The Secret To Cleaning Wood Floors
Cleaning a hardwood floor is a worthwhile investment, for unlike laminate flooring which might last 15-25 years, hardwood floors can last anything from 25 years to a lifetime, sometimes outliving the bricks and mortar of the house itself! There is something very satisfying about an immaculately kept, shining hardwood floor. It says something about the owner of the house. Here are ten pointers to help you keep it clean.
It is vitally important to check with the manufacturer and installer of the wood floor as to which specific kind of wood it is. You might have oak flooring, maple flooring, cherry flooring, parquet flooring, bamboo flooring, or umpteen other kinds of wood. Each one will require a slightly different approach, and the outlet or person who sold it to you and installed it will be able to guide you most specifically.
Again, the manufacturer is the best source here, but generally there are three kinds of finish: polyurethane, a hardwood finish, or unfinished hardwood. The first is a durable coating that is perfect for floors since it forms a hard film. The second is more of a penetrating oil sealer, while the third is just the wood in its raw, unvarnished form. Clearly, with each option a different approach is required. You can test whether you have a coating or not by pouring a miniscule amount of water onto the surface; beading will reveal that you have a coating, no beading that you don’t. An unfinished wood needs a whole other treatment, which will be explained below.
Creating a Treatment
Assuming that you have a finished floor, you will need the following: vinegar, dish-washing liquid, a micro-fiber twist mop and a micro-fiber cloth; finally, rubbing alcohol. The vinegar acts as a mild disinfectant; it cuts through grease and doesn’t leave streaks. However, only put in a capful into the bucket, otherwise it might end up damaging the flooring. In terms of dish-washing liquid, you only need a capful of this, too; it is quite strong. The same with the rubbing alcohol. Just a smidgen should suffice. Slosh all of these ingredients around in the twist mop tub which should be half-filled with hot water.
Your steam mop should absorb the treatment you have just created. You should then, in the ringer, very carefully squeeze out as much excess moisture as possible, so that the mop is almost dry. You are then ready to start mopping the floor in an ‘S’ motion, side to side, moving slowly backwards. Ensure that the bucket is behind you, and that your eventual ending point will be near an exit, so that you do not trap yourself in a corner!
Importance of Drying
It is imperative that you dry up any moisture with your micro-fiber cloth. Absolutely no water must remain. It is useful, too, to be actively sweeping or vacuuming your floor a few times each week, so that you’re investing for the future longevity of the flooring. A little bit of effort goes a long way, and it will impress guests as well as add significant value to your property, if and when you come to sell.
What about Cleaning an Unfinished Floor?
Trisodium phosphate is the best thing to use for an unfinished wood floor. You only need a small amount of it, and a soft brush to scrub it gently into the wood. Once the stain is removed, you can cleanse the area with water. Then, dry with a cloth at once because water can make the wood become warped and can ruin it.
This is another option for an unfinished floor. You will need to wear a protective mask, though, because it is not good for your lungs. Prepare a dry cloth which will be used to gently apply the mineral spirits which are ideal for persistent stains that most detergents cannot shift. All the dust and dirt must first be removed in order to avoid abrasion and potential scratching of the surface.
Vinegar is a safer substance than mineral spirits; it is non-toxic, inexpensive, simple to use, and dries very quickly. You should prepare a mixture of vinegar and warm water at a ratio of one cup of vinegar to one gallon of warm water. Now start mopping, changing the solution if it begins to look a bit dirty. If the smell bothers you, just add roughly 15 drops of lavender, pine or lemon oil. This will make your room smell great, too.
If there are some stains in your unfinished wood floor that will not budge, you may consider sanding the stains, using a sanding machine with the correct guidance. If you don’t like the sound of that then simply use a piece of sandpaper, or consult a professional who will quote you a reasonable price. Whatever you end up doing, first try it out on a small, less prominent section of the wood floor, and see how the wood takes it.
Unfinished wood floors can give a house character and be really quite beautiful. However, there may come a time when you want to ‘finish’ it, applying a color stain of choice to the floor as a whole. It will help protect the floor from long-term scuffs and scratches, and also guard against various kinds of rot. A wooden floor primer with a floor polisher or steam cleaner should be applied to prepare the floor, first. Try to work along the grain, applying two coats. You will then need to seal the wood with a floor lacquer or wood floor oil. A lacquer or varnish will make for a smooth finish, but an oil creates a more natural appearance.
In terms of the cleaning process, you may then revert to step 3, 4 and 5 above.
It is worth taking good care of your wood floor because it may well end up out-lasting you, and will make your house have a certain warmth of personality and strength of character for years to come.