Bamboo and Cork Flooring Care, Cleaning & Maintenance

cleaning-maintenance-care-guideProper care and maintenance of your cork or bamboo flooring will keep it looking its best and help it to last as long as possible. Bamboo is treated as a hardwood when it comes to cleaning and general care, so if you have ever mopped a hardwood floor, you’re already well onto your way in caring for a bamboo or cork floor.

Like any floor covering, a little TLC with cork will go a long way. The first step is to keep the surface of it clean. Dust, dirt and sand acts like sandpaper to mar the surface, wear away the protective finish and dull the shine.

This flooring guide discusses Cork and Bamboo flooring and its unique cleaning and maintenance needs. To learn more about these types of home flooring, visit the full consumer buying guide or  installation guides. If you are ready buy a cork or bamboo floor for your home, visit the price guide to learn about what you can expect to pay.

Cleaning Tools, Supplies & Methods of Cleaning

A list of cork flooring maintenance tools is pretty simple. It includes a soft broom or lightweight vacuum with a suction-only mode, a mop and bucket, floor cleaner approved for cork flooring and soft clothes for spot-cleaning.

To clean your cork flooring, start with a soft-bristled broom is best. For better control of dust and allergens, you may use a vacuum cleaner, but not one with an engaged, rotating beater bar. Choose either a light vacuum without a bristle bar or one that has a “Hard Surface” setting that doesn’t engage the bar.

After removing loose dirt, wet a mop and wring it out thoroughly. Mop the floor gently. For most corks, a light, mild wood flooring soap can be used. Check with the cork flooring dealer or manufacturer for specific products.

For sticky, tough items, use a dry rag to wipe off as much as possible. Then, use hot water on the rag to remove the rest. Dry the area immediately after cleaning.

The cork flooring dealer may also be able to recommend a cleaning kit made especially for the brand and type of flooring you have.

If any liquid spills onto the floor, remove it as quickly as possible. If it sits on the flooring, it may get into the cork, causing it to swell and possibly staining it.

Place mats at doors for foot-wiping and also at sinks to catch any splashes or drips. Choose mats made of natural, absorbent fabric. If it gets wet, remove it from the floor. Vacuum or launder the mats frequently and mop beneath them to remove abrasive dirt.

DO NOT use mats with a rubber backing because they can trap moisture against the floor and cause swelling or staining.

Refinishing or Replacing Your Cork & Bamboo Flooring

Not all cork flooring can be refinished. Check with the dealer before you buy if you want a product you’re sure can be refinished. If yours can be refinished, here are the basic steps.

1. Remove baseboard trim, toe kicks and doors.

2. Use an electric belt sander with 60-grit sanding pad to remove the polyurethane finish and a very thin layer of the cork surface. Cork is very soft, so don’t push too hard or stay in one spot very long.

3. Vacuum the floor entirely.

4. Switch to 100-grit or 120-grit sandpaper and give the floor a once-over.

5. Vacuum the floor very thoroughly.

6. Use a mop that is slightly wet to remove the rest of the dust and debris. Towel-dry the cork flooring.

7. Wait several hours to make sure the floor is completely dry. Using a fan can help to speed the drying.

8. Use a soft-bristled, wide paint brush to apply a new coat of polyurethane. Make the coat light. Work from a corner to a door, so you’ve got an exit. Read the sealer directions carefully and follow them closely. Several light coats are preferred to one heavy coat.

NOTE: You may want to ventilate the house while applying polyurethane sealer. Wearing a mask that filters VOC fumes is a good idea too. You can find one at your local hardware of flooring store.

9. Allow the sealer to dry the recommended amount of time and repeat at least once. Some home flooring pros recommend 3 or 4 coats of polyurethane over cork flooring. You’ll be surprised at how much of the first coat absorbs into the cork.

Allow the final coat to dry 12-24 hours before allowing heavy traffic on it or returning furniture or carpets to it.

10. Reinstall the trim and doors.

Cork & Bamboo Flooring Maintenance and Care FAQs

Q: Are there things you should NOT do for cork flooring care and maintenance.
A: Yes. Never use excessive water when cleaning. Do no use abrasive, soft scrub-type cleaners. Do not use acidic cleaners like vinegar. Ammonia should not be used either. Oils and waxes are not recommended for cork floors.

Q: How thick does a floor need to be in order to consider refinishing it?
A: The thicker the better. Home flooring pros recommend at least 1/4″ but 3/8” or 1/2″ is better.

Q: Is cork refinishing a DIY project?
A: If you’ve got experience with a belt sander and applying polyurethane, it might be something you can try yourself.

Q: If the floor gets too wet during cleaning or from a spill and swells, what should be done?
A: Dry any remaining moisture from the spot. Place a fan where it will blow directly on it or over it to quicken evaporation. Give it a few days. It might dry out and shrink back to normal.

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