Wooden floors are a significant investment, so, you want them to look good for as long as possible. However, as they are walked on all the time, they tend to cumulate grim and dust. Cleaning wooden floors it’s a delicate process, but nonetheless, an easy one if you know how to do it. Now we’re going to learn that process.
Let’s Start with Definitions
What kind of hardwood finish has on your floor? There are at least 3 kinds:
- Prefinished floors: every board has beveled edges. These surface-sealed floors are stain and water-damage resistant and easiest to care for and clean.
- Stained or unfinished floor: its surface isn’t glossy and they get damaged easily.
- Shiny floors: they have a layer of surface seal, but you have to identify it.
- If it’s wax, you can test your floor, moisten extra-fine steel wool and rub it on an inconspicuous area; a light gray smudge would appear on the wool.
- If it’s an old or a modern surface seal, place a few drops of water on the most worn area of the floor.
i. If it remains beaded after several minutes, you probably have a modern seal.
ii. If it seems to soak or darken the wood, you either have an older seal or a poorly-finished one that needs to be handled gently.
For Surface-Sealed Floors
For a start, remember that these cleaning substances are not recommended:
- Oils—leave a residue
- Waxes or furniture sprays create a slippery surface and make recoating difficult.
- Straight ammonia, alkaline products, or abrasive cleaners—will only damage your floors!
Sweep daily your wooden floors in high-traffic areas, like the dining room and kitchen. Try to mop once or twice a week (with a damped—never a soaking wet!—mop). Do half of this effort for the remaining areas.
When mopping, dip the mop into the bucket of prepared cleaning solution. This solution can be a commercial cleaning substance or just water and soap. We recommend using a mix of 2 parts of water with one of vinegar.
After dipping the mop, wring it out completely and mop in the direction of the wood grain. Repeat as needed. When the water gets dirty, empty the bucket, mix a new batch of cleaning solution, and continue mopping.
When finished, go back over the entire surface with clean water to rinse.
For Seal-Treated, Waxed, or Untreated Floors
Remember that acrylic or water-based waxes can turn floors white, and furniture waxes or one-step waxes create a slick surface or end-trapping dirt. So, don’t use them!
Instead, use liquid wax designed for wood floors or paste wax. You might also choose a product the floor manufacturer recommends, a commercial product from the hardware store, or mineral spirits.
In this case, wet/damp mops are banned. Just vacuum and sweep the surface regularly. Every 6 months, strip the old wax and apply a fresh new coat. This treatment will depend on the surface wear.
How to wax it?
- Remove the old wax with a stripper or mineral spirits. This gets done when rubbing into the wood and then wiping it off with a clean, soft cloth.
- When working, keep the area well-ventilated and let the floor dry.
- Then, apply a thin coat of wax. Use an applicator if you’re using liquid wax. Use a cloth if you’re using paste wax.
- Let it dry. You can also apply a second layer of wax.
- For buffing, use a cloth or rent a buffing machine. Buff in the direction of the wood grain!
Keep in mind that a regular maintenance cleaning will do more for your wooden floors than any large-scale action. Sweep or vacuum it often and leave us a comment if you have any tips to share!