There are two main ways to clean your wood floors and the method you choose depends on the way the floor was sealed.
The different finish types are surface sealed, penetrating-seal-treated, oil-treated, lacquered, varnished, shellacked and untreated. Don’t worry; we’ll cover the cleaning methods for all of these below.
How to Determine Which Finish Your Wood Floor Has
The first step is figuring out what finish your wood floor was sealed with. If you still have the container the finish came in, just check that. If you had your floors professionally done, just call the flooring shop that did it and they should be able to help you out.
If all those fail you can do a “smudge test.” Just take your finger and rub it across the floor. If you don’t’ see a smudge, then you have a surface sealed wood floor. A smudge means you have a penetrating seal, oil, shellac, varnish or lacquer finished floor that has been waxed.
Cleaning Surfaced Sealed Wood Floors
If your floor is relatively new, it is most likely surface-sealed. The good news is these are the easiest to clean and maintain not only because they are stain and water-resistant, but because all you do is sweep, mop and you’re done!
You won’t need any oils, waxes or furniture spray (which make your floor slippery anyway). And you should never use straight ammonia, alkaline or abrasive cleaners that would scratch and dull your wood floor’s surface.
Using a manufacturer recommended cleaner will help ensure you don’t void your warranty, but you may also dilute a quarter cup ph-neutral soap in a bucket of water. Make sure the mop is damp not wet. Simply run the mop along the grain of the wood. Run another damp mop with just water to rinse. Let it dry and you’re done.
Cleaning Penetrating-seal Treated, Oil-treated Wood Floors, Lacquered, Varnished, Shellacked and Untreated
Start by sweeping the floors to remove all dust, dirt and debris. Next use a stripper recommended by the floor’s manufacturer to remove the old wax buildup from the surface.
Once the floor is dry, it’s time to apply the wax. Liquid waxes are easier, but are thinner and will provide less protection. For these just use the included applicator. If you want better protection use a paste wax, which you will apply with a clean cloth.
Do not use acrylic and water-based waxes, as they will turn your floors white. You should also avoid the easy one-step waxes as they are ineffective and end up trapping dirt anyway.
Now it’s time to buff the floors. The easiest thing to do is rent a buffer, which will be faster and make a nice even finish. To save money you can also use a soft, clean rag. For both methods remember to buff in the direction of the grain.
There you have it, the two best ways to clean wood floors. Not matter what finish you have on the floor; remember to sweep them at least once a day. Dirt left on floors gets grounded in by furniture and foot traffic, reeking havoc on your wood floors.