House Cleaning Tips > Floors > How To Clean Hardwood Floors

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Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Sand, grit and dirt are hardwood floor’s worst adversary.

They act just like sandpaper each time you step on it.

The best advice for wood floor owners is: remember that when you are cleaning your hardwood floor, you are cleaning the finish – not the wood.

With that in mind, is the cleaner you are going to use appropriate to the type of finish you have on your floor? Learning about your floor’s finish is essential to proper care.

Maintaining Hard Wood Floors:

Maintaining your hardwood floors requires several things; Sweeping, vacuuming, dust mopping and stain removing are just the start.

Maintaining your floors will require occasionally refinishing as well. Knowing about your floors will help you decide when and how to proceed with care and maintenance.

Types of Wood Finish

The all-important floor finish- One thing you need to find out before deciding on how to clean your wood floors is what type of finish your floors have.

Surface finishes can be polyurethane (the most common), pre finished floors, water based polyurethane (second most common), and catalyzed.

Penetrating seals can be acrylics, oils or waxes. Most seals have either a matte or satin finish and most surface finishes have a shiny finish.

If you can feel the grain of the wood then you most likely have a penetrating seal instead of a surface finish.

Oils and waxes penetrate the wood and protect it from the inside out. Surface finishes cover the wood with a clear finish that keeps anything from damaging the wood. Please note that ammonia is especially bad for oils and waxes. Ammonia will cause oil and wax to weaken, soften and turn white.

Remember when cleaning your wood floors that you are cleaning the finish and not the actual wood so knowing about your finish is important. Because the finish is so important, some manufacturers will not guarantee their product if you use anything but their cleaners. If your floor is still under warranty, be sure you read the manual before putting any cleaners on the floor.

One trick to determining the condition of your wood floor is to put about 2 tablespoons of warm water on the most worn part of your floor.

If that water soaks in and turns a dark color, your floors are in need of refinishing. If your floors soak up the water but leave a lighter spot, you probably need to begin considering refinishing. The third option, the water doesn’t soak in and just beads on the top, means you are in good shape and should just do regular cleaning

Cleaning Old Wood Floors

The most important thing is to use the smallest amount of water to clean this floor. This floor type is usually found in older homes or buildings. These floors are generally worn in appearance, and the surface is porous and holds a lot of dirt.

Use Murphy’s oil soap on this type of flooring. The oil helps restore luster. Make sure your mop is not soaking wet. Do not set your mop pail on the floor as it may leave a ring. Always wipe the floor dry.

Waxing Old Wood Floors

If you want to spruce up your floors and aren’t planning on refinishing your floor in the next few years, you can wax the floor. Waxing will leave your floor looking fairly new without nearly as much expense or hassle as refinishing the floor.

However, waxing does have its disadvantages. One disadvantage is that it is a difficult process and maybe better to leave it up to the professionals. Another disadvantage is that it limits the options later on when you decide to refinish the floors. Re-coating options may also be limited by the kind of wax you have applied to the floors.

One thing you might want to consider when you have your floors installed is keeping several planks of the spare wood. Each time you have the colors changed or anything done to your wood floor, also have it done to your spare planks. As sections of your floor get damaged, you have some spare planks to replace on your floor. This method may keep you sane instead of spending an incredible amount of time trying to match up stain colors when you find that you must replace a plank.

Cleaning Swedish Finish Wood Floors

Swedish finish wood floors should not be waxed. Swedish finish wood floors can be identified by their bright, shiny appearance. If you are not sure if a floor is Swedish Finish or not, be cautious and just just plain water.

We clean Swedish Finish floors using 1 capful (1 TBL) of vinegar to 1 gallon of warm water. Swedish finish floors are easily streaked, and puddles will dry as spots. Dry the floor thoroughly after mopping.

How to Avoiding Damaging Hardwood Floors

Sunlight

Direct sunlight will damage, discolor and possibly even warp your natural hardwood floors. Add sheer curtains if necessary. Pull closed the curtains during the day or when you will be gone for long periods of time.

Scratches

Always lift the furniture when moving it to avoid scratching or damaging the floor or the floor’s finish. Brooms that have ends that fray out are better because then ends act as a polisher and also pick up the smallest bits of grit.

Oil Soap

Also, oils soaps aren’t a good idea for a couple of reasons. First, they are sticky when dry and therefore attract more dirt than repel. Oil soaps also leave a residue that creates problems when it comes time for heavier cleanings or refinishing.

Removing Stains from Hardwood Floors

Removing stains from hardwood floors requires several steps. Generally stains will require:

  1. Removing 1 – 2 layers of finish from the entire piece of wood
  2. Sanding the area with the finish removed
  3. Remove the dust from the area to make sure it doesn’t get mixed back into the refinishing process
  4. Reapply the same finish being careful not to apply more layers than you removed.
  5. Buff well.

Squeaking Wood Floors

Squeaks can occur in wood floors after several years of cold winters. Wood dries in the winter and cold weather and contracts.

The humidity in the summer causes the opposite effect. After several years, squeaks can occur. To fix these annoying squeaks, the ones that are always in the most frequently traveled path at night, try pouring talc, powdered soap or powdered graphite between the boards.

This should go a long way toward quieting it. If that doesn’t take care of the issue, you can nail down the board and use wood putty to cover the nail hole.


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Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Mrs Clean (Corina Wilson) is not only the owner of the company, but a very busy mother of 3 children.

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Mrs Clean realized long ago, that a clean home is a necessity, not a luxury when we are struggling to find the time in our day to cover the very basic levels of work and/or family obligations. The battle seems to never end... (but that's why we're here to help!)

When Mrs Clean is not busy managing her house cleaning company or running her kids back and forth to their events, she enjoys experimenting with natural and non-toxic cleaners and learning new techniques to remove stains.

She thoroughly enjoys sharing her valuable information with the readers of her blogs and various social media sites.

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