A Guide To Cleaning Hardwood Floors
Hardwood floors are one of the true classics of interior design: Beautiful and durable, with the proper care, they can easily last a lifetime. To remain in peak condition, hardwood floors need to be cleaned regularly, however; not only are they less forgiving than carpet (dirt is more visible against their sheen), if rough dirt particles are frequently tracked across them, the lustre of the floors may dim over time, leading to the need for costly maintenance work.
Effectively cleaning hardwood floors, experts say, is all about getting into a routine; once you have made the cleaning regimen a habit, it will come naturally to you, and your floors will look pristine as a result. Your cleaning schedule should be organised as follows:
Dust your floors with a fine microfibre mop or cloth to remove harmful gritty particles, allergens, and unsightly dust, making sure to work in long, smooth motions without lifting the mop or cloth from the floor during passes. Note that while you can also use a broom, the static pull microfibre exerts over dirt and dust provides a much more effective and efficient way to remove surface soil from your hardwood floors.
Though daily dusting will help to prevent damage to your hardwood floor as a result of hard particles being ground into its polished surface, you will still need to perform a “deep clean” each week to remove dirt and grime from hard-to-reach corners. You should vacuum lightly (for best results, use an attachment that will not put any hard edges into contact with the floor), then mist the floor with a hardwood cleaner (never use water) before mopping it down carefully but thoroughly.
At least once every few months you should take the time to polish your hardwood floors to refresh and renew their finish; not only does this ensure that your floors retain that “brand new” look, it also helps to protect them from damage.
In addition to performing the cleaning tasks described above, you should consider having your hardwood floors professionally sanded and refinished once every 3-5 years. This will repair any scratches or gouges your floor has accrued during daily use and keep the actual wood that lies beneath the polished surface safeguarded.
Finally, it's important to remember that you should never use common “green” cleaners like vinegar and water on your hardwood floor, nor should you use soap-based cleaners, wax, or steam cleaners; all of these have the potential to warp the water-sensitive wood below. Vinegar is also notorious for dulling the sheen that makes hardwood floors so attractive.
To really extend the life of your floors, consider installing protective mats in areas of high traffic: While it means there will be more to clean each week, this is the most foolproof strategy to guard your floors against scratches, gouges, spills, and other sources of damage.