While vacuuming or sweeping is usually enough to keep an uncarpeted floor looking clean, there are times when you have to go one step beyond that and get out a bucket to really wash them properly. Maybe it’s something you traditionally do as a part of spring cleaning, or before your parents come to visit—or maybe it’s something you’re thinking about doing now that you’re spending all your time in your home. Regardless of your reason for tackling it, washing your floors the right way may sound daunting, but it’s actually a relatively straightforward process, as long as you take your flooring type into consideration. Here’s what you need to know about cleaning all types of floors.
Start by sweeping
Before you get out the mop and bucket, you’re going to want to make sure all the dust, hair and other dirt on the surface of your floor is gone. Yes, one option is using a vacuum cleaner, but a good old-fashioned broom will also do the trick. If you’re not comfortable using a broom, we put together this video on how to make the most out of it, including techniques to help you clean your broom so you’re not just spreading the dirt around to different parts of your house.
Once you’ve swept a hardwood floor, spot-treat any sticky spots with a damp cloth and a small squirt of wood floor cleaner. When that’s done, use a flat-head mop and microfiber pad or a microfiber string mop that has been thoroughly wrung out—you don’t want any excess water on this type of flooring. Then follow these directions from Deborah Baldwin at This Old House:
Move with the grain and control the amount of cleaning solution by using a spray bottle, aiming for a heavy mist or gentle squirt of about a half teaspoon per 2 square feet. No need to rinse. No need to buff either, but cloth diapers and soft socks do work well here.
If you want to make your own cleaning product, don’t use a baking soda and vinegar solution. Instead, you can use a large batch of black tea to both clean your hardwood floor and help hide any scratches. As far as Murphy Oil Soap goes, experts are mixed on whether it’s a good idea: On the one hand, it’s safe to use on wood; on the other, it can also leave a residue.
Though hardwood floors were once common throughout the house, they fell out of favour in bathrooms and most kitchens about a century ago. Once germ theory caught on, people weren’t thrilled about having porous wooden floors—with cracks and gaps where germs could live—in rooms where sanitation was key. And that’s when a new material called linoleum became common. So how do you clean linoleum? As Leslie Reichert, the Green Cleaning Coach told Real Simple:
Mix up a spray bottle of just a few drops of dish soap and hot water, then spritz a section of the floor at a time and wipe with a damp microfiber mop. The floor should air-dry almost immediately, but if it feels slightly sticky to the touch just swipe it with another clean, damp microfiber mop or cloth.
Even though your laminate flooring may look like wood or tile, it’s actually much easier to clean. In fact, according to Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association, there are very few things that can damage a laminate floor. One of those is getting water underneath the flooring: don’t let that happen. Otherwise, use your favourite all-purpose cleaner to spot treat any especially dirty sections, then mop as usual. (Dearing notes that you shouldn’t polish laminate flooring.)
Ceramic and porcelain tiles are also relatively easy to clean. A mop and a neutral floor cleaner are your best bets, making sure that you avoid using anything too abrasive that might scratch or dull the tiles’ finish. Do take the time to make sure nothing is stuck in the grout between the tiles. If you really want to get in there for a super deep clean, you can use a steam cleaner on both the tile and grout.
As with laminate, it’s not a good idea to pour water directly on the vinyl, as you want to ensure it doesn’t get underneath the flooring. Finally, if you notice mop streaks when you’re done, you can go over the floor again using a solution of white vinegar and water.