Real hardwood floors create an aesthetic charm that simply can’t be replicated with other materials. Warm, elegant and relatively easy to maintain, hardwood floors can completely transform a room all on their own. But while they’re relatively easy to clean and maintain, you will have to take special steps to ensure they always look their very best.
Thankfully, cleaning these beautiful surfaces is all about common sense. There’s nothing technical involved here; just a little elbow grease and the right approach.
Refer to the manufacturer’s cleaning guidelines
The first thing you should do before cleaning your hardwood floor for the first time is refer to the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions. Depending on the wood and the type of sealant used, the cleaning instructions can vary greatly.
Using the wrong cleaning method or chemicals could permanently damage your floor. And if that happens, the chances are your warranty will be void.
Remove dust and debris regularly
Vacuuming, sweeping and dusting shouldn’t be something you do at the same time every week. To keep your floors free from debris, you should be giving them a once-over every day — and dealing with spillages and crumbs immediately.
If you’re sweeping your hardwood floors, make sure you use a soft-bristled brush designed for indoor use. If you’re dealing with small areas, you can use a microfibre cloth for speed and convenience.
Using a powerful vacuum cleaner is usually the best option, but you should use a hardwood or brush attachment to prevent scratches and scrapes. Significant scratches can leave your flooring susceptible to water damage.
When you’re vacuuming, make sure you remove dust and dirt from crevices and along skirting boards. Use the the extending brush attachment for the best results. A handheld vacuum cleaner is ideal for the job, as it doesn’t involve running wheels across your floor.
Mop with the correct products
You might have read that vinegar and ammonia are great for removing stubborn accumulations from hardwood flooring. However, both of these substances can compromise the protective sealant. Even water alone can be enough to cause permanent damage.
In most instances, a slightly damp mop alone will be enough to remove stains from hardwood. If you’re trying to cut through grease, there are some dedicated hardwood cleaning agents on the market that could help you.
However, one of the most effective — and safe — ways to clean real wood floors is with the use of a steam mop. The latest versions use only a very small amount of water, yet the temperatures they reach are often enough to cut through grease and grime. They leave very little water behind, so you don’t have to worry about drenching your floor and causing lasting damage.
Even with a steam mop, however, you should always check the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions before proceeding.
Dealing with small areas of damage
If you notice serious and extensive damage, you should really call in a team of flooring specialists. However, you can usually deal with isolated issues by sanding with fine steel and then resealing.
If you’re struggling to remove dark stains, a little diluted bleach can deliver results, but you’ll need to rinse the excess away after an hour or so. You may also need to sand the area down and reapply a sealant or floor wax afterwards.
And if you’re dealing with chips and gouges, there are some very effective wood fillers on the market that can leave the area looking like new.
Clean as you go
Apart from moving furniture and shoes, the biggest risk to your hardwood floors is general debris. If tiny specks of grit and small stones are left on your floor, they may be stood on — creating gouges, scratches and craters.
Preventative cleaning is perhaps the most effective way to look after your hardwood flooring. Sweep or vacuum your floors once or twice a day even if they look fine — as potentially damaging stones and grit are often invisible to the naked eye.
You’ll never be able to fully protect your hardwood floors from wear and tear, but you can maximise their lifespan with regular cleaning and by taking the necessary precautions.