The Inside Edge
A high-quality hardwood floor can give you and your family many years of enjoyment. However, in order to preserve its allure and showroom sparkle, a comprehensive schedule of cleaning and maintenance is required. While hardwood floors require less upkeep than carpets, it’s still important to use methods and cleaning agents that won’t affect your floor’s natural qualities.
Prevention is the best cure
The best way to preserve your hardwood floors look and protective layer is to prevent dirt, excess water and potentially harmful substances from ever getting anywhere near it. The simplest thing you can do is to place mats at doorways and runners along high-traffic areas. These will stop dirt from being unnecessarily dragged around your home, and they’ll absorb excess moisture from dirty shoes when it’s raining or snowing outside. You can also protect your flooring from furniture by using floor protectors under tables and chairs.
Clean as you go
The best hardwood floors will retain their natural shine for weeks at a time – but only if you look after them on a daily basis. Sweep up dirt and vacuum dust as soon as they start to accumulate, and wipe up spillages immediately. It may be a good idea to use a hardwood attachment on a leading vacuum cleaner at least once a week in order to remove all traces of dirt, dust and foodstuffs. You may also find that quality electrostatic cloths will pick up dust without the need for anything else.
Schedule regular deep cleans
There will be areas of your floor – particularly in a kitchen – that don’t respond to daily sweeping, wiping and vacuuming. Areas around cookers, sinks and fridges may require deep cleaning once every few months.
In most cases, they can be applied by hand using a micro-fibre cloth or sponge. However, water can seep into the smallest of cracks and crevices – undermining your floor’s protective layer.
You should always aim to ring out your cloth or mop fully before cleaning. And although some people use of steam mops for the job, they aren’t usually recommended by the manufacturers of real wood flooring.
Remove marks as and when they arise
It is always a good idea to identify your floor’s finish before attempting to remove marks, scuffs and stains. Where marks have occurred on the outer surface of your floor, the chances are it has a hardened protective layer, such as urethane. However, if the mark seems to have penetrated the wood, your floor has probably been treated with an oil-based sealant.
If yours is a hard-sealed floor – which most are these days – nothing more than a wipe with a soft-fibred cloth and a little hot, soapy water will be required. You can use dedicated hardwood floor cleaners if necessary, but never use abrasive cleaning materials such as steel wool, sandpaper or scouring pads, as these will scratch the surface of your floor and make it susceptible to moisture penetration.
If your floor has been treated with an oil-based sealant, you may need to employ the use of steel wool, specialist cleaning chemicals and floor wax. However, you should never attempt complex repair jobs without first consulting the manufacturer’s guidelines. It may also be worth consulting a flooring specialist, as using inappropriate materials and cleaning agents could actually lead to more damage.
With a little tender, loving care, there is absolutely no reason why your hardwood floor shouldn’t provide you and your family with a lifetime of faithful service.