Cleaning hardwood floors is one of the simplest chores in the world. Go over them whenever needed with a soft broom, and every couple of weeks, vacuum them with the soft brush attachment. Should you spill something on the floor, clean it up immediately with a damp mop. Aside from a rotary tiller running at full speed, the most dangerous enemy of a hardwood floor is water or any other kind of liquid that’s allowed to soak into the wood.
Natural wood can be protected against this kind of damage by giving it a coat of polyurethane clear finish, but it’s still best to keep liquids off the floor. Only when a floor is properly sealed in this way should you consider following up vacuuming with damp mopping the entire floor. If you don’t like the shiny finish of polyurethane, use a penetrating seal, which consists of wax or oil finishes that penetrate the wood and protect from within. Applying a floor wax is one more possibility to protect the surface.
A high percentage of grime found on floors is carried in from outside on shoes. So a good way to limit the amount of cleaning you need to do is limit the amount of grunge that finds its way to the floor. Use area rugs, throw rugs, and runners over high traffic areas. You might also consider adopting the Asian habit of having people remove their shoes before stepping inside. Of course, the considerate host provides slippers and an area by the door where shoes are stashed.
Hardwood Floor Cleaning and Care
No matter what preventive measures you take, however, or how often you vacuum, there are times when a damp mop just won’t do the job; cutting through grease, removing odors, mildew, or wax buildup. On those occasions, add some white vinegar to the mop water.
The most common and difficult to solve problem regarding hard wood floors is accidental staining with substances like coffee, wine, juice, or ink. Here again, if the floor has been sealed, cleaning up the stain may entail nothing more than picking it up with a dampened rag or paper towel. But you may have to rub the area with a nylon rubbing pad to remove scuff marks and use mineral spirits to remove crayon smears. Commercial products will help in removing paint spills and chewing gum.
Stains that go deep into the finish must be attacked more aggressively. Cleaning suggestions for various types of deep stains:
- Blood: Sponge it with cold water, if it’s extra tough then sponge it with a solution of ammonia and cold water.
- Dye: Rub with a cloth dampened with a 1:3 solution of bleach and water. Do not soak the area.
- Liquor: Rub with a cloth dampened with warm water and detergent; alternate rubbing with a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.
- Grease: After causing the grease to congeal by applying a bag of frozen peas, scrape it off with a knife. Remove any residue by putting a rag on it and carefully ironing the rag.
- Crayon marks: If mineral spirits doesn’t do the trick, try applying tooth paste and rubbing with a dry cloth.
- Fruit: Warm water and detergent should work; if not, rub it with a solution of water and oxalic acid.
- Nail polish: Detergent solution, scouring powder, water, and a plastic mesh pad.
- Ink: If warm water and detergent doesn’t work, try a commercial ink remover.
- Lipstick: Detergent and warm water; use light pressure with a plastic scouring pad if it’s a tough stain.
- Scuffs: Use a pencil eraser on them. If stubborn, rub gently with 000 fine steel wool and the type of liquid wax usually used on the floor.
- Oil: Soak up as much as you can with newspaper or paper towels. Cover for five minutes with a cloth saturated with a dry cleaning fluid. Then wipe dry and clean with a detergent.
- Shoe Polish: Rub gently with ultra-fine steel wool.
- Tar: Place bags of frozen peas on it to freeze it and make it brittle. Then scrape it off with a plastic spatula. A light stain may remain, which can be removed with dry cleaning solvent.
- Pet Urine: Immediately rub with a hot, damp cloth and scouring powder. A 1:10 solution of bleach and water can be used on old stubborn stains, but always rinse well with rags dampened with clean water. Take care not to get the solution below the finish; this will discolor the wood.
After removing any stain, rinse the area thoroughly with a damp cloth, dry completely, and, if the floor finish has been removed in that area, recoat with appropriate finish or wax.
It’s recommended a professional floor finisher be called to handle rust stains, dark spots, or stains that cover an extensive area. Sometimes the best response to a stain is to refinish the entire floor.