How to clean a wood floor
If your home has lovely old or new wood floors, it is important to care for them to increase durability and enhance their potential for long-lasting wear. At some point every few years you may need to have them refinished, complete with sanding and polishing. But an occasional, detailed cleaning is important to help them look good and last long.
Start by clearing everything off the floor. Move furniture to another room. Pick up toys and small objects, like coins or paper clips. You can sweep the room free of dust and debris if you like, but keep in mind that straw brooms can inflict tiny scratches that may gradually diminish your floor's finish. It may be better to use a dust mop to clear the floor's surface.
Next, take several cotton swabs and moisten them slightly to attack the corners of the room. Wipe along each edge, back and forth repeatedly to the corner, to remove the buildup of dust and dirt. As it becomes loose, you can take a damp cleaning cloth to wipe away the debris. This may take several minutes, and you might not be able to get it all in one cleaning. Be prepared to try again in a few weeks.
Do the same thing for the wood molding around the areas where your hardwood floors meet the walls of the room. Get into the grooves and crevices of your molding to remove dust, pet dander, and other substances that have accrued over time.
Now look for stains, spots, or stuck-on substances. Use a mild solution of wood floor cleaner, like Murphy's Oil Soap, to work on the concentrated stains. You may need to dribble a few drops of the solution on the spot and let it set for several minutes. Don't leave it too long as it could lighten or damage the wood. Remove the solution with a clean sponge or soft cloth.
If you find gum, asphalt, or other sticky substances, use a nail file or a putty knife to carefully loosen it. Avoid scraping or scratching the floor. Work it gently, taking up a little at a time if the entire piece will not come up as a single unit. Check the floor to be sure it isn't damaged or stained underneath the substance.
Now use a clean mop and fresh scrub water made of a regular concentration of wood soap and water. Go over the floor once, taking extra time with spots or stains that remain. You may need to change your water and go over the floor a second time. Use a cloth to wipe clean the moldings and corners.
Use a matching color of furniture polish or brown wax to fill in chinks or scratches that have erupted in the wood. Use a minute amount, and use a small sponge or cloth to blend the color into the surrounding area. This will not repair wood damage, but it will help conceal it until the next sanding or refinishing job.
Finally, apply the right type of floor wax for your hardwood finish. Check the package directions to be sure it will fit your floor. Use the right amount, avoiding more than necessary to prevent slippage or injuries from the waxed surface.
Go over the moldings again with a clean, damp cloth to remove any splashed soap stains or residual dust. Ventilate the room well, keeping people and pets from walking on it until completely dry. When you are done, the floor may look as though it were newly installed. The next several times you clean house, you will probably only have to give it a regular washing and wax touchup.
Take care of this important part of your home's beauty and efficiency, and you can enjoy your wood floor for years to come.