When you have hardwood floors, a common question arises; should I use water based or oil based polish for wooden flooring?
Benefits of Water Based Polish
Water based polish for hardwood floors don’t put out as many volatile organic compounds or strong odors. And you don’t have to clean tools used to apply water based floor polish on hardwood floors with paint thinner or another solvent.
Water based floor polish puts on a clear coat that stays clear over time, so it is safe to use on light colored floors without darkening them with age. For natural maple hardwood floors, water based floor polish is the only option if you want to retain its original color. If you have gray stained floors, you are likewise limited to water based polish for the wooden flooring if you want to keep the same color.
Water based polishes, depending on the brand and additives in the floor polish, can dry to the touch in an hour and be ready for a new coat in as little as two hours. If you want to finish the floor polish application in a day, you have to use water based polish.
Water based floor polishes aren’t as flammable as oil based polish.
Problems with Water Based Polish
Water based polish doesn’t help the wood resist scratches or impacts.
Oil based polyurethane floor polishes are much cheaper than water based polishes. Water based polishes can be up to fifty percent more expensive. However, natural oil polishes are even more expensive than water based floor polish.
Water based floor polishes need three to four layers, which means more work if you are doing the work yourself. Oil based finishes only need two hours to be done.
Water based finishes don’t have as much shine as oil based ones, but this is a matter of personal preference.
Benefits of Oil Based Polish
Polyurethane, a type of oil based polish, resists foot traffic better. And this extends the life of your hardwood floors.
In general, polyurethane on wooden floors lasts longer, so you don’t have to refinish the floor as often.
For some people, the slow dry time of oil based polish gives it time to be worked as it dries.
If you are installing reclaimed wood floors that can’t be refinished without losing their character, a thick layer of oil based polish may be the only way to protect the surface and extend the hardwood floor’s life.
Problems with Oil Based Polish
Oil based polishes like polyurethane tends to turn light amber with age. This isn’t a problem on red oak wooden floors or stained hardwood floors, but it should not be used on white maple floors.
Oil based polyurethane takes a day or more to dry, so you lose the ability to walk on the floor for a day or more. To get two or three coats applied, the project takes a weekend to complete. Conversely, water based polishes dry in a matter of hours.
Oil based polishes show scratches worse.
If you want your light colored wood flooring, like those made from maple, to retain its natural color over time, you must use water based floor polishes. If you don’t mind the floor polish amberizing over time or already have darker wooden floors made out of red oak, oil based floor polishes are a good choice.
If you want to minimize the time you can’t walk on the floor as the work is done, use water based floor polishes on your hardwood floors. If you want to have the longest interval between floor treatments, use oil based floor polishes on your hardwood floors.