How To Clean and Buff Polyurethane Hardwood Floors Yourself!

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Wood cleaners with bucket, gloves and sponge on living room hardwood floor.

Hardwood floors take the beauty of your home interiors from 0 to 60 in an instant! Sure, marble floors and extravagant tiling work is great too, but nothing beats the rustic, yet modern, charm that hardwood floors possess. Wood (in virtually any form), is in a class of its own; hence, it is imperative to clean and maintain hardwood flooring because even the slightest damage or ugly stains can take them from 60 to 0 (in an instant)!

As beautiful as they are, hardwood floors can be a little tricky to clean and maintain. This is because they generally have a coating or finish that requires more specialised cleaning methods, as well as tools and products that will safely clean the surface without causing damage. Though they demand a little more care than most types of flooring do, it’s well worth the extra effort to keep your hardwood floors gleaming and gorgeous! Read on to find out how you can do just that.

Determine the Type of Finish Beforehand

It pays to know what type of finish your hardwood flooring is coated with to ensure that you are cleaning it appropriately. Modern hardwood floors are generally finished with a polyurethane or acrylic coating (unless a different finish is requested for), while older hardwood floors may be unfinished and only stained (they have no surface-seal or protective film). 

If you are unsure about the finish of your hardwood floors, conduct this simple test to figure it out:  

      1. Add a few drops of water to an inconspicuous area of the floor. 
      2. After a minute, check if the beads of water remain as is, or soak into the wood and darken it. 

If the droplets stay intact, this means you have a polyurethane finish which is more durable and easy to clean. Unfinished hardwood, on the other hand, will soak up water drops and possess more of a challenge where cleaning is concerned. It must be noted that varnished or lacquered wooden floors also fall under the same category as stained flooring because even though they are supposed to act as surface-sealers, they are nowhere near as protective as polyurethane finishes.

Now that you’ve determined the finish, read on to find out how to clean your polyurethane hardwood floors. 

Step-By-Step Cleaning Process

It is easier to clean modern hardwood floors because dirt and spills stay on the surface. This is credited to the surface-sealer which does not allow moisture to penetrate the wood. Having said that; they are also prone to dirt and dust because the oil content in this type of finish allows dust to cling to the surface. 

Here’s how to get rid of the dirt and stains that are dulling the shine of your polyurethane hardwood flooring.

Step One: Remove Debris from the Surface

The first thing you need to do is get rid of dust and dirt from your floor. One of the most effective ways to do this is with an electrostatic broom which is basically a dust magnet! It picks up dirt and debris efficiently without the need for cleaning over an area multiple times. Alternatively, you can use a vacuum cleaner to remove dust; just make sure that the brush attachment has long enough bristles so that the metal does not come in contact with the floor.

If you find areas where dust is clinging to the surface even after using either of the above cleaning tools, consider wiping over them with an electrostatic dust cloth (available in supermarkets); they pick up dirt and dust better than most vacuum cleaners do.

Step Two: Mop Up the Stains

Using a regular, nylon mop, you can choose between a specially made hardwood floor cleaner, and a pH-neutral, water-based cleaner. For very soiled floors, experts advise opting for an alkaline water-based cleaner, however, a solution of baking soda and water can also loosen up and remove grease and dirt. Regardless of which cleaning solution you choose, be sure to use enough water to dilute the product in question as polyurethane finishes require mild cleaning agents. 

For the cleaning process, soak the mop in the solution and give it a good wring before you start mopping. Avoid walking over the floor until it dries completely as any footprints will dry up, leaving an ugly outline. In case of stubborn stains or marks that have had plenty of time to set, dip a non-abrasive cloth in a mild solution of water and floor cleaner (intended for hardwood), and scrub the floor clean using a minimal amount of pressure.

Step Three: Buff it for Gleaming Results! 

While buffing is optional, it’s very tempting to get the maximum shine out of your hardwood floors after you’ve finished cleaning them. Moreover, it’s incredibly easy! Grab the softest and most absorbent cloth you can find (baby cloth diapers are highly recommended), and buff your hardwood floor using one of the following cleaning solutions:

      1. Lemon juice mixed with water – Dampen a microfibre cloth with this solution and buff the floor.
      2. Water from two tea bags soaked and boiled – When the water is lukewarm, dip a clean microfibre cloth in it, squeeze out excess water, and start buffing your hardwood floor.

Dos and Don’ts for Cleaning and Maintaining Hardwood Flooring

While the cleaning process above is as clear and concise as can be, it’s very easy to deviate from a cleaning method when you’re in a hurry, or simply do not have the right cleaning tools and/or products at hand. Similarly, maintaining the condition and appearance of the flooring requires some special TLC, too! For these reasons, a list of dos and don’ts when cleaning and maintaining your hardwood floors is important to have in your back pocket.

The Dos

      1. Inspect the coating for scratches or damage. If needed, refinish the flooring. 
      2. Use rubber leg protectors on furniture to avoid leaving permanent marks on the floor.
      3. Sweep up debris as often as possible. Abrasive dirt can cause scratches if dragged around while walking.
      4. Place doormats at every entrance of your home to keep dirt on your floor to a minimum.
      5. Wipe up liquid spills immediately with soft paper towels to avoid prolonged moisture on the surface.
      6. Spot clean stains with a warm, damp towel.
      7. Dry your bathroom slippers as much as possible before walking on hardwood flooring. 
      8. Use specially formulated products intended for cleaning finished hardwood flooring if you choose not to make homemade solutions like the ones mentioned in this article.
      9. Try as best to maintain a steady temperature throughout your home as sudden changes will expand or contract the wood. In extreme conditions, the hardwood can also become warped.
      10. Protect your flooring from direct or harsh sunlight as it can mildly bleach hardwood.

The Don’ts

      1. Unless you’ve got carpeting to protect your hardwood, don’t wear stiletto heels or spiked shoes on the floor.
      2. Don’t use hot or cold water to clean hardwood; this can warp the wood while hot water will dull the finish.
      3. Never use a soaked mop or cloth to wipe hardwood floors. Excess moisture can ruin the finish and, in turn, damage the wood.
      4. Avoid leaving moist or damp items on the floor, such as towels, shoes, mats, rugs, etc.
      5. Don’t use abrasive tools and harsh cleaners on your hardwood
      6. Avoid citrus, wax, and oil-based cleaners
      7. As much as they are advised in household cleaning, do not use ammonia and/or vinegar to clean hardwood. These ingredients are known to damage polyurethane finishes.
      8. Don’t neglect cleaning your hardwood flooring on a regular basis. Lack of cleaning can make wooden floors look worn or old before their time. 

If you’re still hesitant to clean your precious hardwood floors yourself, leave it to us! At Simply Maid, no job is too tricky or too tough because we possess the experience, skill, and equipment to take care of any home-related cleaning challenges. Simply call us or complete a quick online booking and we’ll be right at your service! Kindly visit our pricing page for all information related to our service charges.

Karen Saunders

Content Manager at Simply Maid
Karen Saunders is a full-time Content Manager at Simply Maid. Her 8+ years of writing experience spans the fields of copywriting, sales copy, blogging, editing and paraphrasing. Some of her areas of expertise include house cleaning, health and fitness, lifestyle topics, home décor and interior designing, travel tips, dog-related articles, and product descriptions and reviews.
Karen Saunders

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