What Feeding Bears and Ruining Your Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors Has in Common FloorTalk — for all

What Feeding Bears and Ruining Your Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors Has in Common FloorTalk - for all

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What Feeding Bears and Ruining Your Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors Has in Common

How important is it to clean your hardwood floors with the proper cleaning agent? I assumed that every flooring salesperson made this information abundantly clear at the point of sale, that every client listened and followed their instructions diligently. Then I got my reality check on the Internet. After a little web surfing on how to clean hardwood floors I found discussion after discussion that proved my fear that countless hardwood flooring crimes were being committed. At first, I thought, How could people do this. Then, I came to terms with a few simple realities.

Take this True/False quiz to test your knowledge. Ill bet you are not alone. Below are the answers and my theories on why these are common misconceptions.

1. I should mop my hardwood floors at least once or twice a week regardless if I have spills or scuffs with a liquid cleaner.

Answer: False. One of the main benefits of hardwood flooring is that they are low maintenance floors that require only a little more maintenance than sweeping on a regular basis to remove dirt. Cleaners are only needed when cleaning spills, removing scuff marks or major cleanings like spring cleaning. Cleaners should be applied with a terry cloth head mop rather than a sponge mop because you dont want too much liquid applied directly to your floors. Too much liquid can cause your floors to expand and crack. You can and should, however vacuum your floors daily with a vacuum without a beater bar to remove dirt that can scratch your floors. Use a vacuum attachment to access those hard to reach areas.

My theory: You want to clean your floors often to maintain a healthy home and mopping is a trusted form of effective cleaning. Makes sense. But why make it harder than it has to be?

2. Murphys Oil Soap is the best cleaner for all types of hardwood floors.

Answer: False. Technology has changed with the introduction of pre-finished hardwood floors. Murphys Oil Soap is a great product for hardwood floors with poly-urethane finishes, but not so great for pre-finished floors with aluminum oxide coatings (most pre-finished hardwood floors). Using a water based or oil based product on these floors can void the warranty and put a hazy film that is extremely challenging to remove without ruining the floors finish.

My theory: Television and advertising have made Murphys Oil Soap a trusted name in flooring for many years. It is a great product for certain kinds of wood floors and wood products. However, this is not a “one size fits all” product.

3. Orange Glo will make my pre-finished hardwood floors shine again.

Answer: False. Well, actually it might, but they might be ruined when it dries! The same answer as#2 applies.

My theory: Again, Orange Glo is a trusted name and the instructions are not entirely clear.

4. If I get a cloudy residue on my floors I should use a stronger cleaner.

Answer: False. The reason there is a cloudy residue or haze on your floors is more than likely from using the wrong cleaner or too many different types of cleaners. As my mother used to always say, two wrongs dont make a right. (three wrongs might result in a cloudy film on your floor!) If you have a cloudy film on your floors and you know who manufactured your floor, consult your hardwood flooring manufacturer, giving them a detailed description of what cleaners have been applied. If you are unsure of what type of floors you have or who manufactured them, contact the NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) at www.nwfa.org or www.woodfloordoctor.com for the best solution.

My theory: If one product doesnt work, then its natural to want to put another right on top of it.

5. There really is no need to sweep before cleaning my hardwood floors.

Answer: False. Dirt is hardwoods worst enemy. If you mop with all of that dirt being pushed around it is like sandpaper constantly scratching your floors.

My theory: Most people dont have time to sweep first before cleaning when it seems like you can do two steps in one!

6. Vinegar is a universal cleaner that is safe for all types of hardwood floors.

Answer: False. Vinegar is great for cleaning lots of things, just not your pre-finished hardwood floors. Vinegar is acidic and your floors should be cleaned with neutral PH cleaners. Some unconfirmed sources say that it is acceptable to clean non pre-finished hardwood floors with a small amount of vinegar diluted in a small amount of water.

My theory: Thats what my mother told me, thats probably what your mother told you and her mother told her. Times have changed. If your mother has hardwood floors give her this info!

7. Any household cleaner should be safe for my hardwood floors because of the protective coating that is applied when its finished or that comes with pre-finished floors.

Answer: False. False. False. Again, use a neutral PH cleaner that is recommended by your flooring retailer, recommended by the wood flooring manufacturer. Not using what the manufacturer recommends can void your warranty or ruin your floors finish.

My theory: I dont have one here. I am still in shock over reading that hardwood floors are being cleaned with Windex, shaving cream, PAINT THINNER, Mop and Glow, Armstongs Once and Done (made to clean vinyl floors), vinegar, diluted bleach, ammonia and a variety of other cleaners.

8. The more liquid cleaner I use, the better. (scuff marks surely need more cleaner)

Answer: False. Hardwoods second worst enemy to dirt is water. Since your floors originated from a tree, wood floors expand and contract with moisture. Adding more liquid or moisture increases the likelihood that your floors will expand. As they begin to dry, they will contract. This back and forth can lead to unnecessary cracking. The good news is that it only takes a small amount of cleaner to remove spills and scuffs.

My theory: Americas Motto: More is better so more cleaner should get your floors cleaner.

9. My cleaning person knows the best product to use.

Answer: Maybe, but more than likely false. Of the random handful of cleaning crews I have interviewed, most say that vinegar is a universal cleaner and will argue that Murphys Oil Soap is the best product for hardwood floors, it always has been and still is! Most homeowners arent aware of what type hardwood flooring they have how can we expect the cleaning people to?

My theory: Everyone trusts the professional to know the right products to use. Know your floors and how to maintain them!

10. The manufactured suggested cleaner is the same as any household cleaner it just has a fancy label and costs more.

What Feeding Bears and Ruining Your Pre-Finished Hardwood Floors Has in Common FloorTalk - for all

Answer: False. The hardwood cleaner manufacturers put a lot of time, energy and science into developing cleaners that are safe for your floors. Because there are so many different types of finishes available, using the suggested floor cleaner by the manufacturer is an inexpensive way to save yourself the nightmare of ruining floors that could last you a lifetime.

My theory: Who has time to go to another store just to buy one separate cleaner when everyone knows the vinegar in the kitchen cabinet is the universal cleaner and if that doesnt work, surely paint thinner will.

Seriously, its not your fault if youve been cleaning your floors with the wrong products. Accurate information is not easy to find. Before actually checking the bottles and calling manufacturers I was convinced that your flooring retailer either didnt inform you of the right product to use and the consequences of using the wrong cleaner, they informed you but your head was overwhelmed with all of the other information they recently provided you, they informed you, but they dont sell cleaners so you decided to ask a friend or stick with the basics that you grew up with, they gave you a sample bottle and you ran out or you werent the original purchaser of the floor so you had no chance other than to rely on the internet or what your friends/family told you.

I decided to dig into this because truthfully, if you were informed or read most brochures and websites you were probably only told to use what your flooring retailer or the flooring manufacturer recommends. I chose to tell you instead what not to use and why because I am the type person that needs to understand the consequences of my actions sometimes before I agree to follow the rules. To give you an example, I am the person who looks at the sign that says Dont feed the bears and thinks Humph. What do they know? Why on earth should I not feed the bears, theyre so cute and they will love these homemade whole wheat muffins with raisins. Its only when I saw the sign that basically said Dont feed the bears because if you feed them, after they eat all of your food and you have no more to offer, they will eat you instead. that I decided to listen. That did the trick for me. So, maybe you’re like me in that you need to understand the type of damage that can be done to your floors as a result of cleaning with the wrong products before you follow the rules on how to maintain your floors.

So, what do we recommend?

First, know what type of floors you have. It is important to know if you have factory pre-finished hardwood floors or floors that are finished in place or sand and finish floors because there are different cleaners for different types. The easiest way to tell is if you were present at the time of installation. If the floors came out of the box with the stain color already applied and nothing more was done you have pre-finished hardwood floors. If you have hardwood floors that were natural or raw when installed and were followed with several sandings and stain or top coat you have finished in place or sand and finish hardwood floors. If you do have these floors, you need to know if you have a waxed or urethane finish. It is always best to use the cleaner recommended by the manufacturer to maintain your warranty. However, If you arent sure, choose a cleaner that is safe for both pre-finished floors or sand in place floors! Click here to visit a website that offers manufacture specific cleaners as well as popular cleaning brands that are non manufacture specific.

A few products to choose from that are safe for pre-finished hardwood floor s:

A few other tips:

No matter which type cleaner you select, it is always best to test a small hidden area before applying to the whole floor.

For stubborn stains like chewing gum or candle wax try using a credit card to scrape the spill up while being careful not to scratch the floors.

Walk off mats at every door that are regularly maintained are important to keep dirt and sand from being tracked in and scratching your floors. If you dont remove the dirt periodically, they cant do their job of removing in coming dirt!

Because hardwood floors are natural products, some stain colors will darken or change over time. Area rugs over hardwood floors need to be rotated because the floors will remain the same color underneath where the wood is not exposed to sunlight.

Floor protectors on the bottoms of chairs keep your floors from getting scratched.

Most floor manufacturers and cleaning manufacturers have toll free numbers to technical support that will be happy to answer your questions.

For other maintenance tips on other flooring products, click here.

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