Hardwood Floor Maintenance
© stokkete / Adobe Stock

A shiny, newly refinished floor can freshen up any room, but the process of getting a worn floor back into condition tends to involve mess most of us would rather avoid. Sandless refinishing seems to promise the best of both worlds: a beautifully clean floor without the messy sanding work. The reality, however, is somewhere in between. Sandless refinishing has its advantages, but it isn’t always the better choice.

How Sandless Refinishing Works

Sandless refinishing, as the name implies, involves no sanding. Instead, a technician uses a machine with abrasive pads and a liquid solution to remove surface debris from the floor. The floor is lightly scuffed as the liquid etches away debris. Because no sanding is done, very little, if any, dust is produced.

What dust and dirt is removed is absorbed in the liquid, so nothing ends up in the air or on your furniture. Finally, the technician rinses and details the floor, then applies a protective sealer to give the floor strength and shine.

The whole sandless process is similar to the final step in the full floor sanding and refinishing process. It’s a touch-up, not a replacement for a complete sanding and refinishing

When Sandless Makes Sense

Sandless refinishing can remove old, dull floor wax and polish, as well as paint splatters and certain other minor stains. It can’t remove scratches, dents, sun fade, grey areas caused by oxidation or most pet stains. It doesn’t remove the floor’s polyurethane finish or stain, which means you won’t have the option of changing the floor color.

That makes this type of refinishing a practical way to spruce up a floor that’s in good condition, but starting to show minor signs of wear. Having your floors refinished this way can keep them looking good longer, so you can delay a complete refinishing for up to five years. This is especially helpful if you’re sensitive to dust and prefer to put off sanding for as long as possible.

With age, wood floors accumulate dings and dents that some people find add character, particularly in an older home. If you prefer to keep these appealing imperfections, but still want to touch up the floor’s surface, sandless refinishing will let you revive the floor’s shine without removing the marks of age.

Some thin floorboards can be sanded only two or three times in their lifetime. Average floorboards can take up to eight sandings. Any more than that and they become so thin they’re at risk of cracking. Because sandless refinishing doesn’t remove wood from the floor, it’s a safe way to clean up thin and older floorboards without reducing the floor’s lifespan.

Sandless refinishing is budget-friendly and convenient. As a less labor-intensive process than sanding, it costs less and can be done within one day, while a full sanding and refinishing job usually takes around two days.

Know What You’re Getting

If you’re considering sandless refinishing, keep your expectations in line with what the service is actually capable of. It may be cheaper and faster than sanding, but it doesn’t provide the same results. It’s essentially a deep cleaning followed by a coat of colored finish. Afterward, your floors will look sparkling clean, but not “like new.”

Some homeowners have been left disappointed thanks to salespeople overselling the benefits of the service or exaggerating the drawbacks of sanding. Be wary of any salesperson who tries to convince you sandless refinishing will totally refurbish your floor or who steers you away from sanding by suggesting it will take a week and fill your home with dust.

Dustless Refinishing: A Cleaner Way to Restore Your Floor

Floor Sanding Machine
© jovkovski1969 / Adobe Stock

If you’ve been looking into sandless refinishing, you’ve no doubt run into the term “dustless refinishing,” too. Although sometimes promoted together, these are two different processes, and they provide two different results.

While sandless refinishing is good for superficial cleaning and restoring shine, it can’t remove most forms of damage, such as scratches. For that, you’ll need to sand the floor.

In the past, sanding a floor meant ending up with a thick layer of dust on the floor and furniture, and having dust floating around in the air for days afterward. Modern dustless floor sanding equipment has made this kind of mess a thing of the past.

This equipment is connected to a vacuum tube and filtration mechanism that sucks the debris into a dust containment system. A technician sands the floor one to three times, removing not only surface dirt and old floor wax, but also a thin layer of the wood itself.

Then the floor can be stained with your preferred color and a finished with a sealer. Dustless sanders provide the same results as traditional sanding equipment. It isn’t completely dust-free, but it leaves very little dust in your home.

If your floor is still in good shape, but you want to give it a quick, low-cost touch-up to bring back the shine, sandless refinishing is a practical choice. To smooth out damage and fully restore your floor to like-new condition, however, a full sanding and refinishing job is the better option. If you’re not sure which type of care your floor needs, talk with a floor restoration professional before you decide.

Editorial Contributors
Henry Parker

Henry Parker

Henry Parker is a home improvement enthusiast who loves to share his passion and expertise with others. He writes on a variety of topics, such as painting, flooring, windows, and lawn care, to help homeowners make informed decisions and achieve their desired results. Henry strives to write high quality guides and reviews that are easy to understand and practical to follow. Whether you are looking for the best electric riding lawn mower, the easiest way to remove paint from flooring, or the signs of a bad tile job, Henry has you covered with his insightful and honest articles. Henry lives in Florida with his wife and two kids, and enjoys spending his free time on DIY projects around the house. You can find some of his work on Today’s Homeowner, where he is a regular contributor.

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