Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

March 29, 2005
Clean wood floors so they’ll look good for life

A wood floor adds character to a room. Oak and maple are the most popular hardwoods used in flooring, but ash, beech, birch, cherry, hickory and walnut are other favorites for floors and decorative accents.

Solid hardwood floors, due to their improved finishes, are among the easiest to keep clean. Prevent damage to your floor with a few simple regular precautions to avoid the need for refinishing.

• Keep the surface clean. Dirt, grit and sand act like sandpaper, scratching, dulling and denting the surface. The easiest way to prevent such damage is to put floor mats at the entrances to catch the dirt before it gets to the floor. Mats are actually good prevention advice for any floor.

• Wipe up water spills as they happen. Standing water can warp a poorly finished hardwood floor.

• For cleaning, avoid oil soaps that may build up on wood. Instead, use cleaners made specifically for wood floors.

• Furniture can dent and scratch wood floors. Put felt pads on the bottom of the legs to reduce scratching and always lift, rather than dragging furniture. Keep in mind that direct sun can discolor your hardwood floor. Close curtains and blinds or add sheer drapes to protect the floor from UV rays.

• It does not require a lot of effort to keep a hardwood floor nice if you maintain it regularly. Keep dust and grit under control by sweeping and dusting regularly. Brooms with fine, exploded ends trap dust. If you choose to vacuum the floor, use the floor brush attachment — never use beater bars. Bare floor attachments are the best way to get rid of all dirt and dust.

• Dust the floor after sweeping to gather up the remaining dust. Adding a special dust mop treatment to the dust mop will increase its effectiveness.

Provided your floor finish is in good condition, it requires the same routine care, regardless of the type of finish. But, your hardwood floor will eventually need extra care. It’s here that much controversy exists.

Some professionals recommend that you damp mop your hardwood floor and others cringe at the suggestion. Just remember, if your floor’s finish is in good shape and mopping is done correctly, the water won’t penetrate even oil and wax finishes.

You’re cleaning the finish, not the wood, so don’t use water if the floor finish is in poor shape.

Damp mopping is a controversial practice for wood floors. Some experts say never to use any water on wood floors. Others say that if your floor is well sealed, even with oils and wax finishes, you should damp mop it regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt. Use a neutral pH wood cleaner and water or follow manufacturer recommendations.

Wring the mop

thoroughly before putting it on the floor and use it to dampen the floor. Dip the mop in clean water, wring it as dry as possible and mop over the floor again.

You are cleaning the finish, so the water will not hurt it. Keep in mind that if the floor is not well sealed, water can damage the wood. Do not use water if the finish is in bad shape.

If they are properly sealed, and the finish is not worn, mop with extra water and cleaner. Vinegar is not an excellent cleaner for floors as it does nothing to remove grease and soil. How often you mop the floors depends on the kind of wear it gets.

At some point you may need to remove or restore the finish on your wood floor. While the same care and maintenance techniques are used for all finishes in good condition, removing or restoring that finish requires different techniques for different finishes. If you don’t know what kind of finish your floor has, ask your contractor or realtor, or try these simple tests.

Surface finishes coat the top of the floor. These include prefinished floors, polyurethane, water-based urethane and catalyzed surfaces.

Most newer floors have surface finishes to form a protective layer on top of the wood.

They are often glossy and may look like a layer of clear plastic on the surface. If the polyurethane is not water based, it will bubble up under a drop of paint remover. Test it in a hidden spot if you need to find out.

These finishes may need to be sanded down with a floor sander before refinishing, or you may be able to get by with removing the finish on just one damaged slat of wood then refinish it with the same finish as the rest of the floor. Some woods are finished with penetrating seals like acrylics, waxes and oils. Oils and waxes penetrate the surface of the floor protecting the wood from within. They usually have as stain or matte finish. If you run your fingers over the wood and feel the grain in it, it is most probably a penetrating seal. Paint remover does not affect a penetrating seal, but wax stripper or ammonia will soften and whiten it.

The advantage of penetrating seals is that they are easy to touch up with a light re-application.

In many cases, stains can be removed by rubbing with Number 2 steel wool and recoating with the same finish.

With proper attention and care, you can enjoy for many years the lovely warmth that a hardwood floor adds to a beautiful room.

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