are actually superior to them. In addition to their environmental friendliness and benefits for the health of workers and customers, these products also shine on account of their long-lasting high quality and generous coverage.

Why oiling / waxing?

Treating wooden floors with oil is a long-standing practice. It was invented to protect the wood from moisture. To make the oiled flooring even more impervious to water, it was then treated with (bees)wax. The wax also functioned as a protective layer trapping fine dust particles. The wax coating would wear away and would be regularly renewed.

From time to time, the wax coating needed to be completely removed so that heavily “leached” areas could be re-oiled, after which the floor would be waxed again. This basic cleaning was done by hand, using steel wool to scratch away the wax layer. After each wax application, the wax layer was polished with hand-held pads. When you consider the methods used, it’s not hard to imagine how difficult and time-consuming these tasks were. Given the effort involved, it was ultimately no wonder that oil was increasingly replaced by varnish and other finishes.

A floor finished with such products provided a smooth, closed surface which, as long as it remained intact, provided far better protection from moisture. At the same time, the floor could be very easily cleaned: dry cleaning with a broom, vacuum cleaner and mop is sufficient in most cases. More stubborn dirt can usually be removed by wiping with a moist cloth and a good all-purpose household cleaning product.

The wax treatment was replaced by polymer dispersions, which formed a hard coating on the varnish layer and required no further polishing (and which could not be polished using conventional means). Nonetheless, oil treatments of wooden floors are undergoing a renaissance at the moment, since the treatment of wood with varnishes also carries with it some inherent disadvantages.

For instance, the attractive matt appearance of an oiled floor can only be achieved after applying a matting agent. Even more problematic is the fact that a varnished floor cannot be partly renovated. If the varnish layer is damaged, the finish needs to be completely sanded away and replaced. An oiled floor, on the other hand, can be patched up in sections. A trend can currently be observed which is bringing the two treatment methods of oiling and varnishing closer together.

Varnishes are being designed to be so matt that their appearance resembles that of an oiled floor at first glance. On the other hand, oils are being modified chemically so that they dry faster like varnishes, and form hard, resistant layers. LOBA caters for both methods with highly developed modern products in each field.

Why regular care?

Dirt – the enemy of any floor Think about floors. No matter what type of floor you have chosen, your floor is constantly being literally “trampled underfoot”. Dust, sand and other types of contaminant are ground between the soles of shoes and the floor surface, causing more or less severe scratching. In time, the floor will take quite a beating. The various scratches, big and small, have a number of effects:

  • They look generally unattractive. Scratches show up particularly clearly when direct light is reflected off them.
  • When there are many small scratches over a small area, the incident light is scattered in all directions. To the observer, such an area appears considerably matter than neighboring areas with less severe scratching. In extreme cases, matt “beaten paths” can form in areas of heavy traffic, contrasting with shinier areas around their edges.
  • Dirt can settle more securely the scratches, making cleaning more difficult. Moreover, when “beaten paths” form, this dirt may mean that those areas also differ in colour from the edge areas.

How to care for your floor

The mechanical wear on a floor becomes visible by means of scratches or in the reduced level of surface shine. This is a natural process, independent of the type of flooring. Sooner or later the surface will need to be re-worked (e.g. sanding) or the flooring will need to be completely replaced. How long it takes for that point to be reached depends on a number of factors:

  • The type of flooring (parquet, linoleum, PVC, …) or surface. This is a major factor. Having a particularly hard surface (e.g. laminate) is not necessarily an advantage, since hardness can often also mean brittleness. Under certain circumstances, a surface with a certain degree of elasticity can resist mechanical wear more effectively.
  • The intensity of the wear. Is the floor in use in a private area or in a public space? What kind of footwear is worn by the people who walk on the floor? How much dirt is brought onto the floor? Are there areas of the floor designed to remove dirt from shoes? What type of dirt is brought in?
  • The cleaning of the floor. How often (and how thoroughly) is the floor cleaned, clearing it of dirt particles? Initial protection can be provided for a floor by minimising the amount of mechanical wear. Wearing shoes with soft soles can help to achieve this, as can preventing dirt from being brought in with the aid of doormats and similar items. Regular and thorough cleaning is essential, of course.

In addition to these measures, there is the option of giving the floor an initial protective coating. A care agent is distributed evenly over the floor where it dries, leaving a thin film. This film acts as a “sacrificial layer”, being gradually worn down as the floor is walked on. This procedure has the following advantages:

  • It protects the surface of the underlying floor from light to medium mechanical wear.
  • It makes cleaning easier by creating a new, smoother surface.
  • The procedure can be repeated several times, giving a fresh protective layer each time. This evens out smaller scratches, resulting in considerable improvement in the appearance of the floor.
  • A thorough clean can remove the entire coating, leaving the floor in its original condition.
  • By selecting an appropriate care agent, you can also change the characteristics of the floor: you can modify the degree of gloss or make the floor more non-slip, for example. Studies have shown that flooring that is cared for with a coating will last up to two to three times longer than flooring with little or no care. For this reason alone, these coatings are value for money, since the ongoing costs for care agents are vastly less than the costs of replacing the floor.