Wood floors covered by a layer of gunk

Q: The house I live in has hardwood floors with a polyurethane finish. The finish is over 30 years old and the floor is stained black with dirt. When I try to clean it I am able to peel a layer of something off. I would like to know if this layer is the polyurethane, and if so what should be done with the floor?

A: What are you using to clean this floor? I can’t even imagine what would cause a finish to just peel off a floor after 30 years. If there is an adhesion issue it generally will appear with a few weeks of application. Perhaps somebody applied something else on top of the polyurethane and that is what is peeling off?

Follow-up Q: For years we have used mop and glow, oil soap, and now we’re using reguvenate. When I wet or heat the floor I can peel it very easily. It peels like dead skin in big strips.

A: Sorry. All treatments not to use on a polyurethane top coat. I would look at www.poloplaz.com who have two cleaners, one being more agressive than the other. I had one lady with a similar issue to yours. They got some cleaner and buffed the floor with a car buffer and soft pad with similar results as you describe. The stuff peeling off in strips. Once you get it all off depending on the condition of the old finish, you may want to have another coat applied but only if needed.

Follow-up Q: Is the stuff peeling off the finish? And if it’s not should I peel it off or should I leave it on to protect the floor from whatever. I won’t be able to hire anyone or redo the finish. I have a really sick person living in the house and I can’t redo it.

You said your floor was black with grime and dirt. If you want it clean you will have to remove it. The products you applied to the polyurethane attract and hold such grime. You did mention applying heat to it. Heat from what source? I would think you would want to remove all that mess down to the old poly finish but you are there. You can see the floor and you can see what it looks like beneath the film that has flaked off.

Follow-up Q: The heat is from a steam cleaner mop.

I need to know if the grime is better to be left on. And in the long run it will keep the floor in better shape. Or should take I it off? Underneath there is no finish. Will the floor get worse and demand a job to fix it later on? Which is better to keep the floor lasting longer?

A: Wow, not a good thing to use either. Water in any volume is not a friend of wood. Steam is worse.

It may be best for you to leave it. There are cleaners, cleaning solutions that will likely remove all this mess. But only you know what was on the floor and what condition it was in before you started applying mop and glow and oil soaps. There must have been a reason you applied such things which only makes it worse.

Follow-up: Thank you so much for reading everything and answering back. I’ll take everything into consideration.

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