You might think that cleaning a floor needs no explanation – after all; it is just a matter of a mop and bucket, right? In some cases yes, cleaning a floor is that simple. But when it comes to hardwood floors, you need to evaluate the floor finish and condition first before selecting the right cleaning products and methods. Hardwood floors that have been installed or refinished within the last 30 years tend to have shellac, lacquer, oil or several layers of wax. Based on this, you would want to use the right cleaning technique. So let us study some easy ways to clean new and old hardwood floors correctly.
1. Dry dusting
In most cases, it is best to simply dry dust or sweep hardwood floors. You can use a natural broom for the job. A vacuum cleaner can also help suck up dust from cracks in the hardwood floors. It is best not to use water on wooden floors as wood tends to absorb moisture and swell up. Again, the use of water may be allowed on certain finishing but not all. Also: do not use a vacuum with beater bar as this can mar your wooden floors.
2. Black tea
As surprising as this may sound: black tea is one of the best ways to clean wood floors naturally. All you need to do is brew one quart of black tea (using either loose tea leaves or tea bags). Add about 2-5 teaspoons of powdered tea or 2-3 tea bags to a quart of boiling water. Once the water boils, remove it from heat and let it steep until cooled. Strain the tea to remove tea/bags. Now dip a soft rag or microfiber cloth in the tea and clean every inch of wooden floor. If you have a large surface area to cover, you can dilute the concentrated tea with warm water and dip a mop in it. Do not over-wet the wooden floor: only use a bit of the tea to wipe the surface clean. This little trick will naturally clean the wood floor and also remove imperfections. If needed, buff with a dry rag afterwards.
3. Repair scratches with crayons
This is a neat little trick to clean old hardwood floors having deep scratches. Crayons consist of wax and wood loves wax. Simply use a crayon over the wood floor in the right shade to remove tiny scratches and make your hard wood floor look as good as new. Rub the cracks and scratches with the crayon and then use a hair dryer over the treated region to seal the wax in. You can also buff with a soft rag later. The method works so well that you’d never know the crack was there in the first place!
4. Cleaning and waxing products
Many commercial products are designed for cleaning and waxing hardwood floors. (Some products contain both: cleaning agent as well as waxing agent). These are also available in light and dark colors. If your floor is heavily soiled or scratched, you could consider using these products before going for expensive professional treatments. Follow the instructions on the product and work in a small area at a time. Devote considerable time and energy for the project to ensure getting the job done right.
5. Choose wax/cleaning products wisely
Manufacturers often claim that their products can be used for a variety of floors, no matter what their finish or condition of the floor may be. This is actually deceptive advertising because not all surface finishes are compatible with one another. If you want to apply a fresh top coat to your floor, make sure to match it first with the original finish. Never apply modern water based varnishes or polyurethanes over the top of solvent based shellac or oils. And never apply a top coat over floors that have been waxed. Often in such cases, all attempts to remove the wax layer are futile since the wax does not come out completely. So the only option to clean a waxed hardwood floor is to sand it and then rewax it.
6. Sand and refinish
In case of very old hardwood floors having too much old wax or finish or one that is simply too damaged, your only choice is to do a complete sanding and refinishing.
7. Cleaning hardwood floor with vinegar
This method is generally safe for cleaning most hardwood floors naturally. Having said so, you must always test a small area first to ensure that your wood can withstand vinegar. Here is the basic recipe
- ½ cup white vinegar
- A gallon of water
Mix the two and dip a clean cloth in it. Wring to remove excess water. Wipe the wood floors gently. You can also fill up a spray bottle with 16 ounces of warm water mixed with 2-3 tsp of white vinegar. Shake well. Spray the mixture on soiled areas. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe gently. Use this simple recipe for cleaning heavily soiled hardwood floors.
8. Essential oils
Cleaning hardwood floors is a breeze thanks to this non toxic recipe having the shining-power of lemon essential oil:
- A gallon of water
- ½ cup borax
- 5-7 drops of lemon essential oil
In a large bucket, mix the ingredients. Combine well. Use a microfiber cloth or mop to clean the hardwood floors as usual. No need to rinse.
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9. Some more tips to keep your wood floor in mint condition
- Never use any other products than ones recommended by the wood floor manufacturer, especially for cleaning and waxing.
- Water can dull the finish of wooden floors. Hard water can also leave a discoloring residue on the floor. Do not overly wet-mop the floor. Damp mopping is best thing to use to clean wood floors.
- Wipe all food and liquid spills quickly. Use lightly dampened towel and then immediately use a dry towel.
- Essential oils impart a fresh and clean scent to floors and make your home smell heavenly. You can safely use orange, lemon or lavender essential oils.
- If you are moving heavy furniture, slip scraps of thick carpeting under all furniture legs to prevent your hardwood floors from getting scratched.
- Steam cleaning hardwood floors is not recommended as it can lead to cupping and long term damage of the wood.
- Give a spritz of liquid spray floor wax on the floor from time to time. It hardly takes minutes per day and can give a new lease of life to wood floors. Caution: do not let waxy puddles form on the floors as they can get extremely slippery.
If you are wondering what to use to clean hardwood floors, the best answer would be a dry mop and damp cloth. It is best to avoid water and steam cleaning as moisture is an enemy of wood. We hope the above tips help you clean new and old hardwood floors easily and naturally.