Do’s and Don’ts are crucial when it comes to cleaning hardwood. Adhering to the Do’s and avoiding the Don’ts, (especially the ‘Never!’ category) will make sure you don’t accidentally damage your floor. Hardwood is a natural material and while it is tough, it is hygroscopic. This means that it absorbs water and is therefore susceptible to water damage. Cleaning solutions can be used, but only the proper kind in small quantities. Read this guide to learn how to properly and safely clean your hardwood floor, keeping it beautiful for years to come.
The quick list:
Step one — prevent particle build up. Dirt, dust and water are pervasive. They are everywhere and they want to expand their territory. One of the best ways you can keep them from winding up on your floor is to use doormats. Put a doormat at each outside entrance, ideally one on the outside and one on the inside. They will catch a lot of the debris that’s gunning for your floors, and in the winter, they’ll catch all the melting snow as well. If you’d rather not use any old doormat, ask us about creating a custom rug for your entryway. Many of our carpets can be custom cut and bound to use as an area rug.
If you learn anything from this blog, let it be this: water is a hardwood floors’ worst enemy! Not moisture in general, (hardwood in fact needs to be kept at humidity levels between approximately 30% and 55%), but specifically pooling water. Like a sponge, your hardwood will absorb moisture from any water that pools on top of it, potentially causing it to change shape and warp. This can permanently damage your hardwood.
When it comes to cleaning, there are two main sources of pooling water to be aware of: water tracked into the house from the bottom of your boot soles and excessive use of water and or cleaning solutions. Doormats will go a long way to prevent the former and read the next section to learn about proper cleaning solutions and amounts with which to use them.
The more consistently you clean your hardwood the better. Keeping it relatively free of dust and dirt will extend its lifespan significantly. At least once a week, give your hardwood a thorough sweep or vacuum. Personally I much prefer a good old broom: it’s simple, there’s no chord and it doesn’t use any power. A good sweep job with a decently soft bristled broom will take the dust and dirt off quite nicely. If you’d prefer to use a vacuum, make sure to use the floor brush attachment, not the powerhead that’s intended for carpet.
At least once a month or so, debris and oils will build up on your hardwood and it will require mopping. But by mop, I don’t mean your typical sopping mop and bucket. Instead, use a dry mop — a mop with a flat head specially designed for hardwood flooring. These mops do an excellent job. They achieve good coverage and they’re great for mopping up streaks and oily films.
The cleaning solution you choose to use is just as important as the type of mop. Stay away from general purpose cleaners, they’ll either leave an oily film or potentially dull the finish. We recommend the Torlys Natural Glow Floor Maintenance Kit, which we sell at our showroom. It’s residue free and safe for families and pets. Hardwood specific cleaners are always a good idea as they are non-abrasive, low to no VOC and are quick drying.
Sometimes it’s not just any old streak, stain or mark that blemishes your hardwood, sometimes it’s a super stain. You can’t always mop these away. If you find yourself battling said stubborn stain, it’s time for some elbow grease: grab your hardwood cleaner, spray it on a cloth and go at it.
In other cases, substances might stick to the floor, like candle wax or bubble gum. For these, you’ll need to use an edge to scrape them off. But before you do, take an ice pack and leave it on the substance for a couple of minutes. When it cools down, it should be easy enough to scrape off with a plastic credit card, (do not use anything metal or sharp!).
So to recap, the first step is to make sure you have doormats at all entrances. These will reduce the amount of debris and water that ends up on your hardwood. Second step is to incorporate sweeping or vacuuming into your weekly routine. Third step is to use a specialty hardwood mop and hardwood cleaner to mop the floor when it gets dirty. If some extra stubborn stains or sticky substances appear, use a hand cloth and some elbow grease, or an ice pack and a credit card.
At Floorscapes we sell the Torlys Natural Glow Floor Maintenance Kit, so come by the showroom and grab one if you don’t already have it. While you’re here, we’d be happy to answer any further questions you have about cleaning hardwood or hardwood maintenance. After 20 years in the business, we like to think that we’re pretty knowledgeable about such things.
Written by guest author Eric Osborne