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Effective Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Hardwood Floors

By Luke Armstrong

When well maintained, a good hardwood floor in your home can be impressive. Hardwood flooring is always the most popular flooring option because it can bring natural beauty to your home and the shine of a clean hardwood floor can really add a unique character. However, it takes good, consistent hardwood floor care to maintain the finish and the healthy shine of your wood floor. The price you pay for your hardwood floors makes them worth protecting and failure to do hardwood floor cleaning regularly could lead to wearing of the finish and dirt accumulation. The following tips cover how to clean hardwood floors effectively and what mistakes to avoid.

Use the Right Hardwood Floor Cleaning Products for the Finish

The cleaning products you use on your hardwood floors should be chosen according to the type of finish on the floor. Most hardwood floors have one of two types of finishes; either a surface-sealed finish made from urethane, polyurethane, or poly-acrylic sealant, or a non-surface-sealed finish made with penetrating seals, oil seals, shellac, lacquer, or varnish. Surface-sealed floors are easy to maintain because of their high water and stain resistance as they can be cleaned simply with sweeping and damp mopping using an appropriate cleaning solution.

Hardwood floor care for non-surface-sealed floors is a bit trickier because water can do damage to the unprotected wood. The best way to remove built up debris on this type of hardwood floor is to sweep or vacuum regularly while avoiding mopping or other damp cleaning methods. It is wise to deep clean this type of hardwood floor at least once per year by stripping the floor gently with mineral spirits or appropriate hardwood wax stripper, nourishing the wood with new wax, and buffing the floor to a nice shine.

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Mistakes to Avoid

Because the different finishes of hardwood floors can be so sensitive, it is normally best to stick with the cleaning methods and products recommended by the floor supplier or manufacturer. If the recommended product is not reasonable for your budget, (many times the recommended product can be quite expensive) then you can compare the recommended product with other similar hardwood floor cleaners for pricing. Try your best never to stray from the type of cleaner suggested by the floor supplier and if your hardwood floors are surface-sealed, you can clean them with a mix of water and a pH-neutral soap such as dishwashing liquid.

The following products should always be avoided when cleaning hardwood floors: vinegar and other acidic products, abrasive chemicals and soaps, bleach, cleaners with ammonia, oil-based soap, and furniture, acrylic, or water-based waxes. These products can dull the finish or cause surface damage to your hardwood floors.

Wood Floor Cleaning Carol Stream Wheaton IL

Choosing the Proper Vacuum Cleaner

Another important aspect of hardwood floor maintenance is using a vacuum cleaner that is safe for the floor. Vacuuming is very important for effective wood floor cleaning but many vacuums can dent or scratch the floor with the plastic wheels and parts. You must use a vacuum cleaner that has a brush or felt head to avoid damaging the floor. If the wheels on this type of vacuum cleaner may be scratching your floor, you can put sticky backed felt tape on the wheels to keep the wood protected. You can also avoid traditional sweeping and vacuuming altogether by using a microfiber dusting pad for hardwood floor cleaning instead.

Proper Damp Mopping Methods for Hardwood Floors

Damp mopping should only be done on surface-sealed hardwood floors because they are moisture resistant and if your floor is not surface-sealed, do not ever damp mop it. The right cleaning methods for this type of hardwood floor are discussed above in the first tip. For surface-sealed wood floors, damp mopping is an effective cleaning method but it should be done carefully to avoid damaging the floor. Start with a soft felt or cloth mop and stir it in the cleaning solution. When you take it out of the solution, wring it out thoroughly and mop the floor. Go over the floor one more time with a damp mop and clean water only after mopping it once with the solution. Another important thing to remember is to mop with the wood grain so the fibers don’t get caught in the wood.

Misc. Household Hardwood Floor Cleaning Remedies

While regular wood floor care will help clean and protect your hardwood floors from long term dust and debris buildup, it does little to protect you from sudden mishaps such as spills and scuff marks. Fortunately, there are some household remedies that are effective for protecting hardwood floors from common mishaps:

  • Chewing Gum: If you find gum stuck to your hardwood floor, you can remove it by freezing it. Put ice cubes in a plastic bag and hold the bag on top of the gum until it becomes dry and hardened. Then remove the brittle gum from the floor.
  • Scuff Marks: Scuff marks are common on light hardwood floors but they can be removed by using baking soda and a damp sponge.
  • Water Marks: Water marks on hardwood floors can be removed carefully using mineral spirits and a fine steel wool pad. After rubbing out the mark, apply a layer of liquid or paste wax to the area.
  • Greasy Stains: Spilt food such as spaghetti sauce can leave a big greasy stain on hardwood floors and must be cleaned up immediately. For surface-sealed hardwood floors, remove as much of the mess as you can and clean the floor with a commercial hardwood floor cleaner. For non-surface sealed floors, use a damp sponge to remove the mess and a clean cloth for drying. You may need to reapply a wax finish to the area.
  • Doormats and Rugs: Preventing dirt in high traffic areas is a great way to maintain your hardwood floors and the best way to accomplish this is with doormats and rugs. It is important to avoid rubber backed mats because the rubber can trap water which will ruin the wood.

Hardwood floors are an impressive feature in any home but the key to maintaining their natural beauty is to practice regular hardwood floor cleaning and maintenance. Properly cleaning hardwood floors on a regular basis will also help extend the life of the floor and protect your investment. If you do not feel comfortable cleaning your hardwood floors, there are professionals that provide hardwood floor cleaning services. These professionals are highly trained to clean your hardwood floor effectively and restore its original, natural beauty.