Treating/reviving French wooden floors

Good evening, I hope you aren’t melting in the heat?!

I would like to ask for advice on how to approach treatment of our wooden floors. They are in pretty good condition (1930’s), dark wood and matt finish. We would like to give them a good clean and treat them whilst we are in the ‘decorating phase’ but are unsure of what to use.

I have seen linseed oil mentioned a lot when I google for information but it would be good to stick with a traditional French method/product if possible.

What are your experiences? Good and bad!! Thanks in advance :grinning:

I think it depends on how you eventually want them to be.

Is the matt finish varnish or, more likely, dirt impregnated wax? You describe the wood as ‘dark’ but is it actually just stained dark, as the wood’s not very old by French standards - our beams are oak and chataigne, that were probably originally medium light, but after six or so centuries the actual wood is very rich and dark.

I’d find an unobtrusive bit and sand it back to the original wood with a small mullti-tool. Where you go after that is up to you, depending on where you want to go, light - dark, wax sheen or varnish. The only further advice I’d offer is that modern varnishes are easy to use but have a horrible plasticy shininess compared to everything else that’s available.

I’m sure over the coming hours, you’ll be showered with good practical advice!

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If a matt or satin finish on modern varnishes can work well but they must be stirred vety thoroughly to get an even finish.

They work well physically, but for me they’re too ‘bright’ visually -ie. they don’t have the same visual depth andr richness as traditional waxes and varnishes - they’re a bit brash! It’s like the difference between old and new mirrors where the tain in the former has mellowed a bit.

We bought a 1930’s flat with very grubby parquet floor throughout. We made some magic formula recommended by a friend who works with wood, I will try to find recipe but included toothpaste and methylated spirits. We used that for the worst grub, and then used these HG products with a lot of elbow grease. Came up brilliantly. But you need to work out whether your wood is waxed or varnished.

Had we sanded it and started again we would have totally lost the patina.

True, but if one uses a plastic coated cup brush (the red ones) on an electric drill you can actually burnish the wood grain, which is harder than the surrounding wood. This sort of finish was very popular in 1930’s Californian interiors, and, depending on the wood, can look simultaneusly contemporary and retro? Anyhow, the conical brush is far less brutally indiscriminate than a sander, which just removes everything.

Thanks for the advice. I think we have a small off-cut which we can play around with (from a damaged section in one room) so we’ll start with sanding it and trying to establish if its waxed or stained already. I believe its a naturally dark wood all the way through rather than being stained dark on one surface once fitted.

Are there any supermarket wood floor cleaners which you would recommend/avoid for general cleaning purposes? I like the Method brand in the UK and am tempted to take a few bottles with us anyway.

I think the first thing to do is to clean the floor thoroughly with something like Sugar Soap (St Marc make a fairly good powdered version) dissolved in water. Unfortunately it’s something of a hands and knees job but you will probably be surprised by the colour of the wood once all those years of ingrained dirt are removed. You will also be surprised by the rapidity with which the water in the bucket turns black and needs to be changed.
Whatever finish you ultimately choose it won’t work well if it’s applied on top of grease and dirt, so cleaning it first is essential.

Once the surface is clean, and you can actually see the wood rather than the dirt, then you will be able to choose which way you want to go from there.
A 50/50 solution of Turpentine and Linseed Oil is fairly cheap, works well when wiped on with a soft cloth, polishes up well to a soft hue once dry, and often gives a very pleasing colour depending upon the type of wood to which it is applied.


We use savon noir for most things, and cleaning vinegar and bicarb for the rest!

The linseed oil is cheap, the turps not so much. If you go that way, you should also add siccatif, which helps with the drying and hardening of the linseed oil. Even then, recon on at least 48 hours before you can go anywhere near the surface.

We have what appears to be a really dark wood floor but which may just be dirty as mentoned before. It is quite badly scuffed from builder working on house for 2 years on and off. Should we do as above and try to clean it but I worry that the scuffed areas will always look scuffed…

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At the end of our full renovation our wooden floors were looking pretty battered - but after a light hand sand then clean with white spirit then varnish they came up very well indeed.

There were some photos here:

Rather than varnish, I prefer to use hard wax oil.

Normally Fiddes:

However I’ve also used Oli Natura with good results:

Osmo is also supposed to be good:


Since it was recommended by a historic buildings expert practitioner friend, I have used Osmo hard wax oil products extensively, mainly flooring, but also kitchen worktops and externally (different products). I have found it easy to apply (2 coats minimum) and produces an attractive and very durable finish. As with anything its worth getting a small tin first, and trying a discretely hidden test area. I have just bought some more, (new area of flooring to protect and finish). However its all getting very expensive. I looked in France, Germany ( and Ebay… I ended up buying online in the UK on my last trip back a couple of weeks ago… it was at least 20% less from a company called . It arrived within 3 days from order, better packaged than anything I have received online like that before.

unsurprising since I’m almost certain that it will be highly flammable and therefore a risky transport item like paint is :wink:
Was there extra duty to pay on delivery?

Hi, no duty, since I picked it up in the UK. With that company the only delivery info I could see was within the UK. “Unfortunately due to high delivery costs we are not currently delivering to Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Guernsey, Jersey or Europe.”
However since Osmo is a german company, one would think there are EU suppliers who can provide similar levels of discount. Company - Osmo Holz und Color GmbH & Co. KG is normally the cheapest source for it - although cheap is a relative word.

I think the answer to your question depends upon what you would like the floor to look like at the end of the day, and also as to how deep into the existing surface the ‘scuffing’ goes.
If it is light scuffing that has taken the shine off, but which hasn’t changed the colour, then you can probably polish the marks out with a good quality wax.
On the other hand, if the scuffing is deep enough to expose the original wood colour it is going to take more work to eliminate it. Either the damaged areas need to be recoloured to match the remainder, or the whole lot needs stripping back to the bare wood so that a fresh start can be made. In either case, cleaning the surface first is advisable.

There is of course always the alternative of laying a carpet, or using some rugs to cover the damaged areas. This can be a cheaper option when the total floor area is large and the damaged section is relatively small.
Thinking of future heating bills, it may be worth considering that fitted carpet with a decent underlay will cut out a lot of draughts and help to make the room warmer in winter.

A number of people reporting damage and scuffing from their builders. Clearly the builders do not consider it their responsibility to protect the floors whilst work goes on, a few sheets of corex or hardboard costs a lot less than restoring a floor.
If its too late to claim from their insurance then make sure future contracts insist on protection.

Yes it is back to a lighter colour.
Thanks for advice.