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Hard Floor Maintenance Opportunities: Wood Floor Cleaning and Maintenance

September 1, 2006
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Natural, solid-wood floor coverings are in a league of their own when it comes to beauty and uniqueness. The cut of the wood and the flow of the grain give an air of elegance to any facility.

Even footsteps on a solid wood floor resonate with a sound like no other. Unfortunately, like all floors, they will eventually succumb to the effects of erosion and show signs of wear. The degree of erosion will be determined by the environment and the amount of traffic the floor is exposed to.

Maintenance for solid wood flooring does not need to be difficult; in fact, when it comes to wood flooring, it's the little things that count. Preventive and daily/routine maintenance are essential to reducing the rate of wear and extending the wood flooring investment.

Preventive Measures

Although wood floors are durable they are not indestructible, and they can be damaged by dirt, grit and sand that enter the facility. Keeping harmful soil at bay is best started at the entrance. Walk-off mats are indispensable for wood floors, but do not utilize mats with rubber or non-porous backing. It is best to place breathable, soil-catching mats at all entrances to capture as much soil and moisture as possible before it is exposed to the floor.

Another way to protect the wood floor is by utilizing area rugs in high-traffic areas and stair landings. In addition, larger rugs may be used to protect the floor in furnished areas; the design of some furniture can be damaging to the wood floor. In situations where area rugs are not used, placing felt pads under the furniture legs can go a long way to protecting the floor. Furniture placed on natural wood floors without rugs or felt pads should have broad casters that are clean and free of grit. The casters should be inspected and cleaned from time to time to ensure harmful particles do not adhere to them.

When furniture has to be moved, do not push, pull or drag it, but lift it instead. Significant damage could occur if you do not. When moving in or out of a facility that has wood flooring, clean the floor with a dust mop or cloth system to remove potentially damaging dirt, sand and grit, then cover the floor with protective plywood. With the protective replacement flooring in position, potential damage caused by hand trucks, dollies and moving personnel are greatly reduced.

Wood floors can be scratched relatively easily, so monitoring traffic exposure is imperative. Small bits of gravel, sand or glass can become imbedded in shoe sole and cause damage throughout the facility. Additionally, high heels, stiletto shoes, athletic spikes or cleats and shoes with metal attachments could be detrimental to wood flooring.

Another problem, particularly in residential environments, is the claws of the homeowner's pets. Significant damage can be done by the family pet, so keep those claws trimmed.

Daily/Routine Maintenance

Most wood floor finishes are very durable and require minimal care. Generally, natural wood floor finishes are of a urethane base and form a protective film or coating on the surface of the wood.

Oil-modified urethane is generally the most common solvent-based polyurethane used. Moisture-cured urethanes are also solvent-based polyurethane, but are more durable and more moisture resistant. Acid-cure urethanes, sometimes referred to as "Swedish Finishes," are extremely durable, non-yellowing and last a very long time. Water-based urethanes are becoming more and more popular because they give the same benefits without the nasty odors and less drying time, though they are generally more expensive.

Occasionally the traditional penetrating wood seal and paste wax system will be used. Although less durable than the urethanes, their saving grace is their ability to repair and maintain.

Natural wood floors are subject to abrasive materials that are trafficked into the facility. The more the soil can be kept in check, the longer the floor will retain its appearance. The daily/routine maintenance of the wood floor is the single most important aspect of the program, and when an aggressive daily/routine regiment is implemented, it extends the time between the very expensive restorative procedures.

Dry Service Procedures

Sweep, dust mop (traditional or cloth system) or vacuum the floor as often as possible. The frequency will be dictated by the traffic conditions. Use a flag-tipped soft-bristle broom, dry dust mop or micro-fiber cloth system. If vacuuming, do not use a vacuum with a beater bar head, and be sure that the wand has a soft brush or felt head. Do not use dusting chemicals.

Wet Service Procedures

Wood and water do not get along, so minimize the use of cleaning solutions. Always use the manufacturers recommended cleaning chemicals and procedures. When spills occur, clean them up immediately; do not let them sit. This is best done with a dry terrycloth towel or a damp towel followed by dry toweling. When possible, remove tracked-in soil immediately with a soft terrycloth towel and recommended cleaning product.

When mopping is required, use the damp-mop method (leave a minimum amount of cleaning solution in the head, slightly damp) to remove soil. You achieve a damp mop by thoroughly wringing out the mop: twist the mop all the way to the right and wring it out, twist the mop all the way to the left and wring it out again, untwist the mop and wring it out one more time. The mop should have very little moisture in it; however, you can do a final mopping with a dry mop to remove any excess moisture remaining on the surface.

The daily/routine maintenance service procedures are the heart and soul of the natural wood flooring maintenance program. By performing these services as frequently as possible, the time between the periodic and restorative maintenance services can be extended. Of course nothing lasts forever, and natural wood floors will occasionally require periodic maintenance and eventually restorative maintenance. When the time comes keep in mind that these are professional services that should be performed by trained professionals.

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