Wooden floors are popular for a number of reasons: they don't trap dust and dirt like carpets do, they're warm to look at and underfoot, they're made from a natural, renewable resource, and they're easy to clean—well, allegedly, anyway. While daily dusting of wooden floors is undoubtedly easier than pulling out the hoover every day, caring properly for your wooden floors, getting them clean and protecting them from scuffs and scratches, can be a bit more difficult than it first appears. There's lots of advice out there, some of it contradictory, so we've boiled it down to a few simple tips and tricks that'll make caring for and cleaning your wooden floors a breeze.
Before thinking about how to clean your hardwood floors, think about preventing them from getting dirty in the first place! Smart maintenance tricks will ensure you don't have to spend half your life cleaning your floors. Put mats inside and outside exterior doors to encourage family and guests to clean their shoes before stepping onto the floor in the hallway. Consider placing a bench inside exterior doors, with a hard-wearing mat underneath, where people can remove their shoes before tracking mud or moisture onto your wooden floor. Put felt floor protectors on table and chair legs to keep scratching to a minimum.
Use a soft, dry micro-fibre mop to pick up dust, dirt or pet hair that might scratch the hardwood surface. A quick run of a dry micro-fibre mop over the floor every day or two will cut down on the frequency with which you have to wash your hardwood floors. Once a week, if you have small or large gaps between the floorboards, vacuum with a floor-brush attachment to suck dust out of the cracks. If your floor is parquet, with no gaps, this step is less important.
Ground in dirt and grease will build up on your floor over time and won't be totally removed by dry mopping. But you shouldn't need to deep clean the floor more than every couple of months—particularly if shoes are kept for outside. Use a wood-cleaning product recommended for your floor (often your wood floor will come with a list of recommendations for cleaners; if you didn't install the floor yourself, find out what wood it's made of and do some research). Dilute the cleaner according to the label instructions, and saturate a mop with it. Then wring the mop out thoroughly, so that it's almost completely dry. Moisture is a wooden floor's worst enemy! Mop the floor, and ensure you don't leave any pools of standing water anywhere. When you're finished, rinse with a clean, damp mop. It's a good idea to follow this step by wiping the floor with a dry cloth, to get rid of any excess moisture. If it's humid outside, turn on a ceiling fan or air-conditioner to speed up the drying process.
Before trying to remove any stubborn marks, figure out what kind of finish your floor has. If the mark is on the surface of the wood, the floor is probably finished with something like urethane. If the mark is in the wood, it's likely your floor has an oiled finish. If your floor is finished with a hard finish like urethane, you can wipe off marks with a soft cloth. If your floor is soft oiled, things are a little trickier. You'll need some 000 steel wool and floor wax. Apply some floor wax to the stain, then rub very gently with the steel wool. If this doesn't work, apply a little vinegar to the stain, and leave to sit for an hour or so, then rinse with a damp cloth. If it's an oil-based stain, rub the area with ordinary dishwashing detergent and a soft cloth.
If you have a soft oiled floor, you can help it keep its sheen, and protect it from stains, by periodically (every three or four months) rubbing the floor with a cloth sprayed with olive oil.