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How to clean your hardwood floors like the pros

Hardwood Floors: Basic Care

Speed up the cleaning process by first dusting the floor with a microfiber duster head mop that has been treated with a dusting agent to pick up dust, dirt, and pet hair that might scratch the floor surface. For weekly cleaning or biweekly cleaning, vacuum with a floor-brush attachment on a vacuum cleaner or an electric broom. Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar attachment, which may scratch a wood floor's finish. Apply the cleaner and go with the grain no against the grain of the wood. Let dry with ceiling fans and jacking down the AC to 68 degrees. Repeat the process. Remember to vacuum carpets, rugs, first before mopping.

Hardwood Floors: Deeper Cleaning

Dirt, oil, and grime build up over time and aren't completely removed by a weekly dust mopping. For occasional deep cleaning (consider doing the cleaning in the spring and fall just before the winter holidays), use a wood-cleaning product diluted according to the label instructions. Saturate a sponge or rag mop in the water, then wring it almost dry so it feels only slightly damp to the touch. Damp-mop the floor, being careful to prevent standing water on the floor. Rinse with a clean mop dampened in clear water, but only if the cleaning product requires it. Wipe up excess liquid because standing water can damage wood surfaces. If the weather is humid, operate a ceiling fan or the air-conditioner to speed up drying.

Getting the Right Tools for the Job

An easy way to dust hardwood floors depends on the tools you have to get the job done. While there are many different devices and tools that can help dust your hardwood floor, the top three are vacuums, brooms and microfiber mops. Within each category there are many, many different types and variations, but here are some general considerations for each:

  • Vacuums. Vacuums are a great multi-use appliance that can help when you want an easy way to dust hardwood floors. Their attachments can help you reach places that other traditional tools can’t, and some vacuums are designed to work on hardwood floors. When using a vacuum, be aware that most vacuums have a bare-floor setting that raises the beater bar to a safe level above your floors. Check to make sure the beater bar is as far away from your floors as possible!

  • Brooms. While brooms may seem like a primitive cleaning tool, there is as much variation in broom types and functions as there is in vacuums. There are brooms specially formulated for cleaning floors, but a concern about using brooms is that brooms only push debris around on the floor without an effective way to get rid of it.

  • Microfiber Mops/Dusters. Microfiber mops are made with synthetic materials specifically designed to attract and trap dust particles, making them an effective go-to product in the battle for keeping hardwood floors dust-free. Microfiber mops provide less strain on the body because of their lightweight nature, and some microfiber cleaning pads are washable, giving them an extra money-saving benefit.

Clean floors

Hardwood Floors: Removing Marks

Consider your floor's finish before trying to remove a mark. If the stain is on the surface, your floor probably has a hard finish, such as urethane. If the stain has penetrated through to the wood, the floor probably has a soft oiled finish -- common in older homes whose floors have not been refinished and resealed. Wipe surface stains from a hard finish with a soft, clean cloth. Never use sandpaper, steel wool, or harsh chemicals on such a surface because they can permanently damage the finish. The following remedies are for hardwood floors with soft oiled finishes. If needed, end each treatment by staining the wood, then waxing and buffing the spot to match the rest of the floor.

(Before doing any sanding consult with a professional flooring company first.)

Dark spots and pet stain: Rub the spot with No. 000 steel wool and floor wax. If the area is still dark, apply bleach or vinegar and allow it to soak into the wood for about an hour. Rinse with a damp cloth.

Heel marks: Use fine steel wool to rub in floor wax.

Oil-base stains: Rub the area with a soft cloth and dish washing detergent to break down the grease. Rinse with clear water. If one or more applications don't work, repeat the procedure. Keep children and pets out of the room until you're done. Let the spot dry, then smooth the raised grain with fine sandpaper.

Watermarks or white stains: Rub the spot with No. 000 steel wool and floor wax. If the stain goes deeper, lightly sand the floor and clean with fine steel wool and odorless mineral spirits.

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