THE FINE ART OF FLOOR CLEANING

Installing laminate flooringWood, laminate, vinyl, slate, tile, or carpet—the choices available in flooring style are dizzying. Each contributes its own brand of beauty and function to the home, but they all share something in common when it comes to keeping them looking new: frequent vacuuming with a quality system.

Did you know that one of the most important things you can do to maintain the life of your floor, no matter what it’s made of, is frequent vacuuming? It’s true. Dirt, grit, even dust break down fibers of carpets and create wear and tear on floor finishes, too. Even if you can’t see the dirt, if your vacuum cleaner has left behind a deposit of fine grit, or you don’t vacuum frequently, carpets and floor surfaces will age much faster, resulting in earlier replacement, not to mention floors that look worn or dingy. A central vacuum system picks up virtually all of the dirt on your floors and deposits it into a sealed container away from your living spaces; it’s the best choice for most effective cleaning.

Always vacuum thoroughly before cleaning any hard surface floor. This will not only allow for a cleaner floor but prevent scratching from scrubbing or buffing if dirt particles are left behind.

Consult your manufacturer for specific products and techniques when cleaning different types of hard surface floors. Use as little water as possible, and dry quickly and thoroughly, especially laminate floors. A fan is effective if hand drying with towels is difficult or impractical.

Vinyl floors are the easiest to clean and maintain—just vacuum and damp mop for routine cleaning, and use a damp sponge with dish soap for spills and messes. A nylon scouring pad will lift heel marks and scuffs. For more thorough cleaning, all-purpose cleaner applied with a sponge mop is fine for no-wax floors. If the floor looks like it has a filmy residue after cleaning, just mop with white vinegar and wipe down with clean water on a sponge to restore shine.

At the other end of the spectrum, wood floors require the most care, but some homeowners swear by their superior beauty and durability. Water should never be used on wood floors, except those treated with polyurethane. Pros say the best way to clean a wood floor is also the most time consuming. After first vacuuming, apply a small amount of liquid wood floor cleaner with a soft cloth, rubbing it into a small portion of the wood floor. Wipe away the excess, then move onto the next section. When the floor is dry, buff with a floor polisher. Use care with wood floor cleaners, and use only in well-ventilated areas, because they are combustible.

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