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Why is My Floor Finish Yellowing? How to Fix Discolored Floor Finish

Why is My Floor Finish Yellowing? How to Fix Discolored Floor Finish

Have you noticed your floor finish yellowing over time? Floor finish discoloration is a natural process. While floor finish is destined to discolor or yellow over time, it’s an easy problem to fix, and even easier to avoid. 

In this article, we’ll be going over 4 causes of yellowing floor finish, how you can avoid making these mistakes, and how to fix discolored floor finish. 

4 Causes of Yellowing Floor Finish 

You likely already know that long-term sun exposure can lead to the floor finish yellowing prematurely, but that’s not all. 
Here are four other causes of yellowing floor finish: 

  1. Dirt and Soil Embedment
  2. Insufficient Cure Time
  3. Expired Floor Finish
  4. Dried Floor Stripper

1. Dirt and Soil Embedment

Dirt or soil embedment is when soil is trapped beneath an obstacle that slowly pushes it further and further down into the surface beneath it. 

In the context of yellowing floor finish, soil embedment can be caused by a few different reasons. Most commonly, it is due to improper cleaning procedures. The two main reasons for dirt embedment during cleaning is the use of a dirty mop and bucket or the use of contaminated water.

In some rare cases, the floor may not have been vacuumed before stripping or recoating leading to trapped dirt and soil under the finish. 

Part of the reason why it’s always recommended to dry sweep or vacuum the floor before a strip and recoat or scrub and recoat is to avoid soil embedment. When this step is skipped, or performed with contaminated tools and materials, the likelihood of soil embedment leading to discolored floor finish greatly increases. 

To avoid soil embedment, have your staff check to make sure that they’re using a properly diluted solution made with cool water and uncontaminated tools before laying a new coat of finish. 

2. Insufficient Cure Time

Oftentimes, there is pressure to reopen freshly refinished floors to foot traffic before its allowed to fully cure. This is the second most likely cause of yellow or discolored floor finish. 

In an ideal situation, after recoating a floor, it should be allowed to cure for at least 24 hours before anything touches it. That means shoes, furniture, and especially floor mats remain off the surface.

Unfortunately, many facilities struggle to meet this requirement without interrupting service so cure time is shortened to when the floor is “dry to the touch”.

Just because the floor is fully dry to the touch, that doesn’t mean it’s fully cured. Why?

Chemicals evaporate during the curing process. If an area of the floor is covered by, say, a floormat, the chemicals beneath the floormat are unable to evaporate, which affects how that area cures. As a result, the floor finish is unable to properly dry, which can lead to discoloration. 

The floor must be allowed to fully cure before anything can go on it.

3. Expired Floor Finish

It’s no secret that floor finish discolors with time. 

Nowadays though, floor finish lasts a lot longer before naturally yellowing. For that reason, you shouldn’t be using any floor finish that’s too old or expired. Some experts go as far as to say don’t use floor finish that’s over two years old. 

While there isn’t a definitive consensus on when floor finish becomes “too old,” you’re better off using a new tub of product when it comes time to strip or recoat the floor. 

4. Dried Floor Stripper

Another reason floor finish discolors is if, during the stripping and refinishing process, the floor stripper is allowed to dwell for too long and dries before removal or is not thoroughly rinsed prior to refinishing. 

An important part of stripping and refinishing a floor is to let the stripper solution dwell after applying it. The appropriate amount of dwell time differs from product to product, which is why it’s always important to check the manufacturer’s recommendation. 

When the stripper solution is allowed to completely dry it can lead to discolored floors. Most often, the stripper solution will turn into hazy white streaks in the finish.

In order to remove the dried stripper, you’ll have to strip the floor and start the refinishing process over again. 

How to Fix Discolored Floor Finish

Fortunately, there are two solid methods for fixing discolored or yellowing floor finish. 

Method 1, a scrub and recoat, should be the go-to way to restore floor finish appearance. It is the less time and labor-intensive of the two methods and should eliminate slightly yellow or discolored floor finish.

For deeply discolored or yellow floor finish, a strip and refinish is likely needed. Resort to this method when a scrub and recoat does not bring back the desired color and brilliance of your floor finish.

Below, we will provide the basic steps to both a scrub and recoat and strip and finish. For more information on each step, make sure to check out our detailed guides by visiting the links below.

Method 1: Scrub and Recoat

Here’s a brief overview of the scrub and recoat process. 

Pro Tip: For a more detailed guide on how to scrub and recoat, check out our article, 6 Steps to Restore Resilient Hard Floors with a Floor Buffer.

How to scrub and recoat: 

  • Step 1. Dust Mop the Floor
  • Step 2. Apply Cleaning Solution or Scrub and Recoat Product
  • Step 3. Agitate With A Floor Buffer
  • Step 4. Remove Solution With a Wet/Dry Vac
  • Step 5. Apply Water
  • Step 6. Apply 2 Coats of New Finish

After the last coat of finish is applied, all that’s left is to let it dry. If you notice that the floor finish yellowing even after a scrub and recoat, it’s time to strip and refinish

Method 2: Strip and Refinish

Here is a brief overview of the strip and refinish process.

Pro Tip: For a more detailed guide on how to strip and refinish, check out our article, How to Strip and Wax Commercial Hard Floors [+ Key Benefits]

How to strip and refinish: 

  • Step 1. Remove Floor Mats or Objects from the Area 
  • Step 2. Protect Adjoining Areas from Stripping Solution
  • Step 3. Dust Mop the Area to be Stripped
  • Step 4. Properly Prepare Stripping Solution
  • Step 5. Liberally Apply Stripping Solution to the Floor 
  • Step 6. Allow the Floor Stripping Solution to Dwell
  • Step 7. Agitate the Floor
  • Step 8. Test Floor for Solution Removal 
  • Step 9. Remove Floor Stripping Solution  
  • Step 10. Rinse the Floor 
  • Step 11. Clean Baseboards 
  • Step 12. Allow the Floor to Completely Dry 
  • Step 13. Remove all Residue
  • Step 14. Apply Floor Finish
  • Step 15. Allow the Floor to Dry 
  • Step 16. Apply Additional Coats of Finish

There you have it. Follow these steps and the floor finish should look good as new, without a hazy streak or a blotch of yellow in sight. 

Final Thoughts

Discolored floor finish can become a liability when customers start to judge your business based on the appearance of your floors. Floors are the first thing people notice when entering a facility and dirty floors leave a big impression. Dirty-looking floors can lead customers and guests to believe your facility is unhygienic and lead to lost customer loyalty and new business.

The key to avoiding yellowed floors is to make sure that floorcare routines are being performed properly.

To learn more about how to maintain a successful floor care operation, reach out to an Imperial Dade facility near you.

One of our floor care specialists can perform a free evaluation of your facility’s floors and floorcare program in order to identify areas of improvement.  Call today to set up your free evaluation. 

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