Friday, October 21, 2011

What’s So Hard about Hardwood?

Keeping hardwood floors clean does not have to be complicated.

Dream homes come in many forms. There are, however, common denominators that usually pop up; in my case, as probably shared by many, one of these factors is beautiful hardwood floors. These types of floors are investments and like all other investments, they should be cared for.

Know the Deal
Take the time to inspect the wood to see how it is sealed. Wood treated with surface sealants such as polyacrylic, urethane or polyurethane are the easiest to clean because they make the wood moisture-resistant. A little sweeping of the broom, a little swishing of the mop and voila! Clean floors.

Some hardwood floors are given a dose of oil finish or penetrating seal to achieve a certain level of luster. In cases such as these, wax should be applied to the floors and then buffed to properly maintain its shine.
Varnished, lacquered and untreated hardwood floors should also be coated with a thin layer of wax. The reason for this is that hardwood floors that undergo these types of treatments are not as resistant to scuffing and moisture-related damage. The wax acts as an extra layer of protection.

Clean with Efficiency
If you have ever experienced the horrific discovery of floors ruined by splotches of white, then you would know that not all cleaners are built the same way. Hardwood floors should not be cleaned using strong chemicals such as ammonia or alkaline-based cleaning materials. These cleaning materials are abrasive! They can scratch the surface of the floor, injuring the original grains of wood.

Use cleaning materials that are formulated specifically for floors. An alternative would be to use soap and water. In our household, a cup of dishwashing soap to a bucket of water is the most effective and budget-friendly way of maintaining our floors. A tip from experience? Stay away from oil-based soaps. Oils will make the floors slippery and prone to attracting dirt.

Mop the floor as frequently as needed. Wet the mop in the cleaning solution and squeeze the excess water out. It is important that the mop is not soaking wet because excessive water can warp the floorboards. When mopping, follow the direction of the wood grains to nudge out the dirt hiding in between the fibres.

Troubleshooting Floor Issues
The reality is that short of floating above the floors, there really is no way of keeping them damage-free. Fortunately, there are easy ways to make quick repairs to restore the looks of the floors.

For example, scuffed up floors can be gently buffed by a sprinkling of baking soda on a damp sponge. Gently wipe the floor to remove scuff marks. A humidifier might help to close up small cracks that appear on the floor, because it can control the contraction and expansion of the wood.

Finally, make allowances to sand hardwood floors and recoat it with its sealant every couple of years to ensure that your hardwood floors develop character, not damage, as it ages.