Beautiful hardwood floors are timeless, classic and add value to any New York City apartment
, brownstone or condo. But all wood floors are not created equal. To protect your investment and avoid ending up with dull, dingy, warped, scratched or water-stained wood floors you need to know your floor and how to properly clean. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your wood floors for many years to come:
KNOW YOUR FLOOR: SOLID OR ENGINEERED?
SOLID HARDWOOD FLOORING
Traditional hardwood floors are made using planks of solid wood flooring pieces with tongue and groove sides. As a natural product, solid hardwood flooring is very sensitive to moisture. It expands and contracts in response to seasonal changes. In the winter, when the heat is on inside the house and the air is dryer, the hardwood floor contracts. In the cooler more humid months the hardwood floor expands. When cleaning solid hardwood floors, it's important to keep in mind this sensitivity to moisture. Too much water can ruin the finish, warp the floor, cause gaps between the planks and penetrate deep into the wood causing water stains.
ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING
Engineered wood floors (aka laminate wood floors, snap-in wood floors...) are constructed using composite pieces made from several thin layers of wood bound together to form a single floor plank. When manufacturing, the grain of each layer is set to run in different directions. This process helps increase the resistance of the floor to moisture and humidity. To avoid potential damage, engineered wood floors should be kept free of dirt, debris, and spills. Do not use wax-based cleaners, harsh detergents, or steel wool to clean.
CLEAN TIP: Sweep First, Then Vacuum
Start by sweeping your hardwood floor with a high-quality broom with rubber bristles (less abrasive). Begin sweeping at one end of the room, moving backward, gathering the dust and debris into a pile. Hit every corner and under all the furniture and appliances.
Vacuum the pile using the hose. Then do it again. This time, do it with the vacuum. Use a hardwood floor attachment or felt surface brush (avoid attachments with rotating brushes that may scratch the finish) And pay special attention to vacuum between any gaps in the boards. Do this at least once a week. Immediately spot clean when accidents, or muddy footprints, happen.
HARDWOOD FLOORS: SEALED OR UNSEALED
To determine the best cleaning method for your wood floor you first need to know how your wood floors are sealed or finished. Not sure? Rub your finger across the floor. If you do not see any smudges, the floor is most likely surface sealed. If you do see a smudge, the floor has most likely has been treated with a penetrating seal, oil finish, shellac or varnish and then waxed. To be certain, check with the manufacturer for cleaning recommendations on your specific floor. Avoid the use of cleaners that may violate the warranty of your floor.
SEALED WOOD FLOORS
Most new hardwood floors are sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. Surface-sealed floors are more resistant to stains and water-damage. Don't use oils, waxes or furniture sprays on surface sealed hardwood floors, it will make the floor very slippery and dangerous. Avoid the use of straight ammonia, alkaline products or abrasive cleaners, as they will dull and/or scratch the finish. Vacuum, sweep or dust mop your wood floor as often as possible. The vacuum head must be brush or felt.
For deep cleaning sealed hardwood floors, saturate a rag mop or sponge with wood floor cleaner diluted according to the label instructions. Wring out the mop or sponge until it is almost dry and slightly damp to the touch. Damp-mop the entire floor. Avoid leaving standing water on the floor as you go. If the cleaning product requires, rinse with a clean mop dampened in clear water. Be sure to wipe up any excess and operate a ceiling fan or the air-conditioner to speed up drying.
UNSEALED WOOD FLOORS
Unsealed wood floors do not have a protective top coat. Without that coating, the unsealed wood readily absorbs any liquid it comes in contact with, resulting in swelling and damage. Keep your cleaning routine water-free and gentle. Avoid using liquid floor or all-purpose cleaners on your unsealed floor. Sweep or vacuum as often as necessary to remove dust and debris from the flooring. To further improve the look of your unsealed wood floor you may also consider treating with oil or waxing.
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