Hardwood floors increase the aesthetic value and price of a home. But this is true only if they are well-maintained. No one wants to buy a home with damaged wood floors. While caring for hardwood is not rocket science, it does involve plenty of elbow grease and time.
When it comes to caring for wood flooring, the type of finish determines the right way to clean floors. For example, water based cleaners are best for well finished floor, while poorly finished ones cannot handle them. So before you attempt to do any cleaning, know your flooring first.
How to Know Your Finish
Your hardwood floor is well finished if it is coated with:
- moisture-cured urethane
- 3 coatings of oil modified polyurethane
- water based finish that is 2-component catalyzed type
- Swedish finish (pre-catalyzed conversion)
- water-based finish that is one part oxygen crosslinking formula
Flooring is considered stained or unfinished if it is not glossy. Recently installed floors are easy to clean because they have been coated with either urethane, polyacrylic or polyurethane making them water-resistant. Older floors, on the other hand, were either varnished or lacquered, and as such, harder to clean. Prefinished floors also fall under the same category as old floors because the gaps between the boards are unsealed and therefore prone to water damage.
Whatever the finish is, the first and important step to take is to always sweep or vacuum the floor to remove dirt and grit. If you choose to vacuum, make sure that it is designed for hardwood. Vacuums made for carpet have brushes that can scratch your hardwood. Once or twice a week is enough. Also, clean up spills as soon as it happens. Moisture is the enemy of hardwood.
To simplify your cleaning routine, let us divide the types of finish into 2 groups, that is, modern hardwood floor finish and other types. Here’s how to clean each group:
A. Modern Hardwood Finish
As stated earlier, most modern hardwood finish, especially those finished on site, are water and stain resistant. Cleaning and maintaining them is easier. Here are some tips:
- Water based cleaning agents are best.
- Since you now know what your hardwood finish is, then choose the cleaner that is appropriate for it.
- For grease and dirt, you can use detergents or soaps with baking soda. Use only when necessary.
- Avoid cleaning agents that will leave a residue, abrasive cleaners, ammonia or bleach as this can damage your floors.
- After cleaning, wipe the solution down with lemon and water.
- Go with the grain of the wood, and avoid stepping on the wet floor.
- Always use clean cleaning agents. Refill when it becomes dirty.
- Mop off the excess water, using only clean water. Make sure that you don’t leave water on the floor.
B. Old and Other Types of Finish
Cleaning hardwood with older finishes are almost the same above, except you need to be careful with the cleaning agents that you use. Use distilled water to avoid water streaks. Sweep the floors more often, and use a solution that is right for your finish. For tough stains such as water spots, spray mineral spirits over it and wipe away with cloth. If you want some sheen, you can use a terry cloth to wipe the floors down.
As a general rule, you should only deep clean your hardwood floors when it is necessary. However, over time, there will be a build up of dirt and grime. To remove this, use a cleaning product that is specific for this purpose. Clean the way you usually do, and make sure that the floor is totally dry before stepping on them.
Cleaning and maintaining your hardwood floors is hard work. But if you put in the time and the effort and follow the tips above, you will be rewarded with a clean and sparkling floor worthy of a photoshoot.