How To Get Shellac Finish Off Old Wood Floors?

how to remove shellac from wood floors

Despite the huge popularity of modern polyurethane glosses, there are homeowners who still like to have natural shellac finish on their wood floors – thanks to its easy application and quick drying time.

Although it’s soft, pliable, and can help achieve a beautiful amber look, the only drawback is it’s not as tough as polyurethane.

This means shellac isn’t very good at resisting moisture, foot traffic as well as daily wear and tear.

With shellacked floors, furniture, or wooden stairs at home, you need to recoat them once in a while to upkeep the shine and finishing.

The good thing is, recoating can be done directly over shellac (without stripping it off) – unless you are planning to restore the surface with some other more durable floor finishing products like polyurethane or synthetic varnishes.

As an undercoat shellac finish will not be workable and it’s better to strip it off if you want to get the best benefits of polyurethane varnish.

How to Strip Shellac from Wood Floors?

Shellac is basically a resin secreted by the female lac bug on forest trees which is processed to be sold as dry flakes.

When dissolved in alcohol you can make a liquid shellac finish that can be used as a brush-on colorant and timber finishes to enhance the natural beauty of grained wood.

The application is easy and can be done with a piece of rag, brush, or sprayer.

If at times, you need to remove this natural finish and color from shellacked wood, it can be done either by sanding or by using denatured alcohol.

Here is a step-by-step process you need to follow…

Step 1 – Clean

Before proceeding, with sanding or alcohol solution make sure you mop the entire floor nicely.

For old floors that have deposited dust, debris or soot, prepare a strong solution in a bucket with hot water and detergent.

Most wood floors with a shellac coating are protected with a wax sealer, so you need to get the detergent that can cut the protective wax layer.

Step 2 – Sand the Floor

Lightly sand your hardwood floors with an orbital sander loaded with sandpaper of about 120 to 220 grits.

Wood materials like maple are however hard and will require you to go tougher with 24- to 36-grit range, especially if it has a lot of heavy finish on it and hasn’t been sanded or refinished for long.

Remember, when sanding and stripping shellac from wood floorboards it’s good to divide the floor using masking tape into 4–5-foot squares.

This will allow you to work on smaller sections separately without messing up the job.

Step 3 – Apply Denatured Alcohol

Once sanded, spread and apply denatured alcohol evenly over the wooden floor section (one at a time) with a rag or a paintbrush.

Allow the solvent to work for about two to three minutes.  

And then with a paint scraper tool (plastic scraper or a putty knife) scrape off the finish as much as you can.

Make sure you take time and remove all the dissolved shellac finishing even if you have V groove floorboards or chevron flooring patterns.

Step 4 – Scrub with Steel Wool

Next, you will need to scrub the wooden floorboards with a pad of fine 000 steel wool.

Soak the steel wool pad in alcohol and work along the grain of the wood.

Make sure you do not scrub the boards across it as it can cause streaking.

Step 5 – Remove the Residues

Finally, wipe down you’re flooring with a clean cloth dampened with alcohol.

This will completely get rid of the last bit of residue that may have remained on the floor section you are working on.

Well, you have now removed all the old shellac finishing from the wood floor section.

It’s time to switch on to the next floor section and repeat the process for all remaining sections.

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