Varnished floors are perhaps easiest to keep clean and when newly finished look well, but they are easily marred and become unsightly in places where there is much wear, especially if the varnish is not of the very best quality. The cost of the best materials is small in comparison to the cost of labor in finishing floors. Refinishing is always an expensive process, so that it is economy to use the best varnish obtainable- Much expense will be saved by re-varnishing at the first sign of wear, for if the surface becomes broken, the wood underneath absorbs dirt, and scraping or planing may be required to remove it. It will be found cheapest in the end to apply a thin coat once a year, or oftener if necessary.
Many housewives find shellaced floors easiest to manage. Shellac varnish is made by dissolving gum shellac in either grain or wood alcohol. The varnish which one buys is apt to be adulterated with cheaper, inferior gums, so that the surest way to get pure varnish is to make it for oneself. The materials can be obtained at almost any drug store. To make sufficient quantity for small repairs, six ounces of light yellow flake shellac may be added to a pint of alcohol. The gum will dissolve in about an hour and make a varnish of proper consistency for floors. It is best to strain the varnish through cheesecloth before using. The varnish will dry in less than an hour and makes a very hard surface. All varnish should be applied with long, slow strokes of the brush and with the grain of the wood.
In repairing a varnished floor which has been neglected, the much worn, dark places may be scrubbed with water and a fine sand soap, like sapolio, until clean; then be given a preliminary coat of varnish, and after these places have dried, the entire floor should be varnished.
Many think that wax makes the most desirable and lasting floor finish for the living rooms. The expense of this finish is somewhat more than the varnish finish because of the greater amount of labor required. Clark in "The Care of the House" recommends that a new floor be treated with two coats of linseed oil and turpentine mixed with enough Japan dryer to dry over night. This is put on to prevent the floor from showing spots. When this is dry, two coats of floor wax are applied and after standing over night, rubbed thoroughly into the wood and polished with a weighted brush made for the purpose. A waxed floor should be given a new coat of floor wax every year or oftener in the places subjected to hard wear. A floor so treated will last for a long time. One objection to the wax finish is that water will turn the coating white.
The floor must be cleaned with a dry cloth or mop or one which is only slightly damp and rubbed occasionally with the weighted brush. If the floor becomes spotted by water through accident, the damage can be repaired easily by applying a little wax and rubbing with the brush. If the floor becomes soiled or stained the wax may be removed by turpentine, the spot treated and the place covered anew with wax. Ink or iron stains may be removed with a solution of oxalic acid.