Browsing around the blogosphere this past month and it’s clear that most of my fellow bloggers have the much-appreciated Spring Break on their minds at the moment. But alongside the dream of relaxing poolside for a well-deserved vacation is the less relaxing thought lurking in the back of my mind that it’s also time for another annual tradition: the dreaded Spring Clean!
Time to get out the rarely-used extra long feather-duster out, get the curtains down for a wash, get some vinegar solution onto the not-so sparkling windows, and get the floors polished up to perfection!
The good news is that if you’ve got a hardwood floor, and you’ve been a good hardwood floor owner and done due diligence throughout the year in maintaining it, then there won’t be too much for you to do on that front (click here for the best way to clean hardwood floors on a regular basis). The bad news is that if, like most of us, life is too hectic to keep up with maintenance chores, you’re going to need to a little bit of elbow grease and some key ingredients to rejuvenate your floor and bring it back to life.
So, here to help you are a few Home Flooring Pros top tips to get the best results when it comes to cleaning your hardwood flooring:
Tip #1: Choose the best products for your hardwood finish
Knowing exactly what the best hardwood floor cleaning product is for your floor is the most important information you’ll need to get the job done well – and this will very much depend on exactly what kind of finish your floor has.
As far as cleaning goes, there are essentially only two kinds of hardwood floor finish: floors that have been sealed with urethane, polyurethane or poly-acrylic sealant (commonly known as surface-sealed floors) and those that haven’t (this includes unfinished floors AND floors finished with penetrating seals, oil seals, lacquer, varnish or shellac.)
Most newly-installed floors are the first kind and have been sealed in this way to provide the most easy-care option possible for modern life: because these surface-sealed floors are very resistant to water and stains, all you need to do is sweep and then damp-mop them with a hardwood floor cleaning solution. Hooray!
For non surface-sealed floors, because they are a lot more sensitive to water penetration you must avoid mopping at all costs! Instead remove dust and dirt build-up by simply sweeping or vacuuming on a regular basis, and then once a year provide the floor with some intense TLC: gently strip back old wax using mineral spirits or a recommended hardwood wax stripper, then nourish the wood with either fresh liquid or paste wax, and finally buff the floor up to a shine.
Tip #2: What NOT to use to clean hardwood floors
If you’ve very recently laid a new solid or engineered hardwood floor then the best option for keeping it clean is to use the floor cleaner that the floor supplier recommends.
Of course the recommended product is often not the cheapest product, so it is tempting to want to try other options. If your budget is stretched then for surface-sealed floors you can use a basic soap and water mix to mop your floor (by the way, pH-neutral soap like dishwashing liquid is ideal, but check out Tip #4 before you do any mopping); for non surface-sealed floors you can find wax strippers and liquid or paste waxes from a number of manufacturers to compare prices.
But do stick to those options only. Regardless of the finish, the following products should NEVER be used when cleaning any kind of hardwood floor: acidic products like vinegar, cleaners with ammonia, abrasive chemicals or abrasive soaps, bleaches, oil-based soaps, furniture sprays or furniture wax, acrylic or water-based waxes, or anything that claims to be a one-step wood cleaning product!
These kinds of products at best will leave your floors either dull, slippery or, in the case of acrylic-based wax, covered in white residue, and at worst will scratch the hardwood surface and allow more dirt to clog up in those scratches over time!
Tip #3: Use the right vacuum cleaner
Regularly sweeping or vacuuming your hardwood floor is the first step in keeping it clean overall, and in areas of high traffic you may find it pays to do this on a daily basis. But if you do find you need to vacuum your floor, then avoid dents and scratches by using a vacuum cleaner with either a brush or felt head! Any other kind of vacuum head is liable to dent or mark your floor horribly! Use care when vacuuming hardwood floors.
Also you may want to make sure that the wheels of your vacuum cleaner aren’t scratching your floor – if they do, then a quick fix solution is to apply sticky backed felt tape to the wheels (and keep a roll of felt tape on hand to replace as necessary.)
And thanks to the miracles of modern science, another option to either sweeping or vacuuming is to use a microfiber dusting pad, ideally one with a fringe that will help trap both the dirt and debris. According to this reader’s comment on the Apartment Therapy blog using a motion similar to mowing the lawn (i.e. not lifting the microfiber pad off the floor once you’ve started) will keep larger bits of debris on the edge of the pad rather than under it, thus avoiding inadvertently scratching the floor – cool tip!
Tip #4: Water is the Enemy!!!
Whether your floor is surface-sealed or not, water is definitely NOT its friend! So it’s pretty important to appreciate the correct damp-mopping technique. NB – if your floor is NOT surface-sealed with urethane, polyurethane or poly-acrylic sealant, you should NEVER, EVER mop it! (See Tip #1 for what to do instead).
So assuming you do have the kind of floor that can be mopped, what you need to do is not flood the floor with tons of water! Rather, first ensure that you have a very soft felt or cloth mop; then ensure that after swilling it in your cleaning solution that you wring it out thoroughly so that it is damp, rather than soaking wet, before mopping the floor; change buckets as often as needed, and then go over the whole floor again with clean water alone – again with a damp mop.
Another way of ensuring that you are not over wetting your floor is to decant your cleaning solution in a fine spray bottle. You then spray the solution on the floor and then mop it with a dry mop or microfiber cloth.
Finally, whichever mopping method you use – always mop following the grain of the wood, so that you don’t snag your mop fibers on any rough patches.
Tip #5: Ice, Ice, Baby – and other clever spot cleaning tips
So, you’ve now spent a day or so getting your lovely hardwood floor looking the business and then disaster strikes! Kids/ animals/ or reckless friends are certainly involved, and you know you have to take quick action to save your floor and preserve your sense of calm! Here’s what you need to do if…
Chewing gum is stuck to your hardwood floor: fill a plastic bag with ice and then place it on top of the gum, wait for the gum to become dry, brittle and crumbly, remove the dry gum and then clean floor as usual. This method works well for candle wax too!
Scuff marks appear on light wood floors: baking soda and a damp sponge will do the job of getting rid of them.
Water spots all over your lovely waxed hardwood floor: use mineral spirits on a very fine steel wood pad to carefully rub out the spot, then reapply a fine layer of liquid or paste wax to re-protect the area.
Your dish of spaghetti bolognese has spilt leaving a huge, red, greasy stain on your floor: use a commercial hardwood floor cleaner to deal with this on surface-sealed flooring; for other floors, wipe up the mess immediately with a damp sponge, use a clean cloth to dry the area and then apply your wax of choice.
And one last thing…
You can cut down overall dirt and dust in your home by adding doormats and rugs in strategic high-traffic areas, but be sure that you choose ones that do not have rubber backing. Rubber backed mats can easily trap water under them – I personally didn’t realize this until it was too late and water under my front doormat had completely ruined the wood underneath resulting in a costly repair job!
Finally, no matter how careful or organized you are, there will come a time when your hardwood floor dulls and needs more than the annual Spring clean: in this case I highly recommend that you hire a professional team to refinish your hardwood floor. Or, if you’re feeling brave and want to tackle this job yourself, then read up about how to refinish your floor here.
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