Hardwood floors are one of the more popular choices for floor surfaces in homes these days, and it’s not hard to see why. The very distinct, warm look of hardwood gives homes a much friendlier, more “homey” look and feel. The texture is also pleasant as well, and, unlike stone or tile, tends to feel much warmer to exposed feet.

But there’s one decision homeowners need to make about how to protect their hardwood floors. This boils down to one of two choices; oil or varnish. We’re going to explain what the hardwood oil floor choice is, and why you might want to consider this.


In the simplest terms, the difference between a varnish and an oil floor is like the difference between wearing a bulletproof vest, and working out. One solution is a tough layer of armor for protection, while the other actually strengthens the body itself and makes it more durable.

Applying varnish to a wooden floor is, in some ways, a “fire and forget” solution, although, it does have some side effects that homeowners need to be aware of. When applied to a floor, varnish covers the wood with a layer of chemical compounds known as urethane. This is a literal, physical “shield” that will actively block your floor from making contact with anything. For people who prefer this type of look, varnish also applies that reflective sheen that can make a wooden floor look very polished and shiny.

One major issue with varnish on hardwood floors is scratching. If you have pets like cats or dogs with claws or have any accidents such as dropping blades, or even just dragging furniture across the floor rather than lifting it, this can scratch your varnish. Over time, these marks on the varnish can get noticeable and very unattractive. At that point, the only way regain the clear look is sand down the whole floor to get rid of the old layer of varnish that’s damaged and apply a new layer.


On the other hand, if you’re thinking of a hardwood oil floor, this presents its own different set of considerations. Oil doesn’t coat wood on top with a hard, protective layer. Instead, it actually soaks into the wood, and bonds with it at a molecular level, strengthening it, and making it naturally more durable and resistant to liquids so that they bead on top rather than soaking into the wood itself. When you see a first scratch, it is then possible to sand locally and simply oil again. This makes oils such as Kunos a great option for a variety of wooden surfaces, including floors.

Best of all, however, an oil floor retains all the characteristics of wood that people love while also providing options that homeowners are looking for. Unlike varnishes, which cover the wood with a hard, shiny layer, oils such as Kunos keep the quality of the wood intact while also providing the warm, organic feel that people love. Depending on how you apply and finish the oil, a Kunos oil project can result in a matte or satin finish. Whichever you choose, you can expect a beautiful, natural finish that your family and guests alike will adore.


First, ensure that your hardwood floor is in the condition that you want it before putting the oil on your floor. If it needs sanding or repair, work to eliminate defects or even splinters, get this all done now. Once you know your floor is in good shape, it’s time to apply the oil. If you maintain the surface on the floor area you feel it’s becoming dull, you should never have to sand it again.

Pick the color of oil that you want carefully! You’ll have a range of different oils with different colors that can significantly change the tone and hue of your floor. Find the one you like and then either apply with a machine or use a little elbow grease rub it in with a cloth. You’ll need 3 coats, so allow about 12 hours between applications to put on the next coat.


You should only clean your floor two weeks after oil application. Use specific cleaners designed to work on a hardwood oil floor. Vim®, Pine-Sol® and other corrosive cleaners have degreasing agents in them that will attack the oil in your floor. If you need to apply a cleaning solution to your floor, a pH neutral product like TRENA will work beautifully.

Even if you choose to buy a pre-oiled floor, you will still require regular maintenance. You’ll also need to re-apply oil on a regular basis, depending on how much foot traffic you get in the room. High traffic areas like a kitchen might need a reapplication after 2-3 years. Low foot traffic areas, like guest rooms or reading rooms, might not need another reapplication for 15 years.

Discover more benefits of oil and comprehensive comparisons between oil, wax, and varnish for your hardwood floor when you download our comparative guide.

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