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How to Maintain and Clean Hardwood Floors, Part One: Flooring DON'Ts

You wouldn't think it'd be that difficult to write a blog post about cleaning hardwood floors, but you'd be wrong. There are so many homeowners who don't know how to maintain and clean their hardwood floors and are using the absolute worst cleaning products that this one turned into a much more detailed post than I originally thought it would be.

Thus, I've split it into two parts. This first one will cover all the flooring mistakes people make when it comes to cleaning their floors. In Part Two we'll go over maintenance tips and our favorite products.

So today, I'll offer blunt advice about what you're doing wrong when you clean your floors. There is hope, friends. I can change. You can change. We can all change! (Name that movie.) Read on to find how.

how to clean hardwood floors

Photo: Southern Oaks Flooring, Nashville, TN

Hardwood floors are easy to maintain, but if neglected they can become pretty grimy and gross. The above photo is all the proof you need. Say it with me now:


Flooring Don'ts: The Worst Products for Your Hardwood Floors

Mistake Numero Uno is using Murphy Oil Soap. This is far and away the most common mistake homeowners make when cleaning their hardwood floors. The bottle shows a pretty picture of a sqeaky clean hardwood floor and it "contains 98% naturally derived ingredients," which we all know can mean just about anything. But if you read the fine print you'll see that this is Pure Vegetable Oil Soap.

Basically, when you use this you're just pouring vegetable oil on your floor. It doesn't clean a thing; it just creates a waxy buildup that dulls your floor's finish and makes it even harder to restore if and when you need to. Unless you're cool with ruining floors that are generally worth thousands of dollars, stay far away from Murphy Oil Soap.

Orange Glo is another homeowner favorite that's just as bad as Murphy Oil Soap, for the same reason. Imagine using hair gel every day without ever washing it out. Eventually, you'd have some pretty bad buildup, right? You'd probably have to use a lot more shampoo and rinse several times before removing it all. Think of Orange Glo as hair gel for your floor. When your floors become dull, though, it costs a wee bit more than a $3 bottle of shampoo to restore.

I blame Pinterest for this next flooring DON'T. Believe me, I understand the desire to DIY everything. I've made my own shampoo, lotion, laundry and dishwasher detergent, and made a disastrous attempt at making my own deodorant that resulted in a not so pleasant smelling couple of days before I finally gave that one up.

Please, for the love of your floors do NOT make your own DIY floor cleaner. All the ones I've seen use vinegar or lemon juice, mixed with water. No and no! Vinegar will dull the finish and can even eat away at it ('s acidic.) The vast majority of hardwood flooring has a urethane finish, so the vinegar does not clean the wood. It simply ruins its protective layer. For those floors with a hard wax oil finish, the same rule applies. Don't use vinegar!

Steam cleaning is great for clothes, horrible for hardwood floors. Of course steam mop commercials do all they can to convince customers that their products are safe for wood flooring. They're not.

Not only do steam mops use water, which is the biggest culprit when it comes to damaged wood flooring, they use heat as well! Heat and water are a deadly combination when applied to wood, so as tempting as it is, do not use a steam mop to clean your hardwood floor.

steam mop hardwood floors

UN-steammopped floor. Southern Oaks Flooring, Nashville, TN

While we're speaking of mops...NEVER WET MOP HARDWOOD FLOORS!

I hate to shout, but it's kinda important. A lot of customers are tempted to wet mop their floors, thinking good ol' soap and water is the best way to remove dust and dirt. Water and hardwood don't mix! Most customers know to clean up standing water right away but think a little water spread with a mop won't hurt. I assure you it can and will.

Water can seep into the spaces between boards and warp the wood, causing all sorts of destruction you don't even want to think about. If you want to save yourself a headache and quite a bit of money, put the wet mop down and slowly back away.

I hope I didn't make you feel too bad if you've been committing some of these floor cleaning sins. It's easy enough to change your ways. ;) Just come back next week and we'll give you our best tips and advice for keeping your hardwood floors looking good as new.

Think you need to replace your hardwood flooring? Brentwood, Nashville, and other middle Tennessee residents are welcome to call us at (615) 416-9039 to schedule a free inspection and consultation. Your floors might just need a little TLC to bring them back to life!

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