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Experts In Your Home Blog

Floor Care Tips: How to Properly Clean Wood Floors

[fa icon="calendar"] May 12, 2016 at 9:00 AM / by Home Services Expert

boy_wiping_wood_floorsPick a surface – any surface – and when it gets dirty, it's tempting to turn to the most ubiquitous cleaning agents around: soap and water.

But when that surface is wood – and in particular, a wood floor – anything more than a damp rag or cloth can damage your wood floor. Wood expands when it's wet and so can crack, splinter and warp.

As the floor care experts at The Hignell Companies know, you cannot properly clean a wood floor unless you know which type of wood floor you have installed in your home. Then you can clean it with confidence – and ensure that it gives you years of lasting beauty and durability in return.

Identify your floor type

There are four basic types of wood flooring:

  • Surface-sealed wood floors are sealed with polyacrylic, urethane or polyurethane. This type of wood floor is most resistant to stains and water – though only to a point, so be careful not to get carried away with that soap and water.

  • Penetrating-seal-treated and oil-treated wood floors feature a seal that soaks into the wood grain and hardens. This type of wood floor must be pampered with a liquid or paste wax.

  • Lacquered, shellacked and varnished wood floors generally are not as resistant to stains and water as other surface-sealed wood floors.

Untreated wood floors


If you're uncertain about which type of wood floor you have:

  • Consult the manufacturer's instructions that accompanied your wood floor.

  • Rub your finger across the floor. If no smudge appears, your wood floor probably is surface-sealed. If a smudge does appear, your wood floor probably has been sealed with lacquer, shellac or varnish.

  • Call the floor care experts at Hignell so we can inspect your floor.

Remain vigilant about dirt

No matter which type of floor you have, basic care begins with keeping the floor as clean as possible. As Hignell pointed out in a previous article, “Floor Care Tips: How to Keep Wood Floors Looking Like New,” two cleaning tools are vital:

  • A dry microfiber mop or a high quality, soft-bristle broom

  • A vacuum without a beater bar

Use the mop or broom every day and the vacuum at least once a week to remove dirt, dust and food particles between floor boards. These elements pose the greatest threat to your wood floor since they act like sandpaper particles in scratching and gradually degrading the finish of a wood floor.

Follow the manufacturer's advice

If you also strategically place area rugs and runners in high-traffic areas, you might have to get down on your hands and knees and clean your wood floor with a damp cloth only periodically. You'll know when your floor could benefit from a more thorough cleaning. This is when knowing which type of wood floor you have is vital. As the Wood Floor Covering Association warns:

  • “Hardwood flooring manufacturers of prefinished wood floors have specific recommended cleaning products for maintaining the wood floor's finish. It is best to use their recommended cleaning products and follow their instructions so you do not void your warranties.”

The specific instructions may vary somewhat but generally follow a similar pattern once you have the recommended cleaning product in hand:

  • Dip a mop into a bucket with the cleaning product

  • Wring it out completely, remembering that water is the worst enemy of wood (even sealed wood)

  • Mop in the direction of the wood grain

  • Empty the bucket when the solution becomes dirty and replenish it

  • Go over the entire floor with a damp (meaning moist-only) rag

Treat tough stains

To erase scuff marks, try sprinkling a little baking soda on a damp sponge before wiping. For tougher stains and buildups, including glue and tar:

  • Apply a small amount of peanut butter to the stain. The natural oil in peanut butter should break down the residue.

  • Hold a few ice cubes over the stain with a rag and leave it there for at least 10 minutes to freeze the residue. Then you should be able to lift it with ease.

Contact the floor care experts at Hignell. We've been cleaning and restoring floors in northern California homes for more than 60 years, and we can make yours shine, too – right along with your pride.

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Topics: Home Maintenance, Flooring