The Lowdown On Lye .
We love to lye floors!
Lye is a caustic alkali used to lighten pine, oak
and other wood species.
Lye is also present in the soap which used regularly will
clean, further lighten and protect the floors.
There is a perception that lye'd floors are hard to maintain and this is true
in that you cannot just forget about the floor for a few years without
any maintenance as you might with a thick varnished finish
(although all wood floors need some maintenance!)
Lye'd floors must be soaped regularly.
However soaping and the use of lye is the only way to stop the natural yellowing
that occurs in wood such as pine and oak .
Pre finished so called "whitwashed" floors which are sealed
with a layer of varnish will yellow and start degrading fairly quickly
as the floor is sealed and cannot be soaped.
The regular soaping also creates a layer that is surprisingly resilient .
There are a few ways to treat the floors once the lye has been applied.
You can apply a white oil (white or extra white) which will give added protection
or you can simply apply soap onto the raw floor.
This purist method of just soaping a floor is used a lot in Scandinavia
but they do tend to leave their shoes at the door!
Soaping also gently whitens and grey's the floor creating
more of a driftwood effect over time.
One can also vary the soap between clear and white
to control how white the floor goes.
In any case, whether the floors are just soaped or oiled, the effect is