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Hardwood floors are an investment indeed. You probably picked them over other flooring types because they can be preserved for decades, with the opportunity to be sanded and refinished an infinite amount of times. This kind of flooring is also remarkably hard-wearing in the face of high traffic, spills, kids, and pets. But hardwood isn’t invincible. Moisture, chemicals, dirt and certain cleaners can compromise the finish or cause warping, which can equate to costly repairs. To preserve your investment for the long-term, you have to arm yourself with the right hardwood cleaning supplies and know-how to keep them in pristine condition!
First Things First: Know Your Wood
Not all hardwood is the same and shouldn’t be treated universally. While there are a number of excellent hard-surface floor cleaners for most wood types (the Bona floor cleaner is a versatile option for finished wood floors), it is important to know a few things about different hardwood flooring options. If you have cork or bamboo floors, you should use cleaners designed specifically for these materials. Your best bet? Look at the care and maintenance instructions provided by your flooring manufacturer. The brand will usually recommend a specific type of floor cleaner.
There are a few other things to note with regard to choosing a floor cleaner. If your goal is simplicity and maintenance in between deep cleans, a spray-and-wipe style cleaner, sometimes called a “ready-to-use” cleaner, is best. For deep cleans and weekly maintenance, you’ll want to invest in a high-quality microfiber mop or cloth. Pay attention to drying time and choose cleaners that don’t require time-consuming drying or intense aeration. If you have kids or pets, look for non-toxic floor cleaners and those that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice Standard.
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How to Clean Hardwood Floors the Right Way
Once you’ve chosen an appropriate hardwood floor cleaner, you can get to work spiffing and shining those hard-surface floors. Here’s how to do it properly without damaging the finish or the wood itself.
- Thoroughly vacuum your floors using a vacuum cleaner with a hardwood floor brush, preferably a canister vacuum. Pay special attention to high-traffic areas, corners and under furniture.
Side Note: We can’t understate the importance of properly vacuuming your hardwood. Any dirt and dust that’s permitted to settle on hardwood floors pose a risk to the surface and finish. If it’s ground into the floor by traffic or furniture, it could scratch the floors permanently. You’ll get the best clean and product application when you thoroughly sweep before applying a cleaner.
- Read the entire label of the floor cleaner, as many products come in either concentrated (must be diluted with water) or ready-to-use formulas. If it’s concentrated, be sure to dilute it according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Spray the cleaner onto the floor, working in sections of about three square feet at a time. Rub the cleaner into the floor in a circular manner either using a microfiber mop (best for bigger jobs, cleaning under furniture and reaching corners) or by hand with a microfiber cloth.
- Once you’ve covered the entire floor, allow it to air dry until it feels dry to the touch. No hardwood floor cleaner should saturate the floor or leave any standing moisture, so be sure to dry up any areas that are saturated or use fans to help the floor dry faster.
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Quick Hardwood Floor Cleaning Tips
Cleaning your floors with the appropriate method can really go a long way in terms of preserving them so that they maintain their flawless finish and shine for decades. There are a few quick tips you should know about hardwood floor care so that you’re not left in a situation that requires costly and intensive resurfacing or, if you’re really unlucky, a total replacement.
Finding a Moisture Balance
The number one most important thing to know about hardwood floors is that they do not get along with standing water. A little moisture is good to keep the floor strong and durable—if they get too dry, they could weaken and splinter—but water left to sit could cause warping and swelling. Make sure to always wipe up spills immediately and don’t let water accumulate.
Don’t Let Dirt In
Too much dirt and dust can affect the performance and beauty of your hardwood floors. When dirt is tracked in and left to sit, it can grind into the material and cause scratches and abrasions. Over time, leaving dust and dirt on the surfaces of the floor could permanently alter the coloring of the wood or the sheen of its finish. To prevent dirt from being tracked in, ask guests to remove their shoes, use floor mats at entryways and wipe your pets’ paws when they come inside.
Develop a Routine
Hardwood floors are sort of like houseplants—they need routine watering (metaphorically only!) and attention. Develop a good maintenance plan that you can follow each month. We recommend sweeping and vacuuming daily or every other day if you have kids and pets. Give your floors a deep clean and mop once a month, maintaining each week with touch-ups and vacuuming. Always address spots and spills immediately.
Only Use Microfiber
Most floor manufacturers only recommend cleaning floors with microfiber cloths or mops. The reason for this is multifaceted: microfiber is incredibly soft, which prevents abrasions, and offers more static cling than other materials, ensuring a better clean. What’s more, microfiber can be washed and rewashed dozens of time, saving you money and lessening the strain on the planet.
With all of these great tips, you’ll be well on your way to developing a hardwood floor maintenance plan that preserves the beauty and performance of your floors so they can be employed for a hundred years or more! You know what they say…happy hardwood, happy home!