The mortal enemies of wood is moisture and dirt; both of which will most likely settle on your floors continuously. Standing water or liquids can warp the wood and cause it to swell, so addressing spills as soon as they occur is important. Dirt-catching methods such as using entry rugs, leaving your shoes at the door and regular vacuuming and dusting can stave off tiny particles like dust and dirt that can easily scratch the floor.
To figure out the best cleaning method for your floor you need to find out how your wood floors are sealed or finished (usually either wax or urethane). If you've recently installed your flooring and are able to obtain a sample and get manufacturing details, then consider yourself fortunate. Samples are the best way to assess what exactly is underfoot and will enable you to test cleaning solutions and methods. If you have no clue as to what exactly you have then try as best you can to determine if there is any top coat or finish. Floors treated with a urethane finish (usually a polyurethane or a polyacrylic) are the easiest to clean and a quick swipe of a damp cloth will do the trick.
Here are the best rules of thumb for cleaning your hardwood floors, no matter what type of finish you have:
- Do not use ammonia, or harsh, abrasive cleaners
- Do not use furniture sprays which can leave a slippery, waxy build-up
- Do use a wood cleaner that is designed for floors. There are many on the market and you may need to spot-test your floors to see which works best. You can also make your own solution by mixing about a quarter cup of pH-neutral soap or Murphy's Oil Soap to a bucket of warm water. Use a sparing amount of water to clean and be sure your cloth or mop isn't dripping with water. Go over the floors a second time with plain water to rinse.
- Do use wood appropriate cleaning tools. Soft, non-scratching fibrous cloths (like microfiber) are perfect for picking up surface dirt without marking your floors.
If you really don't know what you have underfoot then never fear. Start by going to a local hardware store or better yet, a flooring store. All questions and concerns are best left to people who work with wood on a regular basis. Sometimes these shops carry their own proprietary brands of cleaning solutions and it's a great place to pick up supplies and cleaning cloths.
As stated before, the best way to maintain a clean hardwood floor is to prevent dirt and spills from accumulating in the first place.
Image credit: Frenchescar Lim