Need for Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring is very popular in home flooring. This type of flooring is designed to match any type of decor, be it sophisticated style, or the contemporary design, or the hand-scraped rustic form. It is suitable for most areas of the home, except areas like the bathrooms which are prone to moisture. Maintaining and cleaning hardwood floors is essential to prevent damage to the floors and avoid expensive repairs. Maintenance preserves the beauty of the hardwood floors and lasts them for over 25 years.

Cleaning hardwood floors

How you clean and care for the floor depends on the type of finish and not the type of wood used in the flooring.

Surface sealed floors

Most wood floors are sealed with polyurethane. This adds a thin protective layer over the wood and prevents water or stains from damaging the wood. This type of finish is the easiest to care for and clean. It would be sufficient to sweep and mop, and the floor would be clean. There is nothing like using a vacuum cleaner, to clean the surface of all the dust and dirt. If you can afford, get a vacuum cleaner. There are so many varieties available - handheld vacuum cleaners, cordless vacuums, upright cleaners, canister vacuums and bagged or bagless cleaners.  But for your job of cleaning hardwood floors, a simple and inexpensive model will do.

Seal and oil treated floors

In this type of finish, seal and oil is used. The seal and oil soaks into the wood and hardens it. This type of finish requires additional protection in the form of liquid or paste wax.

Lacquered, varnished, shellacked and untreated floors

In this type of finish,  lacquer, varnish or shellack is used to finish the surface. These substances are not as resistant to moisture as the other type of sealants. Floors with this type of finish must be treated on par with floors finished/treated with seal and oil. 

Kind of finish

It is not fair to expect a common man to know the type of finish that has gone into the wood flooring. But it's not hard either to guess the same. Just run or rub your finger across the flooring, and if you notice a smudge, then you can be certain, the flooring has been finished with seal, oil, shellac, varnish or lacquer and waxed. If you don't notice a smudge, the floor is sealed with polyurethane. 

When you are sure about the type of finish that has gone into your flooring, it becomes easy cleaning hardwood flooring.

Cleaning surface sealed floors

Surface sealed floors are the easiest to maintain. Sweep the dust off the floor. A vacuum cleaner would be handy here. In high traffic areas like the dining room and kitchen, sweep daily and mop once or twice a week. Other areas, mop once or more a month, depending on the environment.

For mopping, use a cleaning product recommended by your floor finisher. If you cannot find that product, use soap and water. Try a mixture of one cup of mild or pH neutral soap added to a bucket of water. Do not use ammonia, alkaline products or abrasive cleaners. They will dull or scratch the floor finish.

Dip the mop into the bucket of cleaning solution. Make sure you squeeze out all the water leaving the mop just damp. Water damages wood. So use only a damp mop and not a wet mop. Mop in the direction of the wood grain. If you notice stubborn stains, they can be treated with commercially available cleaners.

Sealed finish is bound to go dull over a period of time. Recoating with an additional layer would be necessary. Depending on the traffic the floor takes, recoating may be necessary every five to seven years.

Cleaning seal or oil treated and shellacked, varnished, lacquered or untreated floors

Remember this type of finish does not prevent water or mositure seeping through into the wood. Hence you cannot mop the floor with a damp mop. Just sweep or vacuum the surface regularly. If you find wax build up in some areas, remove the wax using a stripper recommended by the floor designer. Any mineral spirits available in the hardware shops can also do the job. Wax the affected spot with liquid or paste wax. Do not use acrylic or water-based waxes or furniture waxes which can turn your floors white.

Stripping and waxing

Once or twice a year, remove or strip the old wax and apply a new or fresh coat. 

Prepare the floor for waxing by removing all the dust using a sweeper or vacuum cleaner. Remove the old wax using a stripper. Follow the manufacturer's instructions in this regard. Wipe the floor clean using a soft cloth. Ensure the floor is completely dry. 

Apply a thin coat of wax. Use an applicator for liquid wax or a cloth in case of paste wax. Allow the wax to dry. An additional coating is recommended to give an added protection.
Finally, buff for a shining finish. You can rent a buffing machine for this. If you cannot find one, use a cloth. Buff in the direction of the wood grain.

Cleaning hardwood floors using the right methods and cleaning products will extend the life of your floors. Proper maintenance will prevent damage to the flooring and help you avoid expenses in the future.