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One of the staples of housecleaning is making sure that your floors are clean. After all, there’s nothing worse than walking across your house in bare feet and stepping in crumbs or something unidentifiably gooey. While carpet is fairly simple to keep clean; you run the vacuum every few days and give it a shampoo once a year, hard surface floors are another matter entirely.

There are so many different types of hard surface floors. How do you know if this cleaner is good for that surface? Will this strip the finish from your beautiful hardwood floors? Will this tile be easily cleaned with just a sweep and a wet mop? Never fear. We at Think Crucial have you covered when it comes to making sure that your white socks stay white when you’re walking around at home.

There’s no denying the appeal of hardwood floors. Simple, beautiful, and timeless, these floors are what many of us envision when we think of a floor without carpets. But cleaning them properly can be a bit of a pain. Use the wrong cleaner, and your floor’s finish can stain or discolor. In extreme cases, the wood floor can even buckle. So how does a person clean them properly?

The first step in cleaning your hardwood floors properly is knowing how they are treated and sealed. Depending on how old your floors are, they can be sealed with wax or oiled. If your floors were installed after the 70s however, more than likely they’ve been treated with polyurethane.

Each of these treatments and sealers requires a different method of cleaning.

hard wood flooring

Polyurethane Finished Hardwood

Polyurethane treated wood floors are known for their shine and durability. Polyurethane comes in three varieties – oil based, water based, and moisture-cured - but each is treated alike when it comes to cleaning. When it comes to cleaning a polyurethane floor, there is one strict rule. Never ever wet mop them. Never use large amounts of water because the water will discolor the varnish.

Sweep them regularly, or vacuum with the roller beater turned off or with a floor brush. If you have to spot clean sticky spills, wipe them up with a damp cloth and dry immediately. If you run into a stubborn spot, use a non-ammonia based window cleaner to get it clean. Ammonia or vinegar based cleaners can etch and dull your floor’s finish.

Other cleaners to avoid for a polyurethane treated floor are oil soaps, acrylic coats (like Mop and Glow), or wax. These can make your floor exceptionally slippery. Also, keep in mind that when you clean your floors, not to aggressively rub; any abrasive action, no matter how gentle will mar the surface. If your floors become excessively dulled, you can sand your floor down to bare wood and then reapply a coat of polyurethane. In some cases, however, if the damage to your existing finish is shallow, you can just screen sand and recoat over the old finish.

hard wood floors in home

Oiled Wood Floors

For an oiled wood floor, cleaning is a bit different from polyurethane. The oil that is used to treat the floor becomes worn and absorbed as foot traffic and wear and tear occur. Keep them clean of dust and debris with a dust mop or floor attachment for your vacuum. For regular cleaning, use an oil soap such as Murphy’s Oil Soap at standard dilution. For tougher grime, let the soap soak into the grime for about ten minutes to loosen it.

About once a year (more often if you have a lot of foot traffic), you’ll need to reapply oil to the floor. Use hardwood oil and apply it in one direction using clean cotton cloths. Wipe off excess oil and let the oil soak into the wood for at least two hours before walking on it or replacing furniture.

Use caution when disposing of oil soaked cloths. Soak them in water and place in an airtight metal container. Dispose of them promptly and appropriately. Be careful because oil soaked rags can catch fire or combust easily.

hardwood floor with oily wax

Wood Floors With Wax

Although wax has fallen out of fashion as a protectant and sealant for wood floors, you will still find it in older houses. When it comes to keeping waxed floors in tip top shape, you just want to routinely use a clean dust mop or vacuum like you do other floors. Use a slightly damp mop for daily cleaning. Just remember to wipe up any water immediately, or it will soak into the wax and dull the finish. If you want, you can buff the floor to a shine with a soft cotton cloth.

About once a year (again, more often if you have heavier foot traffic), you need to strip off the old wax and apply a new coat. Use a buffing machine to strip the wax from the floor and then clean with soft cloth. Renting a buffer from your local hardware store will save you a lot of time, so it’s always easier than trying to strip and polish by hand. Apply two to three coats of wax, letting the wax dry between applications. Then buff to a shine with a polishing cloth.

With proper care and cleaning, hardwood floors aren’t just beautiful; they’re also a sure way to add value to your home. Making sure you’re using the right techniques for cleaning will make sure that you don’t spend a weekend refinishing your floor after accidentally turning your hallway into a cloudy mess. But with proper care, your hardwood floor will last generations.

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