Hardwood Floors & flooring

The Best Way to Clean Hardwood Floors

by Carol Ruth Weber

Homeowners cleaning wood floor

A home looks beautiful when newly decorated. Walls are freshly painted, beautiful shiny new hardwood floors have been installed and the furnishings have just been removed from their packaging. But cleaning can be hard work to preserve the appearance of a young abode. For the best way to clean hardwood floors, pay special attention to all the little things that can dull its beauty over time. If they're not maintained, they can accumulate dust and grime, along with scratches that lead to a detriment to the floor's finish. Here's how to keep yours looking good:

Sweeping, Dusting and Vacuuming

Disposable dust cloths or a soft microfiber dusting pad will avoid dirt and particles that could lead to scratches in the floor's finish. Vacuums' beater rug attachments can create dents in hard floors, so vacuum using only a special floor accessory äóî or use an electric broom. When vacuuming, remember to get inside crevices by baseboards and in your room's corners; use the hose attachment to access these areas, which tend to trap dirt.

Different spaces in the home require different frequencies and styles of cleaning. Particularly in high-traffic areas, such as entryways, hallways and the kitchen, the best way to clean hardwood floors involves sweeping and dusting at least once every day. Mop these busy areas at least once a week as well. Other areas can be swept just a few days during the week to keep dust and dirt from building up, and mopped much less often.

Damp Mopping

Water, vinegar and ammonia can damage hardwood floors and furnishings, according to Mary Ellen Pinkham at Today Home. Even newly sealed floors should not be cleaned with a dripping mop. Not only can water damage a wood floor, but it doesn't do well when attempting to clean up dirt and grime by itself. The acid from vinegar or ammonia, even if diluted, can dull the floor's finish due to etching.

The best way to clean hardwood floors is by using a damp mop along with a cleaning product made specifically to maintain wood. Follow directions when diluting the product with water to create your cleaning solution. Upon taking the mop out of the bucket of solution, make sure to wring it out so that no liquid is dripping and the mop is only damp, and always mop in the direction of the grain in the wood.

For especially dirty areas, you'll go through solution more quickly; be prepared to empty a dirty bucket and refill it with a new clean mixture. Pay special attention to hardened dirt by gently scrubbing spots by hand with a cloth if necessary.

Fixing Isolated Problems

Problem spots, scratches and other lone stains can come from heel marks, water and pets. Better Homes and Gardens suggests using fine steel wool and floor wax as great ways to clean hardwood floors when dealing with these types of issues. Using the steel wool, polish the floor wax into the spot to rub it out.

For particularly stubborn dark spots, carefully place bleach onto the spot and let it sit for an hour to soak, then use a damp cloth with water and cleaner to rinse. Keep in mind that the bleach may remove finish as well, so you'll need to sand and stain to blend the section with the rest of the flooring.

When dealing with raised or deep stains, sand the spot with a fine sandpaper to smooth the affected wood. Then touch up the bare floor with a matching stain and protective coating to blend with the rest of your floor's finish.

A small chip in a plank can be easily fixed using wood filler. Use a colored wood filler that matches the finish of the floor. Fill in the chip so that the filler sits a little above floor level. Let it dry and then sand the filler to blend it with the floor. Finish off the repair with a couple of coats of a protective coating.

Protecting Your Floor From Accumulations

Prevention can be the best way to clean hardwood floors. Door mats both inside and outside of entries to the home will help keep dirt from getting tracked in. Whenever possible, have habitants and visitors leave their shoes at the door. Floor protectors and coasters should be carefully placed under furnishings as well; this prevents gouging and scratching when moving chairs or gliding furniture when cleaning. Area rugs should sit on their own special floor padding so that the rug doesn't cause scratches when it shifts.

Along with the hardwood floors, keep your entire home and its decorations just as clean, so that your efforts are visible from basement to bedroom.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.