As professional flooring installers, it seems the most commonly asked question we hear almost daily is “What should I use to clean my new wood floor?”
Let’s start by telling you what not to use: Never clean a hardwood floor with products like vinegar, ammonia, household dust treatments, floor waxes, steam cleaners, household cleaners including Murphy’s Oil Soap, liquid polishes or anything with instructions that include the words “mop and bucket.” Although many cleaning product manufacturers will promote their merchandise as good for wood floors, we’ve had to refinish a substantial number of floors that were routinely cleaned with such products.
Compounds like vinegar are acidic and will etch into the finish and create dulling. Ammonia is harsh and can discolor the wood. Liquid polishes and household dust treatments have a waxy material that shines and leaves a slick residue with a contaminating film on the floor. Floor waxes build up layers that can dull and discolor wood. Household cleaners have detergents that can harm the finish and also leave a contaminating film behind.
Never wet mop a hardwood floor, as standing water can cause the wood to warp. Although widely promoted as prime hardwood floor cleaners, steam cleaners are the most damaging. Water damages the finish, and heat and steam can actually crack the wood.
Without naming any brands, the recommended method for cleaning is the use of a specially formulated hardwood floor cleaner sprayed on a dry micro-fiber mop and applied to the floor after a thorough sweeping. This doesn’t have to be done every day; once a week is a great routine.
Other maintenance tips include a daily “swiffing” or vacuuming using a soft brush attachment. Do not use an upright vacuum with a beater bar. All liquids and spills should be wiped up with a dry paper towel or cotton/terrycloth material as soon as possible. Use a dry paper towel or terrycloth material after the clean-up to make sure no liquid remains.
Using entrance rugs helps catch dirt and grit at the doorway before it gets tracked in and scratches your floor. It is really important to keep the humidity level between 40 and 60 percent to help prevent the contraction and expansion of your wood boards. This is most important during the winter months when the heat is on and the air is very dry. Additionally, the use of felt pads on furniture legs is extremely helpful in preventing dents and scratches from sliding chairs or when moving heavier furniture.
It’s interesting to note that the color of hardwood changes with age and exposure to sunlight. If you use area rugs, they should be rotated in the room in order to keep the overall color more uniform. Also, when using area rugs, be sure their backings are of only untreated natural fiber such as wool or jute or a 100-percent non-solvent-based rubber. Same thing goes for slip pads, do not use sticky or tacky backers – they contain plasticizers that can attack and discolor the finish.
With proper care and maintenance, a hardwood floor will deliver many years of beauty and cleaner, living.
About this Angie's List Expert: Barbara Hoffmeyer is the office manager for Property Care Hardwood Floors, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based, family owned and operated business specializing in hardwood flooring since 1992. Tom Hoffmeyer, the owner, is a licensed Michigan residential builder, and his son Tommy and daughter Melissa are National Wood Flooring Association-certified installers.
As of March 23, 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.