Hardwood floors can add a warm feeling and beauty to your home. It’s also one of the amenities home buyers have on their list when shopping for a new home. They’re durable, and with proper care, they can last for decades. In order to keep the natural beauty of your floors and to help your investment last, know the tips, tools, and cleaning tricks of the trade. From vacuuming to mopping to spot cleaning, discover how to clean your hardwood floors and what to use without damaging your floor’s finish.
Every type of floor needs to be cleaned. That’s just part of having a home. Fortunately, if you have wood flooring, a dust mop is an easy way to remove debris. Dust mops are made with microfiber pads, which are used to attract and hold on to dust. While dust mopping won’t remove the dirt and grime that builds up over time, routinely dust mopping 3-4 times a week is the best way to keep daily dust and residue off the floor surface. Dust mopping is safe enough to become one of your usual daily tasks.
Vacuuming is also a good way to remove dirt, dust, and pet hair. When vacuuming, do not use a vacuum with a beater bar attachment since one could scratch up the floor finish. Hopefully, your vacuum has a floor-brush attachment, which is the best option for a wood floor. Once a week should be sufficient for vacuuming unless there is a lot of foot traffic and if you have pets.
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Floors can go through a lot. Daily traffic can cause scuffs and scratches, not to mention mishaps and spills are inevitable. The best way to keep your hardwood floors looking great is to start with preventative measures. Lessening the tracked-in dirt is step one. Place floor mats both inside and outside exterior entryways. In snowy or rainy weather, make sure shoes are removed to avoid damaging floors with tracked in water.
It’s also a good idea to keep a clean cloth near the door to quickly clean up any water that may get tracked inside the house. Even when the weather isn’t wet, it's a smart move to take off your shoes when coming indoors. Removing shoes at the door will also keep dirt and grime from getting tracked all over the house.
Two more tips for preventing marks on your hardwood floor are to use floor protectors under furniture legs and adding rugs in play areas to ensure children's toys don't scratch the floor.
It may sound incredibly simple but a regular soft sweep of the floors can help to keep the floors looking nice. Try a wide-angled broom for gathering up any crumbs or a vacuum with a soft roller head. Microfiber mops with a swivel head and reusable pads for dry mopping are recommended for regular cleanings. You can also use a damp mop, but be sure you’re using a product formulated for wood such as Bona hardwood floor cleaner or wipes.
When a deep clean is needed to remove oil and built up grime, you can mop your hardwood by using a microfiber mop and a wood floor cleaner. Saturate the mop in the cleaning solution, likely diluted with water (should be used according to the instructions). Wring the mop until it is only slightly damp, and then mop the floor being careful not to have any standing water. Standing water will damage or warp a wood floor surface. If the weather is humid, or if you live in a humid climate, use a fan or turn on the air-conditioner to speed up drying.
When searching for the answer to this question, you’ll find mixed answers. There are instructions online for using vinegar diluted with a gallon of warm water for cleaning, and there is advice given to never use vinegar - even diluted with water. First of all, vinegar is very acidic. It stands to reason that vinegar can dull or damage the polyurethane surface, leaving the floors dull looking. Second, with the many specially engineered cleaning solutions available for hardwood, it stands to reason one of those products can clean hardwood better than any homemade solution. However, if you've used vinegar on your tile and vinyl flooring with good results and wish to try it on your wood, test a small area first to make sure it doesn't dull the floor finish.
When it comes to choosing a cleaning product for your wood floor, there are key components you should look for in a ready-made cleaner:
Hardwood flooring installed before the 1970s often required wax applications to ensure floors were protected and retained their beauty and lustrous appearance. Today, most hardwood flooring has a protective polyurethane or urethane topcoat to provide a layer of protection against damage and wear. Floors with these finishes should not be waxed.
If you have an older hardwood floor that needs to be waxed periodically, make sure your choice won't damage your hardwood floor. Choose a product that is specifically for hardwood flooring. Never use a wax made for vinyl or linoleum on hardwood flooring. If you have hardwood that needs to be waxed, you can choose between a paste and a liquid.
The brand of paste wax you choose isn’t important as long as it is compatible with your floor finish. When applying, you should rub with the grain of the wood, using a cheesecloth or terrycloth rag. If you have a patterned floor, rub in a circular motion. Allow the wax to dry, then buff the floors by hand with a dry pad or use a buffing machine.
If you aren’t keen on the idea of using as much elbow grease, opt for a liquid product. Applying a liquid wax is often easier since there isn’t a lot of rubbing involved. When using a liquid wax, do not use a mop since it won’t be able to push the liquid into every nook and cranny. As with a paste, use a terrycloth rag to wipe the floor, following the grain of the wood. After it has dried, buff it with a dry pad. With a liquid wax, it’s easy to apply a second coat if desired.
Preventing damage to your wood isn’t complicated and can be done in a few easy steps. First, should you spill something on your flooring, clean is up right away. Ignoring spills can cause stains or warp the wood. Second, don’t use a vacuum with a beater bar on your hardwood. The finish can be easily scratched by using a heavy vacuum. Your vacuum should come with a rotating brush attachment for wood. Third, make sure to use proper cleaners created for hardwood. And finally, steam cleaners should never be used on wood.
If you need to add some shine to your floors, black tea has been used for many years on hardwood due to the tannic acid found in tea. Boil a kettle of water then add five to six teabags. Let it steep for ten minutes, and then add it to a bucket. Make sure to add cool water to bring the temperature down a bit. Use a soft cloth for applying the tea, but wring it out before application. The tannic acid in tea brings a beautiful shine to dull and lifeless floors.
Covering deep scratches and scuff marks that remain after cleaning is part of knowing how to maintain a floor's finish. One trick is to take a crayon the color of the floor and rub it on the scratch to fill it in. After filling it in, turn a blow dryer on high to heat where the crayon was used, then buff it with a soft cloth.
Another fix for deep scratches is to use lightweight sandpaper to sand along the grain of the wood, being careful not to sand too hard. Select a wood filler that matches your floor and fill the scratch. After it has dried (this takes about 24 hours), sand it so it is smooth. If the wood filler was a perfect match to your wood, there will be no need to stain the whole board.
Your hardwood is an investment that, with the right amount of care, will last for years. Proper cleaning and maintenance is how to achieve the longevity you desire. Thankfully, the cleaning and maintenance doesn’t have to take up a lot of your time. Using good quality hardwood cleaning products, spot cleaning, and knowing what not to do will go a long way. And if you are ever unsure about the best way to clean wood floors, it's always a good idea to consult the manufacturer.
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