How to Clean Hardwood Floors
It’s amazing how styles come and go, even when it comes to something as utilitarian as flooring.
Take a look at real estate listings of older homes and you’ll see them trumpeting the fact they have hardwood flooring. Hardwood floors have been a popular item for home owners for years. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had hardwood floors for years or if you’re new to hardwood floors, one fact remains: it’s important to know how to keep them clean.
Natural hardwood flooring is real wood, and just like constant rain can ruin an untreated deck, water can damage a hardwood floor if the floor has been incorrectly finished.
Thankfully, most wood floor surfaces today are finished with a stain and a surface finish that protects floors from wear and tear, and helps provide a more durable surface, but it is still important to clean this finish in a way that won't damage this surface.
When purchasing your hardwood flooring, make sure you ask the salesperson how the manufacturer recommends cleaning it based on the type of finish the floor has.
What Type of Wood Floor Do You Have?
When you clean your wood floors, you are cleaning the finish, not the wood. For this reason, it’s important to know what type of floor you have.
If you’ve moved into a house with wood floors and are unsure of the type of floor and finish, take a few pictures from different angles and show them to a professional. They should be able to tell you what you have. Once you know, you can move on to the cleaning solution that’s best for the floor.
Is it OK to Use a Vacuum?
If there are large messes, like a box of cereal that fell on the floor, pick up as much as you can by hand, then vacuum up the remaining mess using a vacuum cleaner safe for hardwood floors or a canister vac.
You want to use a vacuum that has strong enough suction to get in cracks and crevices, but not something that will scratch or damage your hardwood floors (such as a roller brush that can’t be turned off).
Maintaining Hardwood Floors
- Keeping hardwood floors clean starts with a daily sweep using something that attracts dirt and dust, such as a Swiffer Sweeper. These mops can clean a large room in seconds without having to move piles of dirt around the room.
- Sweeping daily not only makes the floors look nice between routine cleanings, but also prevents scratches and dirt from being driven deep into the wood. If you can’t do a quick sweep daily, then try for every other day. Heck, this might be a good chore for the kids!
- Use rugs in high traffic areas—for example, in front of doors (inside the house, outside, or both) and sinks, in bathrooms, and maybe a larger throw rug in the bedrooms—to catch dirt and debris before they have a chance to settle and dig into the floors.
- Take shoes off when entering the home, opting for a nice pair of comfy slippers instead.
- Use floor protectors under furniture.
- Wipe up spills as soon as you can to prevent staining and the possibility of the shine being dulled.
Routine Cleaning of Hardwood Flooring
What is a routine clean when it comes to hardwood floors? There really is no magical solution. We can provide you with cleaning options and tips, but it all boils down to lifestyle and your cleaning requirements.
A routine clean for one family may mean something completely different for another family. It all depends on family size, obligations and availability, and the amount of traffic in and out of rooms.
One family's routine clean may be once a week, while for another family, twice a month is all that is needed. If there are only two of you in the house, you might only clean the floors (aside from sweeping) every month.
General Cleaning: Using Water to Clean Your Hardwoods
Plain old water is a great way of cleaning everyday dirt from a hardwood floor. The most important thing to remember when using water—or any liquid for that matter—on a hardwood floor is not to use too much. Use it sparingly!
Your mop should only be damp, no wetter than that. If the water is pooling on the floor, you’re using too much. Stop immediately, soak up what you can, and wring the mop out.
Dry with a towel or sh-mop when finished.
A Deeper Clean: Using a Vinegar and Water Solution
For a more powerful and streak-free clean, a simple solution of white vinegar and water makes an excellent cleaning solution.
- For old wood floors, use 1/4 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon warm water.
- For Swedish or Pergo floors, use 1/2 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon warm water.
- For bamboo floors, use 1/4 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon warm water.
- Place the bucket on a towel large enough to catch the water drippings so that it doesn't land directly on the floor.
- Wring your mop out completely and mop in the direction of the grain. Empty and refill the cleaning solution as the water gets dirty.
- The vinegar and water solution does not need to be rinsed, but if you are so inclined, rinse using a clean bucket of warm water. Dip your mop in this bucket, then wring out until the mop is just damp—do not use too much water.
Whether you rinse or not, remember to dry the floor when you are finished cleaning it.
Say No to Ammonia
While vinegar is a great solution for cleaning hardwoods, ammonia can damage the surface coating on hardwood floors that have oil or wax finishes. Depending on the surface finish, ammonia can cause a white hazing and soften the finish. It’s best to just say No to ammonia.
There are some commercial products that are specifically meant for hardwood flooring that work wonders. Make sure you know the composition of your hardwood flooring when choosing a commercial cleaner.
Some cleaners may remove any wax or varnish that may be on your flooring, so choose with care, or ask a sales associate where you’re doing your shopping.
Having hardwood flooring can make a room look beautiful, but make sure you keep the flooring in tip-top shape by keeping it clean.
Keeping throw rugs down, taking shoes off when coming home, and wiping up spills immediately will all help towards having a long-lasting floor.
Image location: Timber Floors