Q. I have a 10 year old cork floor in a kitchen. It is made of tiles pretreated with water based urethane that have been given several layers of a topcoat of water based urethane. The floor was cleaned with a substance recommended by the manufacturers that contains d-limonene, a surfactant, and 5% ethanol and it is diluted in water. The owner complains that the floors have never looked clean; they always look as if there is grease build-up on them. This year, in the heat of summer, the floor became sticky. Every footstep is audible; socks stick to the floor. Re-cleaning the floor doesn't change this in any way. The manufacturer recommended using TSP diluted well in water and rinsed many times to get all residues off, and then dried. I’ve done this, but it remains sticky. It feels as if the urethane is melted, or something like that. It felt that way before the TSP was used. In a small area, I’ve redone the TSP on the off chance that there remains some grease residue, and I even dared to scrub, and the urethane coat (not all of it) came off, and then the floor seemed less sticky in that area. There is still a coat of urethane covering the cork, so the TSP didn't get down to cork. It's less sticky but it's still sticky. What is going on? The manufacturer says they’ve never seen/heard of this happening. They’re not keen on re-sealing it until the problem of what is going on is clear - I suppose they fear that resealing won’t solve it. Any help is much appreciated.
A. It would be unusual for polyurethane to melt or become sticky unless a paint remover type chemical has partially dissolved it. Your removal process for sticky substances using TSP and d-limonene should be OK. However, without a thorough rinsing, the surfactant added to the d-limonene could leave a sticky residue.
For difficult build-up removal using TSP, add it to HOT water and then scrub with a green nylon pad or heavy floor machine to get better penetration. Then, wet vac and rinse. It is always good to pretest small areas with different cleaning techniques to compare different results. Your previous attempts probably did not obtain 100% soil removal.
If the polyurethane is worn off, then the cork could be absorbing cooking oil, which will resist removal. If there is water damage or warping, replacement might be necessary. If the polyurethane is still in good shape, there should be a noticeable sheen. So, if there is still a protectant coat in place, then refinishing is an option.
Your local janitorial supply store should have a refinishing process, chemicals, and instructions. There are newer water-based products that do not emit uncomfortable fumes.
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