Hardwood floors can add class and style to homes, but caring for your wood floors properly is an integral part to keeping them looking nice for years to come.
As the owner of a maid service, I often get requests for waxing or buffing wood floors in order to make the floor look new again. However, this is often not a proper service for most of my customers' sealed wood floors.
When cleaning hardwood floors, it is important to first determine whether or not your wood floors are finished or unfinished. Finished floors are considered sealed. Sealed floors have been coated with a protective top coat such as varnish or polyurethane.
Many newer homes today have sealed hardwood floors. They can be shiny, high gloss or have a matte finish. This is the most common type of wood floor. If you have an older home, a country home or perhaps a historic home, you may have an unfinished wood floor. This type of hardwood floor needs to be cared for differently than a sealed hardwood floor.
Let’s start with how to determine what you have in your home. If a floor is finished, a few drops of water would bead up and not soak in and stain the floor. If you have an unfinished hardwood floor, that water can soak into the wood and cause a stain.
One important thing to note, some homes have finished floors that have a finish that is no longer fully intact. This means that the protective coating may have chips, scratches and cracks where the unfinished wood is now exposed.
You may wish to consider having your floors refinished by a flooring professional. Otherwise, you will need to be careful with the way you clean the floor and will need to use much less water when cleaning.
Once you have determined that you have sealed and finished hardwood floors, there are many options for cleaning, including water based and liquid cleaners. However, these floors cannot be waxed or buffed in the traditional way – only unsealed floors should be waxed.
If you find your sealed floors to be dull, there may be a buildup of floor cleaner. In order to remove the haze, try using hot water and a fourth cup of white vinegar solution on a terry cloth covered mop head.
Be sure to rinse the towel/rag often, as you will need to have a clean towel to absorb the excess cleaner. Once the floor is clean, the true shine of your floor depends on the current state of your floor's seal.
If you have determined that your floors are actually unsealed, be aware that you should not use common floor cleaners like Pledge or Murphy's Oil Soap. In addition, you should not use any water based or liquid floor cleaners.
There are some solvent based cleaners that are specifically for unsealed hardwood floors, but often you can buff the existing floor (and wax) to restore shine. Adding new waxing products to floors should be something that is done every six to 12 months, at most.
If you just need to clean your waxed floors from common foot traffic, here are some steps to get the job done:
1. Cut a hole into a terry cloth hand towel or rag.
2. Place towel over the head of the mop by sliding the pole through your rag’s hole.
3. Spray the rag with an aerosol unfinished floor cleaner or a little bit of white vinegar.
4. If you use any water during this process, be sure to wipe up any excessive amounts with a fresh towel. If minimal water was used, be sure that the floor fully air dries.
5. Buff hardwood floors with a clean terry cloth towel on the mop head, or you can find specialty buffing rags in the automotive care section of general variety stores or auto supply stores. Use a circular motion and do not apply pressure to the mop.
For larger cleaning projects and refinishing, be sure to research and contact a local floor cleaning professional!
About this Angie’s List Expert: Sarah Pelletier is the owner of SparkleClean Maid Service, providing housecleaning services in Alexandria, Va. Since 2009, SparkleClean has specialized in spring cleanings, move in/move out cleaning, hoarder and pack rat cleanup, floor cleaning and more.
As of October 7, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.