Maintaining a hardwood floor in prime condition doesn’t take much skill or effort, but it requires consistency and good care on a daily basis. Especially for rooms that experience heavy traffic or are exposed to additional “treatment” from kids and pets, it’s essential that you keep an eye for suspicious stains, marks and spilled or sticky substances.
Since floor are generally separated into wax finished and surface finished, the exact hardwood floor cleaning tips often differ depending on what finish you’re dealing with. Apart from the regular dust-mopping, sweeping and vacuuming with an appropriate extension, you need to know how to take care of “accidents” and minor damage that the floor would inevitably experience sooner or later.
Starting with the regular cleaning routine itself, never use water to clean the surface. Unless the floor manufacturer (if you have a prefinished floor) or the floor finish manufacturer (for floors finished on site) allows the use of damp mops, you’re only going to cause a lot of grief to the protective coating and in no time, to the wood underneath it. Once done, the floor would experience many negative side effects such as buckling and crowning, as well as the surface losing its color and shine. On a side note, don’t use domestic dust and surface cleaners, but rather what is recommended by the manufacturer of your floor. If the latter is unknown, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner that’s designed for the type of floor finish you have.
When it comes to dealing with stains, like from a pet or ink, the sooner you react the better. You would almost always have to use a very fine or fine steel wool to take off the finish away (wax or polyurethane) before you can reach the contamination. Use a recommended wood floor cleaner and a bit of mineral spirits to remove the stain, wait until the area dries up, then rewax and buff, or refinish. Remember to never use wax on a surface finish. Sometimes if you spot the problem too late and it goes too deep, replacing the boards might be your best option.
To deal with minor scratches, just rewax if it’s a wax finish floor and buff. For surface finishes, use a touch-up kit made for surface finished floors. You can find the latter in most specialized shops. Food stains and chunks need to be blotted lightly with a damp but well wrung out cloth, then scrapped off carefully without damaging the surface. Plastic tools do a better job in this case.
Certain oils and grease can be very dangerous to a floor, so make sure you take care of them immediately. For wax finished floors, soak up the substance thoroughly, then blot the spot with a clean cloth and follow up with a dry cloth to remove the residue. Repeat one or more times if necessary. Use mineral spirits and trisodium phosphate (if you have) on a soft cloth to rub the area gently until the problem disappears.
Lastly, mildew and mold are constant enemy of houses with higher humidity levels or leakages. To take care of these on a hardwood floor with both wax and surface finishes just use an approved wood floor cleaner. Additionally for wax finishes, you may have to rub the spot with a finer steel wool, then rewax and rebuff. Burns and marks are the least you’d want to see on your floor, so if that happens consider replacing the strips or planks if it goes too deep. Otherwise you can try to resand and refinish.