Hardwood flooring is a significant investment in personal resources, reflecting a desire for a particular look and aesthetic. Naturally, you’ll want to take care of them properly—but what, exactly, does that entail? Do you require special equipment to vacuum your hardwood floors? Can you use the same cleansing agents on hardwood flooring that you would use on other hard surfaces throughout your house, such as counter tops and walls? What about pet-related cleanups; how do you effectively deal with those?
We’re assuming that you don’t want a daily reminder of what your four-legged best friend did, of course.
Dry Mopping in Preparation
For a general cleaning, the first step is to remove everything from the area to be cleaned, including any furniture that’s easy enough to move without substantial risk. Once that’s done, you need to dry mop or vacuum the hardwood floor. For most hardwoods, you will be able to use a standard vacuum cleaner, along with any attachments designed for vacuuming a solid surface (as opposed to carpeting). In the case of some softer, more exotic woods, additional research may be required—you may wish to dry mop, just to be on the safe side.
Wet Mopping: Treated vs. Untreated
The next step is to wet mop your floors. Prepare a mop bucket with warm water, and wring out your mop lightly; don’t squeeze it to the point where it’s functionally dry again, but you don’t need a temporary swamp in your living room either. Use warm, but not hot water, and avoid the use of harsh or abrasive chemicals. If your hardwood floor has been treated with polyurethane, you can add a few drops of non-abrasive dishwashing liquid to your mop water, for a little extra cleaning power. If you are able to go to the additional expense, there are specialized, non-abrasive cleansers designed for both treated and non-treated floors; for many people, a regular warm-water mopping does the trick.
Final Step: Buffing
You want to gently buff your hardwood floors dry with a soft cloth. With respect to the wet area, work from the outside in. Make sure you start with a dry towel; if you have a particularly large area to cover, or if you used a little too much water, you may need an extra towel or two. Follow the perimeter of the wet area until you reach the center of the area that you mopped, working in soft and gentle strokes in a clockwise or counter-clockwise pattern (follow the grain where possible, but try to keep the pattern uniform as well).
Emergency Pet Situation
There are a variety of home remedies and over the counter products which are designed to help lift old pet stains out of a hardwood floor, or to prevent new stains from setting in. After cleaning up the immediate problem (assuming you aren’t working with an old stain, in which case disregard) move everything out of the vicinity of the stain. There is a solution of warm water with 3% hydrogen peroxide which comes highly recommended (here’s a video; beware the loud instrumental at the start). This method comes equally recommended for fresh or old stains. Another method involves a proportionate mixture of a gallon of warm water and half a cup of white wine vinegar as a mopping solution.
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