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How to Clean Your Hardwood Floors

How to Clean Hardwood Floors
When cleaning hardwood floors, the first, and most important step to take is to determine the finish. Contrary to popular belief, the finish is what determines the manner in which the floor should be cared for, not the wood.  Upon figuring out the floor finish, there are certain DO's and DON'Ts to take into consideration, but first thing's first; how do you conclude which finish, if any, has been applied to your floors? A quick way to answer this question is to rub you hand across it, and look to see if smudges appear.  If smudges remain absent, then your floor has been surface-sealed, which means it is resistant to stain and water damage, and has been sealed with urethane, polyurethane, or polyacrylic.  However, if the floor does smudge, then an oil finish, penetrating seal, lacquer, or shellac has been applied, and waxed thereafter.  Each of these latter sealing styles should be taken care of with liquid wax, and should never be exposed to prolonged moisture.  There are certain measures that should be taken when cleaning Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, cleaning dark hardwood floors, as well as any other style, regardless of the finish.  Vacuuming and area rugs are but a few of these precautionary measures.

Now that you've determined the finish, learning how to properly care for the floor is essential.

Surface-Sealed Hardwood Floor Cleaning Tips DO's:

  • Use cleaners recommended by the manufacturer. The Bona hardwood floor cleaner is a safe choice, and yields outstanding results.  Bona is what is use on all NBA basketball courts.
  • Make sure that any mops used are damp, but nearly dry. Excessive moisture can damage floors, even if they're sealed.

Surface-Sealed Hardwood Cleaning DON'Ts:

  • Stay away from ammonia-based cleaners, oils, waxes, tile cleaners, acrylic finishes or abrasive cleaning solutions such as vinegar. These solutions can leave behind residue, and even damage floors.
  • Don't count on water alone as a floor cleaning option, and if used, make sure to not let it stand for a prolonged period of time. Excessive exposure to moisture can damage wood over time.

How to Clean Waxed Hardwood Floors DO's:

*Waxed floors include: Shellacked, Varnished, Lacquered, Penetrating-Seal Treated, Oil-Treated, and Untreated Floors
  • Remove wax buildup by using stripper. Commercial products, like a Koblenz or Sanitaire floor machine, offer stripping pads to accomplish this.
  • Consider using a floor polishing machine, as liquid wax is essential for maintaining these finishes.  A Koblenz floor polisher is one of the best examples of how to clean and polish hardwood floors.  

Cleaning Waxed Hardwood Floors DON'Ts:

*Waxed floors include: Shellacked, Varnished, Lacquered, Penetrating-Seal Treated, Oil-Treated, and Untreated Floors
  • Stay away from ammonia-based cleaners, tile cleaners, acrylic finishes or abrasive cleaning solutions such as vinegar.  These solutions can leave behind residue, and even damage floors.
  • NEVER use a damp-mop for routine cleaning. Use vacuum cleaners only.

  • hardwood floor cleaning

Additional Hardwood Floor Cleaning Tips:

  • Clean up spills immediately to avoid the floor's overexposure to moisture.
  • Cleaning hardwood floors with vinegar is not recommended.  The abrasiveness of vinegar can damage surfaces, especially when it's not diluted.
  • Bona floor cleaner is perhaps the best cleaning solution for hardwood floors.
  • While routinely cleaning, avoid using wet-mops and brooms. Upright and canister vacuum cleaners are an ideal substitute. The vacuum bags and HEPA filters help to hold debris and prevent dust from circulating back into the air of the home, which is an unfortunate side-effect of sweeping.
  • Include area rugs made from breathable material in all high-traffic areas. This is another example of how to keep hardwood floors clean.
  • Use doormats on the interior and exterior of your home to prevent dirt, moisture and other debris from being tracked in and putting the hardwood floors at risk.
  • Add felt, cork, or rubber pads to the bottom of chairs and other furniture positioned on hardwood floors.
  • Lift furniture that needs to be moved rather than drag it.
  • Keep pet nails trimmed to prevent scratches on the finish.

Steam Cleaning Hardwood Floors Tips:

Steam cleaning hardwood floors is a common topic of discussion for homeowners who are either planning to have a wood floor installed, or already have one installed.  Some people believe this method is one of the best ways to clean hardwood floors, while others believe that steam cleaning hardwood can damage it's integrity.  Each end of the spectrum has a point, but it all comes down to floor style, finish, and of course, moderation.  

An engineered hardwood floor is perhaps the most common style nowadays.  It combines three to five levels of hardwood which have been cross-grained, and bonded together under pressure and heat.  This approach reduces the likelihood of the floor being affected by humidity, and therefore makes it more resistant to steam, provided it has also been properly finished.  However, this is not the primary example of how to clean engineered hardwood floors.  Cleaning hardwood floors with steam should be an occasional method, because excessive heat and water can cause damage, even on surface-treated floors.  Implementing this method once in a while is great for deep cleaning hardwood floors, but vacuuming and using cleaning solutions, like Bona floor cleaner, are much safer alternatives. 

Cleaning engineered hardwood floors is one thing.  Cleaning old hardwood floors is another.  Older floor styles run the risk of having been untreated, or of having the finish stripped off over time.  Regardless of which, steam cleaners should be a last resort product for maintaining them.  If water is left standing on an unsealed floor, it can make its way into the wood, and puff the grain, which can cause warping, making vacuuming and wax-based cleaners the most viable options. 
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