Hardwood Floor Myths - Hardwood Floors are Hard to Maintain and Keep Clean

When you're in the business of installing, refinishing, or repairing hardwood floors, you hear a lot of things that just aren't accurate about hardwood floors. Sometimes they're misconceptions, sometimes they used to be true (waxing hardwood floors...we're looking at you), and some are misguided variations of the truth.  We'd like to do a little series on some of the myths or misconceptions we hear most often.  

Myth #1: Hardwood Floors are Hard to Clean

(AKA: How am I supposed to keep my hardwood floors clean?)

This is by far the #1 question we get from customers or those considering hardwood floor installation in their home.  And we think a BIG part of this is the current trend to have extremely dark stained wood floors -- they show EVERYTHING.  (We'll save talking you out of dark stain for another day)  But the truth is hardwood floors are much cleaner than carpet.  All that dust you see on a hardwood floor? That's in your carpets too.  Ground in, next to your baby's face, harboring all the yucky and there's no way to get it out of those fibers. Even a professional steam cleaning of your carpet can't get everything.  Gross. So while it's annoying to see every spec of dust on those espresso-stained boards, at least it's not ground in there for all of time.  But we DO want you to have nice clean floors.

Here are our tips:

1. Always sweep or vacuum well before mopping. And sweep frequently.

 Here in Louisville (and Kentucky in general) we track in all sorts of little scratchy bits of the outside into our homes on shoes, purses, and pants hems: crushed gravel, garden soil, rock salt, and whatever that sandy stuff is that they use before filling holes in the sidewalk.  It's not good for you and it's not good for your floors.  When your shoe, under the weight of your body, grinds it into the finish you're working like a very slow but very efficient sander. Jacqueline would tell you to bite the bullet, bow down to your robot overlords, and buy a roomba that will vacuum while you're at work.  However, we realize this is probably not a feasible suggestion for the majority of people.  A regular vacuum with the soft bristle attachment and no beater bar or a dry dust mop are both fine choices.  That is of course, if you weren't a fan of the Jetsons. If you were, then you definitely need a roomba.

2. Use a high quality soft microfiber mop head.  Steam mops are not a good choice for hardwood floors.

Would you iron your pants on your bare dining room table? You would not. Why? Because heat and steam are not friends of wood.  Your wood floor is no different. Over time, a steam mop will destroy the finish on your floor and possibly even damage the wood itself. 

We strongly recommend the Norwex or ecloth mop. Norwex is sold through in home marketers (we aren't affiliated with Norwex, we just like their mop), ecloth can be found easily online. Big box retail stores like Walmart, Target, Lowe's etc, and Amazon will also have a good selection of mop handles and heads including from companies like Ocedar, Libman, or Rubbermaid. These are all fine choices.  We personally prefer the mops with refillable solution tanks so you can fill it with....

2. PLAIN WATER is the best choice for routine cleaning.  

Cleaning solvents, including those marketed as appropriate for hardwood floors, are often not a good choice.  Water is cheap and good.  Use just enough to slightly dampen the floor and move your mop along the grain of the wood. Remember extended exposure to moisture is not your floor's friend.  So just enough to pick up the dust.  Your high quality microfiber will lock in the yuckies  (technical term), water is just there to assist with that process.

Oil soaps, harsh pine scented cleaners, furniture polish, ammonia, and bleach are poor choices for different reasons. Stay away from them at all cost.  

3. If you have something particularly icky ( another technical term) use  a quality cleaning solution sold by your hardwood floor specialist.

We will be the first to tell you we can sell Bona products -- and a better formula of it than what you can get at Walmart, but it's really not necessary.  Water is just fine.  You can also use a VERY diluted solution of vinegar or lemon juice with water (1:4 ratio or weaker).  But don't use these frequently. They are acidic and can cause problems if used routinely.

4. Never never never wax a polyurethane floor.

It's the 21st century, y'all.  Just don't do it, despite what Jacqueline's other overlord, Martha Stewart has to say on the subject. Martha is an expert at fancy cookies, themed parties, and complicated Thanksgiving side dishes.  Wood flooring expert she is not.

 Poly is essentially a plastic coating on wood. Wax is a pain to apply and it's just going to dull that pretty finish and collect all manners of icky previously discussed.  Plus we'll have to charge you far more when you do want to touch up with a new coat of finish -- which, unlike waxing, IS the best way to restore the shine to your floor.  While we are business owners, we don't want your project to cost more than necessary.  Don't make us do it.  

Conclusion:

Hardwood floors aren't hard to clean, carpet holds dirt and wood floors don't, damp mopping with plain water is the way to go.  Hardwood floors add beauty and value to your home.  Their care is not so complicated as carpet manufacturers will have you believe.  If you have specific questions about cleaning let us know. We'll be happy to find and answer help you make the most of your beautiful investment!

 

*We've used some Amazon affiliate links in this post.  If you buy those things through our links they will send us approximately 30 cents. Feel free to not click on those links if you are in a current struggle against Amazon or are in any way opposed to supporting us buying 10 minutes of parking in NuLu .