How to tell if an old wood floor is coated with wax or shellac (to pick a cleaning product)

Q: I just bought a beautiful mid-century brick ranch in Ohio (1963) and found an amazing, never used hardwood flooring under the carpet. I’ve lifted corners in each room and it all has the same beauty. Carpet tacks along the edges and staples were used for the padding, but glue doesn’t seem to present. It all has lifted off easily.

The floors do not look like they need to be sanded and refinished, so what should I clean and protect them with? I read a lot about this Bona product, but I want to make sure I start the best way. Thank you!

A: 1963? I guess the question is – what kind of finish is on the wood? Wax, varnish or shellac? Shellac will dissolve in alcohol so you can do a test in a hidden area with some alcohol on a rag.

Wax will water spot, so you can apply a drop and leave it for 5 minutes to see. If it is wax Dura Seal makes a good product called Renovator.

If it is varnish you can use any number of cleaners made by the finish and floor manufacturers. Bona Kemi, Polo Plaz, Basic Coatings, and many others make their own versions of such cleaners. Even has a cleaner called Bare Floor that will work.

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