HARDWOOD FLOORS & FLOORING
Maple Hardwood Flooring Care: A Quick How-To Guide
So, you opted for maple hardwood flooring; an excellent material for its dent-resistant structure. However, its closed-grained pattern tends to show imperfections more easily. This is why you need to take extra care in maintaining maple flooring. It's not as hard as it sounds, but there are definitely key rules to keep in mind.
IDENTIFYING THE FINISH
When it comes to caring for hardwood, the finish is a major consideration. The type of finish will dictate what types of products are safe for use. Take a look at your flooring; does it have a glossy or matte finish? Glossy finishes are typically treated with polyurethane, and you should be able to feel the wood grain if you run your fingers over the surface. Matte finishes have usually been either waxed or oil sealed and are smooth to the touch. If you don't know which treatment your floor received, find an inconspicuous area, such as an interior closet corner, and put a drop of water on the flooring. Then, let it sit for five to 10 minutes. A polyurethane finish will cause the water to bead up, as opposed to the floor absorbing it.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT CLEANER
The majority of modern flooring is polyurethane finished, therefore, you have a few options when selecting cleaning solutions. If you happen to know the manufacturer, it's best to use its recommended product, but a microfiber cloth dampened lightly with plain water is often sufficient. Alternatively, if you need a stronger cleaning, you should use a natural hardwood cleaner, like Murphy® Oil Soap.
Waxed and oil-treated floors readily absorb water. So they should only be cleaned with lightly dampened microfiber cloths (water only), or by buffing with a paste wax product.
The proper method for cleaning floors is to first use a broom, in order to gently sweep up any debris. For bigger messes or sharp breaks, you can also vacuum using a bare floor attachment safe for hardwoods. Debris can cause scratches, so this is important. Afterward, you'll need a microfiber mop and a spray bottle (containing water or solution). Lightly mist the microfiber with the spray bottle and thoroughly clean the floor. Remember the mop head should only be mildly damp. Rinse the mop as necessary, wringing out any excess water. Reapply water or solution as needed.
REMOVING HARDWOOD STAINS
Occasionally, a damp cloth is insufficient for stain removal. But just like routine cleaning, it is always best to follow the manufacturer's suggestions. Nonetheless, according to Better Homes And Gardens, the solution you use generally depends on the type and color of the stain. White, for example, usually indicates a water-based stain, and you may be able to use water and dish-washing liquid together.
Dark stains can ruin the appearance of your maple hardwood flooring and, because they've likely penetrated the finish, can be difficult to eliminate. In this instance, it might be best to leave it to the professionals. If you're prepared to try, however, gather everything you need before starting. Removal of these kinds of stains usually involves sanding, bleaching or stripping solutions like oxalic acid crystals to lighten or remove the stain. Reader's Digest suggests neutralizing with a vinegar component. Keep in mind it can take a few tries to get the result you want, and you may want to refinish the area to ensure a darker stain doesn't linger.
Sticky problems such as gum, tar and adhesives can be easily removed by freezing them first. Rub an ice pack over the sticky area until the residue becomes stiff, then gently scrape off the substance.
AVOIDING FLOOR DAMAGE
To avoid damaging your maple flooring, clean spills immediately. The sooner you clean up the spill, the greater the chance you have that it won't warp or stain your flooring. Additionally, never apply wax to polyurethane-finished floors; polyurethane cannot adhere to wax, and waxy buildups will cause problems for future refinishing. Lastly, remember to never soak your floor while cleaning, or use ammonia cleaning products you'd normally use on windows. On wood flooring, explains Angie's List, ammonia tends to discolor an otherwise beautiful finish.
PROTECTING YOUR FLOORS
Maple hardwood flooring is durable, but it is not indestructible. For instance, maple flooring is prone to general discoloration. Protect your investment with curtains and other window treatments that block the sun from beating down on your bare floors during the day. Indoor humidity is notorious for warping hardwood as well, so if possible, try to keep your home at 35- to 50-percent humidity. For high-traffic areas, protect floors using rugs, without vinyl or rubber backing to trap moisture. To avoid gouges, keep high heels off the hardwood and put gliders on furniture legs. And if you have pets, trim their nails regularly to prevent unintentional scratches.
It doesn't take much to keep your floors looking fabulous. Clean them regularly and keep them dry, and they will last a long time.
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.