Friday, March 23, 2012

Cleaning & Caring for Hard Floors

Hard floors each require a different kind of attention. The most common hard floors are: wood, linoleum and tile.
I-Wood flooring:
Along with a hardwood floor comes the responsibility of keeping it clean. The better care you take, the longer your floor will keep its original beauty. 
The basics:
A high quality broom to sweep high-traffic areas daily. Sweep regularly with a high-quality broom for dirt, dust and other particles.
A vacuum cleaner without a beater bar to help get between the boards & other hard-to-reach areas.
A professional hardwood floor cleaner & mop.  Mop high traffic areas once or twice a week, and less used areas once a month or once a season.  Note that “pre-finished” wood floors may have a cleaner recommended and made by the manufacturer.  Be wary of other floor cleaners that may contain ingredients that violate your floor's warranty. Plain soap & water or vinegar & water will often do the trick when other cleaners are unavailable or cost-prohibitive, but these may lead your floors to become duller sooner.  
When mopping, be sure to wring out the mop completely, mop in the direction of the wood grain, mix a fresh batch of solution as needed, and finish with clean water to rinse.  Never use a wet mop or excessive water on hardwood - water is wood’s natural enemy and causes it to expand, which risks cracking and splintering.
A few things to avoid with hard wood:
Be sure to use cleaners that won’t leave a film. Avoid waxing with a urethane finish, and avoid ammonia cleaners and oil soaps as well.
Don't use oils, waxes or furniture sprays. Oil leaves a residue, furniture spray creates a slippery surface and wax takes time to apply and makes re-coating difficult.
Don't use straight ammonia, alkaline products or abrasive cleaners. They'll dull or scratch the finish.

Professional hardwood floor cleaner can also be used to remove occasional scuffs and heel marks - just spray some cleaner on a cloth and rub the soiled area lightly. Some damage may require a “screen and re-coat” treatment, which involves spot-sanding and top-coating areas of the floor where the finish has worn thin.
If severe damage to your hardwood floor occurs, sanding and refinishing may be necessary.  This involved process calls for sanding your entire floor down to the bare wood and refinishing it. This effort should be considered a last resort if screening and re-coating still leaves you unsatisfied with the results.  You may also wish to look into replacement boards so you don’t have to refinish an entire area.  Hardwood will fade or change shades with time regardless.  
A Few Final Tips for keeping your hardwood floor beautiful: 
• Protect from scratches by applying flannel protectors to furniture and taking extra care when moving heavy objects.  
• Use area rugs in high traffic areas. 
• Always remove spills promptly. 
• Do not allow excess amounts of water to sit on the floor. 
• Find out cleaning and care requirements for your specific floor from the manufacturer.
II-Linoleum flooring:
Linoleum floors are very similar to vinyl floors and may look identical to the casual eye (so be sure it’s linoleum you’re dealing with before you get started).  The materials used to make linoleum are natural, linseed oil and resins with various pigments added, whereas vinyl is made from synthetic materials. Linoleum is backed by a woven sheet and generally polished and waxed for protection.
Vinegar is a good, inexpensive choice to clean linoleum floors. With its natural low-acidity, vinegar causes no damage or corrosion to the linoleum floor. High pH (base) cleaners and abrasives can damage a linoleum floor, which could cause cracking and loss of luster over time.  
To get started, fill a spray bottle with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar.  You’ll also need a bucket of warm water.  
Spray some cleaning solution directly onto the linoleum and use a microfiber or cotton cloth dampened with the warm water to spread a thin layer of cleaner all over the surface. Even though linoleum is highly durable and resistant to damage, it is sensitive to excessive moisture, so use water sparingly. 
(When doing regular cleaning use a diluted all purpose surface cleaning agent and make sure to rinse well after use.)
STRIPPING WAX: For heavy duty cleaning, refer to manufacturers instructions for stripping the wax from the flooring. 
• Whenever possible, only use damp mops to clean linoleum flooring. They will help the polishes or waxes last longer and keep abrasive chemicals from damaging the floor.  
• Linoleum is prone to getting scuffed from shoes. If this occurs, try removing scuff marks with a pencil eraser. If this doesn’t work, apply a little baby oil – just a few drops, let it sit for a few minutes, and then wipe it off completely. 
• Never use linoleum in bathrooms.  
• Rubber and latex rug backings can stain linoleum floors. You should get a colorfast rug with no backing or a completely natural backing.
• Use colorfast, felt circles under chairs and table legs to avoid stains, marks, and scratches.  
• Two-in-one cleaning and waxing products don’t clean or wax as well as two separate products. 
• Put plastic protectors underneath live plants to avoid water damage, and move them around periodically to avoid yellowing from lack of light exposure.  
• Wet disposable mops do not clean as well as a mop and solution, and they are more likely to damage your floor than a damp mop cleaning. Use them dry or not at all. 
• Permanent stains can usually be buffed out with a nylon brush. Clean afterward and then use a protective polish to bring back shine.  
• Larger stains can often be replaced by a professional for an almost seamless appearance.

III-Tile floors:
Ceramic tiles are completely man made and they are very versatile when used as flooring. The two major kinds of ceramic tiles, glazed and unglazed, can both be cleaned with a simple formula of a gallon of warm water, a tablespoon of borax and 2 tablespoons of ammonia. All ceramic tiles come installed with grout that also needs to be cleaned as well. 
Dirt adheres easily to the surface of ceramic tile, especially styles with textured surfaces. Sweep regularly to loosen and remove most dirt. If you use a vacuum cleaner, be sure to use one without a beater bar to avoid scratching and dulling the tiles. A vacuum cleaner attachment works well to suck up dirt along edges or in between tiles.
• Use doormats to keep dirt being from coming into your home, and shake them out frequently. This will reduce the amount of dirt being tracked across your ceramic tile floor, and will reduces the wear to the finished surface.
•When it comes to mopping, ceramic tile floors should be damp-mopped using manufacturer-recommended grout and tile cleaners. 
• For heavier soil, spot clean the floor with a sponge or clean cloth using the same recommended cleaners.
• A microfiber mop works better than a sponge mop on tile floors because a sponge can push the dirt into the grout. A microfiber mop will pick up the dirt and keep it as you sweep across the flooring.
• Use circular cleaning motions with the mop across the tiles.
• When you come across particularly dirty grout, try using a spray bottle to saturate the grout tracks and then mop over the wet area immediately.
• For resistant grout stains, try a commercial cleaning product like Oxiclean and dilute it to the specifications on the back of the label. Once you've finished - clean the floors with water and remove any cleaner residue.

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