House cleaning in the Madison, Middleton, Verona, Fitchburg Wisconsin

Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Posted on November 10th, 2016 by Mike Copsey

Image of hardwood floor and how to clean hardwood floors.

Cleaning hardwood floors can be an easier and less confusing task than you might think as long as you use some caution and common sense and also don't overlooked other factors unrelated to cleaning.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors – Confusion About Products Used

There are many companies that say cleaning hardwood floors with their products is the best way to go. With some of these products, you can just spray onto the floor and then push around with a flat mop. Most of these companies will say not to use water and cleaner solution when cleaning hardwood floors because water is bad for the flooring, but these very same companies sell floor cleaner in concentrate form and guess what you dilute it with? Water! With all of this confusion, even coming from your favorite cleaning product, who knows what is best for your floors? Well the truth is that recomened methods and products will vary. One thing for sure is to use cleaners that are pH neutral and require little water to work effectively but it will always takes some water in order to remove dirt from the floor.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors with Vinegar

Many people request using vinegar when cleaning hardwood floors and we certainly can use vinegar to clean them, but vinegar alone has no “slippery” properties to lift dirt off the floor where it can be removed by the mop head. You need to have a detergent of a neutral pH like dish soap, yes dish soap, which also does a great job at disinfecting as it cleans. So vinegar and water alone means sliding hard particles along the surface of your expensive hardwood flooring but with a few drops of soap, those particles are lifted and removed. It is not so much about the type of cleaner used as long as it has a detergent like property and you do not use too much of it as it can lead to a build up.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors – Amount of Water Used

Let's start with an obvious word of caution when cleaning hardwood floors. One thing that you never want to do is soak a rag mop and throw it directly onto the floor. This will allow water to run in between the untreated sides and ends and even the bottoms of the boards where it will soak into them and put extreme stress not only on the finish, but the boards themselves and even the nails that hold the finished boards to the sub-floor. This can result in as little damage as the finish chipping / peeling off all the way to warping of the top finished boards and even separating them from the sub-floor. Even a wrung out rag mop can still produce excessive amounts of water on wood flooring. We actually recommend not using any form of rag mop. Instead, get yourself a flat mop with changeable pads. Then soak the pad in the cleaning solution and wring all the liquid that you can get out of the pad before placing it on the floor. There should be just enough dampness to cover the surface of the flooring but not more than what is required to take a few moments to dry.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors – Before You Mop

To be able to use as little water as possible while cleaning hardwood floors, you must make sure that all the loose dirt has been removed first. Sweeping with a fine bristle broom will do, but using a brush or felt covered attachment on your vacuum will do a much better job because a broom will not clean out the crevices between wood joints or do a good job at removing any pet hair. You can even use a regular upright vacuum if you set the vacuum so the brushes wont contact the floor surface AND you make sure the wheels of the vacuum are clean so that they will not scratch the surface. You need to do this often like every week, if you have heavy traffic or soil maybe even more often. Regular sweeping or vacuum is required to remove dirt that will otherwise scratch the surface when walked upon. You can also use rugs at the entry points to your home and to the hardwood floor areas and have everyone remove their shoes before they get to the hardwood flooring.

Things You Should Consider Besides Cleaning Your Hardwood Floors

Water is one enemy but it shows up on several fronts. It is is not just when the floor is wet for 10 minutes from cleaning it but much more so with the ambient humidity changes that happen every single day. When the humidity changes so does the length and thickness of each floor board. More humidity means more expansion and longer and thicker boards. Less humidity means contraction and shortening and lessening of thickness of those boards. Wood finishes are hard and unforgiving like glass and they need to be that way in order to keep a glossy and protective coating on the wood and to keep from being scratched by harder materials like sand and other particles found in common house dirt, but this same hardness causes the finish not to want to expand and contract like the wood does with humidity so the wood and finish snap loose from each other. There are even bigger worries with uncontrolled humidity like cupping of the boards due to the unfinished sides taking in humidity while the finished side blocks humidity changes.

Use a Humidifier to Maintain Proper Humidity Levels

In the winter, use a humidifier to raise and help maintain humidity in the house which in turn maintains the water content in the hardwood. This keeps hardwood, and many other wood items in your home, from changing in size and thus not deteriorating the adhesion of the finish. In the summer time, use your air-conditioner or a dehumidifier to lower and maintain the humidity which will keep the moisture content in the wood the same also alleviating stress. Air conditioning helps to dry your floors much faster during the summer greatly reducing the time that the wood is exposed to extra moisture.

Lastly, moisture changes in your home can affect all your wood furniture and even walls and framing causing them to expand and contract also. On a page from where they are discussing dehumidifiers, a quote reads, “Good systems put close to 100% of their energy into removing moisture, and can handle up to around 6.5 pints per hour, every hour, regardless of mild weather or cool mornings when an AC won't run much.” That's going on a gallon per hour. So when we throw a wrung out flat mop on the floor to mop to mop it where maybe this puts an ounce of water or two on the floor's total surface area it is really nothing compared to ignoring the humidity in the house.

In summary, you need to sweep and or vacuum hard wood floors often to keep hard particles from laying around waiting to scratch the floor when someone walks across it.. Remember that water, dirt and people are the biggest threats to your floors but along with this, humidity changes can damage finishes or more if ignored.


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