Saturday, August 7, 2010

How To Clean Wood Floors

For Starters -- Are Your Floors Sealed?

Determine how (if at all) your floors are sealed. Cleaning techniques vary depending on the finish -- not the wood type -- so clean accordingly. Not sure what finish you have? Simply rub your finger across the floor. If no smudge appears, the floor is surface sealed. If a smudge does appear, the floor has been treated with a penetrating seal, oil finish, shellac, varnish or lacquer, and then waxed.

For surface-sealed floors: Typically, new wood floors are sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. These are the easiest to care for because they're stain and water-damage resistant. Simply sweep, mop and relax.

For penetrating-seal-treated and oil-treated floors: Also common, a penetrating seal or oil finish soaks into the wood grain and hardens. This type of floor must be pampered and protected with liquid or paste wax.

For lacquered, varnished, shellacked and untreated floors: Although these finishes are not as resistant to moisture, spills and wear as the other sealants mentioned, treat these finishes (and floors with no finish) as you would "penetrating-seal-treated and oil-treated floors."

Tips for Cleaning Surface-Sealed Floors

-Use oils, waxes or furniture sprays. Oil leaves a residue, furniture spray creates a too-slick surface, and wax makes recoating difficult. Also avoid straight ammonia, alkaline products and abrasive cleaners that can dull or scratch the finish.

-Never rely on water alone or a vinegar and water solution. Water won't-budge dirt buildup, and (despite what some people think) vinegar and water is not as effective as soapy water, and it may even dull floors sooner.

-Mop with a soaked sponge. Wring it out completely and mop in the direction of the wood grain. When the water starts to look dirty, immediately empty the bucket and mix a new batch of cleaning solution. Better yet, says Davis, invest in a micro-fiber mop and use it regularly. "These things are the greatest inventions since sliced bread, maybe better," he says. "They pick up all the built up grit that can scratch a wood floor surface."

-No need to panic if you find hairline cracks in the floor. Dry heat during the winter can cause wood floors to shrink and crack. Those cracks should close up on their own during the summer months -- using a humidifier can also help.

-Contact your floor manufacturer for the best cleaning product for your floor -- if that's too hard to find (or too pricey) opt instead for plain soap and water. Add a quarter cup of mild or pH-neutral soap, like liquid dishwashing soap, to a bucket of water. That should do the trick.

-Sweep daily if possible, and mop once or twice a week in high-traffic areas, like the dining room and kitchen.

-Tackle scuff marks with a bit of baking soda on a damp sponge. (It's like a magic eraser!)

-Plan for consistent maintenance. Even "low-maintenance" surface-sealed hardwoods will require recoating (see below) every five to seven years.

Tips for Cleaning Penetrating-Seal-Treated, Oil-Treated, Shellacked, Varnished, Lacquered or Untreated Floors

-Never use acrylic, water-based, furniture or one-step waxes. Acrylic and water-based waxes can turn floors white, furniture wax creates a slippery surface and one-step waxes can trap and seal in dirt. Additional "no-no's" according to Davis are oil soaps or other household cleaners that contain ammonia, tung oil or lemon oil.

-Never damp-mop waxed floors. Simply vacuum and sweep the surface regularly. "But for heaven's sake," says Davis, "do not use the beater bar that is used to vacuum carpet. Carpet fibers need to be beaten up to get them clean. All that attachment does to a wood floor is beat it up." Instead, use the empty headed attachment with felt surrounding it.

-Use a stripper to remove old wax buildup. Choose a product the floor manufacturer recommends, a commercial product or mineral spirits.

-Get stripping: Strip your old wax and apply a fresh new coat about once or twice a year, depending on wear. If a high-traffic area gets dull in between treatments, you can spot-wax that area.

-Follow these tips for cleaning problem areas. White water spots? Add a small amount of mineral spirits to an extra-fine (0000) steel wool pad and gently rub the area in a circular motion. Food stains? Wipe the surface with a damp cloth, rub dry and wax; work from the outside edge of the stain in toward the center. Heel marks? Add a small amount of wax to an extra-fine (0000) steel wool pad and gently rub the area in a circular motion.

Tips for Keeping Floors Happy

-Use rubber-backed or non-ventilated mats or rugs; they can damage your floor. Instead, opt for rugs made especially for your hardwoods -- and remember to shake them out regularly.

-Allow stiletto heels and untrimmed pet claws to run rampant (or even stride casually) across your hardwoods. They can cause dents and scratches that are not covered by the average flooring warranty. "Also avoid golf shoes or any other spiked shoes that you'd use to aid in fertilizing a lawn," Davis advises. "Commercial flamingo dancing in stilettos is also not advised."

-Leave the HVAC on. "Wood floors love 35 to 55 percent relative humidity and temperatures between 60 degrees and 80 degrees," Davis says. "Only do this if you want your floors to have a long life."

-Place mats or area rugs at each entryway to collect the dirt that gets tracked in; particles of dirt can act like sandpaper scratching your floor. Also place mats in areas where water might be splashed, like near a kitchen sink, to protect those areas from damage.

-Protect your floors from over-exposure to sunlight -- which can fade, darken or change your floor's coloring -- with window treatments and area rugs wherever possible. Be sure to rotate the area rugs and furniture regularly to allow floors to age evenly from UV exposure.

-Prevent friction between your flooring and legs of furniture by covering table and other furniture legs with protectors. And if you plan to drag heavy furniture over a wood floor, Davis says, "use clean floor protectors, rubber wheeled dollies or multiple professional weight lifters for this purpose."

-Consider taking that extra step for floors with excessive wear-and-tear. Screening and recoating will make your floors look like new. (Screening is a process used to abrade the polyurethane finish currently on your floor, then fresh coats of urethane are applied for a like-new look.) If that doesn't solve the problem, you might need to consider hiring a professional to sand and refinish the floors. If the damage is only in a small area, you may be able to save yourself all that work if replacement boards are available from your manufacturer.

This article was taken directly from Shelter Pop ( Also, visit my websites at , , for all your flooring needs. We, Americarpet, sell all the flooring you read about on the article.


  1. Floors are the most vulnerable part of a home to get covered with dust and dirt. We cannot let them overlooked. Different materials need different procedures for cleaning. When you have wood floors, you have to first check that whether they are surface sealed. If yes, then you should make sure that the floors can take on stain and water. Irrespective of the type of the wood floors, you should remember that such floor should not be treated with water as it can damage it. You should also protect it from excessive heat and cold. If you use mat or carpet, it can also reduce the possibility of dirtiness.
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