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The Best Way to Clean Wood Floors

How To Clean Wooden Floors

A wood floor can be a thing of great beauty, attracting attention and comments from admiring visitors, or, on the other hand, it can be something of an eyesore, dirty and stained and crying out for a bit of tender loving care.

If your wood floor fits into one of the above groups, or is somewhere in-between the two, then it must have crossed your mind that there is a right way, and many wrong ways in knowing how to clean wooden floors.

clean wooden floors
Let’s look at the above scenarios in more detail. You have a recently installed wooden floor, still gleaming from its initial coating of varnish but starting to gather a few marks, scratches and perhaps a couple of stains from coffee spills, dirty shoes, pets etc. In this case then only light cleaning will be required whereas if the surface is very dirty a more serious approach may be necessary.

Most modern floor covering treatments, i.e. varnishes, are very sophisticated formulations that form an effective shield between the grain of the wood and the outside world. The treatments used are, in the main, water-based Polyurethane sealers which have pretty much become an industry standard when it comes to sealing wooden floors.

These sealants are low odour and environmentally friendly, as well as being non-toxic. Furthermore, these floor sealants are resistant to yellowing, they dry fast and wear very well, even in high traffic areas such as a kitchen or hallway.

How to clean wooden floors – First things first get prepared

As with any cleaning job, success usually comes to those who prepare properly. Before you start to use cleaning products and mops, as described below, you should always clean your floor first with a vacuum cleaner.

This will remove any loose dust and dirt and, more importantly, any loose pieces of grit that could scratch the floor’s surface if it gets caught in the mop.

To mop, or not to mop, that is the question when you need to clean a wood floor

clean wooden flooring
For most people, most of the time, the standard way to clean a wood floor will be to mop it. What people are often not sure about however is what to mop it with, i.e. which of those magic potions on offer will give you the best results and cause minimum damage to the wood floor.

Since the treatments used to seal and protect your wood floor are probably water-based, you should really only use cleaning products that are suitable for water based sealants. Chemical based cleaners may damage your floor’s varnish or reduce its effectiveness at protecting the wood beneath.

Most of the time you should be able to use warm water but, when mopping a wood floor there is one very important thing to bear in mind – your mop should be damp, not wet!

The reason for this is that, although your floor may be almost totally waterproof, there may be gaps between the planks or wooden tiles that would let water through – this is especially true of a floor that has been made from pre-finished wooden floor tiles or strips and laid without further finishing on site.

If, on the other hand, your floor is an older one that has been varnished in-situ then the coating process would usually have sealed the gaps between the planks as well so the chance of seepage is smaller.

It’s well worth checking before you even think about applying a mop but, in any case, it’s as well to use only cold or lukewarm water and wring the mop out thoroughly before using it on the floor.

How to clean wooden floors – You may need a different approach

cleaning wood flooring
In certain high traffic or heavy usage areas, like a kitchen for example, you may find that the water only mopping method may not be enough and it’s at times like this that you may have to consider a proprietary cleaning product.

There are many of these on the market and, in the case of a newly laid floor, you should always take into account the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding which products are safe to use on their flooring surfaces and which are not.

If, on the other hand, you have a floor which has been re-sanded and re-varnished then always ask the company carrying out the work for you to let you have the names of products which are safe to use with the sealant that they have used to finish your floor with.

If the soiling or staining to the floor is more serious you may need to use a cleaning product, as described above, together with a non-abrasive cleaning pad. These pads, which are available to be used with a machine if you have a largish floor to clean, will remove most marks and soiling without damaging or scratching the surface and are more effective than mopping alone.

Floor cleaning machines can usually be hired for a few pounds and it is worth doing so if you have a large area of floor to treat.

If the dirt is really stubborn then the careful use of a soapy water solution applied well diluted should be OK but over time this may dull the surface and eventually a re-varnish may be necessary.

After mopping, always remove surplus water and dirt by buffing with a towel or special non-abrasive buffing pad on a machine.

Waxing lyrical about waxing a wood floor

clean wood floors

Many people like to wax their floors to give the surface a lovely shine but there are many things to consider before waxing. Some areas where usage is high may get slight scratches through normal wear and tear and every now and then some attention may be necessary. In any event, a floor in a busy area will need recoating every 2-3 years.

Waxing is now a fairly easy task as the wax can be applied as a water based product which is simply left to dry to a shiny surface and which does not require any further treatment.

Although waxing reduces the appearance of scratches and gives the floor a lovely shine there is a downside – wax is very difficult to remove without sanding it back to the wood and recoating. This is not usually a problem however as another coat of wax every few months is usually sufficient to maintain the showroom appearance.

To finish of this post about how to clean wood, always play safe and use only the types of cleaning materials recommended by the manufacturer and avoid the use of abrasive pads. Too much water on the mop may be difficult to dry and could cause water to seep between the boards where it could damage the wood.

For further wood flooring advice please take a look at our other posts, or alternatively, if you wish speak to a wood flooring specialist please get in touch with us today.

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