Hardwood floors are often beautiful, but they aren't immune to spills and dirt. Proper cleaning and maintenance are essential for keeping hardwood floors in good condition. While there are a number of products available for cleaning hardwood floors, not all are appropriate for every cleaning situation. You especially have to use caution with liquid cleaners, as too much moisture can damage the wood in your flooring. Choosing the best cleaning products for your hardwood floors typically means matching cleaner to the type of mess you have.
Vacuum cleaners, soft-bristled brooms and dust mops are the most common products you'll use on your floors. You can use these tools every day, keeping the dust and dirt at bay without dampening the wood. Regular dusting or vacuuming will also help prevent the wood from scratching, which happens as sand or dirt is moved across the surface when you walk on the floor. This increases the life of your floor's finish, reducing the need for more intensive maintenance.
Use a dry towel to quickly blot up any spills. If the spill is something that could stain, attract insects or leave some kind of residue behind, slightly dampen a second towel with water to wipe the spill area until it is clean. Take another dry towel afterward and buff the wood to get it as dry as possible.
If after sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming your floors they still seem to be dirty and grimy, clean them a bit more thoroughly with a cleaning solution. Vinegar is popular as an all-natural cleaner, but some avoid it because it is acidic in nature and can damage some floor finishes. To avoid this, choose a pH-balanced wood floor cleaner such as Bona Kemi, Zep Hardwood Floor Cleaner or Bruce Hardwood Floor Cleaner. Follow the dilution recommendations on the label and use a rag to squeeze out as much of the excess cleaning solution from your mop as possible so that you apply very little moisture to your floors. After mopping a small section (such as a 3 foot by 3 foot area), buff it dry with a towel before moving on to the next section.
Over time, waxes and polishes on your floor may become cloudy. To remove this unwanted cloudy residue, spray it with a no-wax floor cleaner and buff the area with a clean dry cloth. This floor cleaner can also be used to prevent cloudiness if used to clean up after spills or other situations where spot cleaning is appropriate.
If you have had a flood, clean your wood floors with water and bleach water or a household disinfectant cleaner while the wood is still wet. Scrub your floors with a stiff brush, getting your floor as clean as possible. Dry the floor as much as possible with towels when you're finished and set up large fans to increase airflow and dry the floor gradually. If there is mildew or mold present after cleaning, mix 6 tbsp. of washing soda or trisodium phosphate for every gallon of water and apply with a stiff brush to clean off the mold and mildew. Rinse with clean water when finished, using a mop or clean rags to wash the area and then drying with towels. Extremely damaged floors or subfloors may warp or rot and will need to be replaced.
Melissa Lewis is a former elementary classroom teacher and media specialist. She has also written for various online publications. Lewis holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.