What is a reactive? No, we aren’t talking about how I reacted to Aaron Rodgers going out in the first game of the 2018 season. I definitely reacted to that! I was like NOOOO!!! Here we go again, another year of the backup QB play. But low and behold here comes Aaron back in the second half and leads the packers to a great come from behind victory! Sorry I got a little side tracked here. Reactives, what are they and how do they affect wood flooring? Lets dive in and talk a little more about this topic.
What is a reactive, and how does it work?
Like its name suggests, reactives need something contained in the wood to react with. These naturally occurring substances in hardwood are called tannins. An interesting fact is that tannins have been used in many different industries. Originally, tannins were extracted from hardwoods and used in the tanning process of animal hides. It is also what can give wine a bitter taste as they use oak barrels to store the wine in during the fermentation process. In the hardwood industry, a reactive is a component, that when applied to a hardwood floors, reacts with the naturally occurring tannins that are present in the wood to acheive various effects.
Do they work on all wood species?
Because tannin levels in the wood determine the change in appearance when using a reactive, not all hardwoods will respond the same way. Reactives have a profound affect on hardwoods like white oak, but have very little to no affect on woods like pine or maple. However, hardwoods that have low levels of tannins can be pretreated with tannic acid, or something as simple as earl grey tea, which have high levels of tannins, so that reactives will have a greater affect on the wood.
What are the effects of reactives on hardwood?
The effects of reactives can be quite profound, especially when applying to hardwood like white oak. Tannin levels can vary board by board so there is a large range of variability even within the same species of wood. This variability will cause some pieces of wood to change to a really dark grey and yet others won’t change much at all. Other external factors that contribute to the effects of a reactive can be the soil quality in which a particular tree was grown, and also the reactive product itself. Some manufactures have their own reactive products like Rubio Monocoat’s Smoke and Fume, which each have very distinct effects. Or, using a little chemistry, we are capable of making our own reactive, namely iron acetate, using steel wool and vinegar.
Will it work on my existing floor?
Reactives can work on your existing floors, but can be greatly affected by the type of finish and cleaners that were previously used on the floor. Some finishes can neutralize the tannins in the wood, which can cause certain areas of a floor to appear splotchy. These areas will need to be touched up with some color to make them blend in. So, the overall answer is yes it will work but there are things to consider when thinking about having it done.
As you can see having us use reactives on your floor opens up many colors possibilities and layers of colors. To learn more about color possibilities you will want to go read a blog post we did on that! Read more
Learn how to maintain and protect your hardwood floor, as well as how often it should be refinished.