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TR842 09-03-2009 09:13 AM

Carnauba on heart pine; best formulation?
I have been very stubborn in avoiding chemicals as much as possible. I just laid down a heart pine floor in my kitchen and utility room. I chose to go with wood because the house is 85 years old, and the floor is uneven. And I managed to find a source for heart pine, to replace the heart pine that was already there, but beyond saving.

In other rooms, where I pulled up carpet to expose heart pine, I had water-based polyurethane applied, but I very much don't like the smell that even the water-based gives off.

I couldn't find carnauba floor wax that didn't include anonymous petroleum products, so - I bought raw carnauba (and some beeswax). Unfortunately, I've had issues with the formulation, with the application, and with cleaning. At this point, I don't have a good formulation for rewaxing, either. The floor is glossy in a few little areas, and dull and spotty everywhere else.

I found various formulations on the web, and eventually learned that olive oil is good because it contains a high proportion of oleic acid. However, I have only sporadically achieved a high gloss (one sample board is absolutely perfect), and I don't recall exactly what I used for the best example. Also, I've found that I can clean up spots and achieve a beautiful gloss, by rubbing it with an old towel, hard. Really hard. A small orbital hand buffer does nothing.

I really don't want to use polyurethane, but I can't leave it the way it is; I don't have the strength to go over the whole floor by hand. Any recommendations on formulations, application, or cleaning?

Oh, and using "boiled" linseed oil before waxing is out; it ended up way too dark and too red. Maybe tung oil; right now the floor has a very nice amber look, which will of course darken and redden with time.

Nestor_Kelebay 09-03-2009 10:34 AM

Oh, man.

Pine is not a very hard wood. Years ago, before all the synthetic plastic flooring like vinyl and laminates and such, every house had wood floors. To lower costs, people would use hardwoods like maple and oak only on the main floor where they entertained guests. Often, the upper floors where all the bedrooms were and people typically walked only in stocking or bare feet, they would use a less expensive, but much softer wood, typically pine.

And, back then, there was no polyurethane. People use Carnauba wax from Brazil to "wax" their floors. The problem is that Carnauba wax is soft, and so it doesn't stand up well to foot traffic. That's why Hoover used to sell gazillions of those two pad floor polishers that you can buy at garage sales now for $2 each. Let's face it, any coating that responds to polishing by a machine that draws all of 3 amps and weighs less than 10 pounds has got to be soft. You can get a real nice gloss on cold butter, but it doesn't have the hardness you need to stand up well on a floor.

What I'd recommend you do right now is go and get one of those $2 floor polishers and see if polishing that floor will lead to a uniform gloss. If not, I'd phone around to the places listed under "Janitorial Equipment & Supplies" in your yellow pages to see who sells "Johnson Professional" products in your area. Ask them who the local S. C. Johnson Wax sales rep is and how to get hold of him. See if the S. C. Johnson Wax sales rep can talk to any of the old chemists that work for the company that may still remember how they mixed their Carnauba wax and other waxes to make their floor waxes. Or, see if they still make a Carnauba wax hardwood floor wax for restoration work in historical buildings.

Aternatively, if you want to buy a Carnauba wax, you should pop in to your local automotive supply store. About the only thing Carnauba wax is used for any more is high end car polishes.

Drying oils like Tung oil and linseed oil transform from a liquid to a solid by reacting with the oxygen in the air. Whenever two "unsaturated sites" either on the same linseed oil molecule or on different linseed oil molecules are in close proximity, then O2 from the air reacts to form a pair of C-O-C crosslinks between those two sites, effectively welding those two sites together. The more crosslinking, the more each oil molecule is locked to all the others around it, and the more the oil behaves like a solid rather than a liquid.

Polymerized oils like Swedish oil and Danish oil are drying oils like Tung oil (and prolly linseed oil) that have been treated to increase the number of unsaturated sites in the oil, and then pre-reacted with oxygen to produce "clumps" of oil molecules that will crosslink heavily when they're exposed to oxygen in the air.

I really don't know which would be harder, and therefore stand up better on your floor; Carnauba wax, Danish or Swedish oil or good old fashioned varnish; all of which are made purely from natural products. And, all of which are softer than alkyd based polyurethane.

TR842 09-03-2009 11:46 AM

A few points
Pine is not a very hard wood.
Heart pine is. It's from longleaf pine, which comes in just below oak on the hardness scale.

The problem is that Carnauba wax is soft
It's softer than polyurethane, but everything I've been able to find says that it's the hardest natural wax around. In fact, adding beeswax is recommended because of carnauba being so hard. My last formulation was just carnauba, olive oil, and water; maybe that's why it requires so much pressure to polish it.

I'll have to look on Craigslist for a scrubber/polisher; Sears sells one for $150.

Thanks for all the other info. Regarding drying oils, I was annoyed to find out that "boiled" linseed oil is actually not boiled, it just has drying chemicals added, sometimes bad stuff - and you can't find out just what was used. Refined linseed oil, on the other hand, probably wouldn't "dry" for months.

Nestor_Kelebay 09-04-2009 11:30 AM

Carnauba wax is probably the hardest natural wax around, which is why it's used as a coating on floors.

But, the rest of the world isn't wrong. Polyurethane dries to a much harder film than Carnauba wax, and this is the reason why it quickly became the finish of choice over hardwood floors. You didn't need to polish it. You just refinished the floor every 30 or 40 years, which was less of a burden than polishing the wax on it every coupla weeks.

Anyhow, g'luck with this.

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