Which floor cleaning solutions are you using on your hardwood? The cleaner that worked for your mom or your best friend may not be the one that's right for your flooring.
Not all floor cleaning solutions are created equal, and the same goes for your hardwood floors. There are three types of hardwood floor finishes: wax, oil and polyurethane. Rub your hand on your floor: If you can feel an oily residue, you have an oil-finished floor. If the floor has no residue but a glossy appearance, you probably have a polyurethane finish. Here's how to clean each one.
Too much water can dull the finish of most floors. Polyurethane hardwood, which is slick and shiny, shouldn't even be buffed or polished. That's why window cleaner is one of the best floor cleaning solutions for these types of surfaces. Use a damp mop a wet one that can leave puddles after use and a solution free of ammonia, so you can get under bacteria without stripping the finish in the process.
Martha Stewart and other cleaning gurus have recommended vinegar as a floor cleaning solution, but it doesn't work for all hardwood floors. Vinegar should never be used on polyurethane floors, for example. Because it's an acid, vinegar can eat away at hard finishes like polyurethane and wax. Use only white vinegar, diluted with water, on soft floors that are finished with an oil-based coating. Vinegar is great for cleaning and removing odors from other types of floors as well, but it can damage hardwood if you aren't careful. The big advantage, however, is that when you use white vinegar on an oil-based floor, you don't need to go back and dry it. Let it evaporate naturally, and it should take bad odors with it.
It's very easy to grab an all-purpose cleaner that touts effectiveness on all types of surfaces, even hardwood floors. But before you start pouring that stuff into a dry wipe, check the label. Some of these floor cleaning solutions may contain ingredients you want to avoid, such as bleach and ammonia. Remember that these ingredients can dull your floor's finish.
Make a simple floor cleaning solution on your own by mixing ordinary dish soap with water, which creates a mild solution with a neutral pH. This means it's not acidic, and won't damage or dull the floor's finish. The method is very effective for cleaning isolated oil-based stains, according to Better Homes and Gardens, but it can be tedious. Work in sections to avoid getting too much of your floor wet at once. You should also stir the mixture often to make sure the soap is evenly distributed across the floor. Once it's all clean, rinse it with plain water and dry it thoroughly. Allowing soapy water to dry with no rinsing can give you a floor that's covered in a dull residue, which will only darken and dull it further.
Oil soap is formulated to clean all three types of finished floors, and is made to leave no residue behind. Keep in mind that waxed wood is water-sensitive, and shouldn't be cleaned with plain soap. Similarly, wood that has yet to be finished shouldn't be cleaned with oil soap because it can leave a stain. Nonetheless, any water-resistant finishes are safe when in contact with a natural oil soap.
The floor cleaning solutions you choose could change the look of your hardwood floors, but if used just right, only for the better. Choose wisely after learning more about all your options, and you'll keep your home looking amazing.
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.