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Residential Wood Floor Maintenance

September 18, 2007
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The other evening I was attending a social event, conversing with some other guests, when the topic of occupation came up.

When I mentioned I was involved in the hard floor maintenance industry, all one woman heard was “hardwood maintenance,” which ultimately led to a series of questions regarding how to care for the hardwood flooring in her home. As I responded to her questions, I thought about the residential carpet cleaners who gets inundated with the same basic questions from their customers on a regular basis. Educating the homeowner about basic wood floor maintenance is not difficult, and being able to do so can elevate your status in the eyes of your clients.

In many situations, wood flooring may have been in a home for years, decades or even centuries. It might be solid or engineered; strip, plank or parquet; sealed and/or finished on-site or at the factory, and will come in a variety of species. But they are all wood floors, and as such require very similar daily/routine maintenance methods to keep them looking good.

“What do I mop the floor with?” is the most common question asked by the homeowner. The goal is to identify a specific cleaning product that is safe to use on wood flooring. The standard answer is, “Mop only when necessary, with a very damp mop, using a mild solution of neutral cleaner or water only.”

Wood flooring requires a protective coating, the most common developed from a polyurethane base. They can be oil-modified, moisture-cured, acid-cured or a traditional penetrating wood seal and paste wax. Regardless of the protective coating, seal or finish on the floor, most wood floor films, though durable, still require basic care.

Wood floors are not indestructible; they are vulnerable to the damaging effects of erosion. They can be scratched easily by small particles of grit and sand carried in on the soles of the shoes. It is best to keep the dirt, grit and sand outside the home. Walk-off mats should be placed just outside the entrance of the home to catch soil before it enters, and an area rug or mat should be placed just inside the door to complete the job. Stopping soil at the door is instrumental in maintaining wood flooring.

Of course, not all the soil entering a home is stopped at the door. Dry or wet soil will undoubtedly get in. Therefore, the most important maintenance period in the hard-floor maintenance program for wood flooring is daily/routine maintenance.

Dry service procedures include sweeping, dust mopping with either a traditional dust mop or a microfiber cloth system, or vacuuming the wood floor with a tank or backpack vacuum as often as possible. When using a vacuum, do not use an upright model with a beater bar, and ensure the wand head has a soft brush at the contact point. The frequency will be predicated by the soiling conditions and the traffic throughout the home.

The damp mopping service procedure minimizes the use of water and cleaning solutions applied to the floor. A damp mop is, simply, a mop with most of the solution removed from it. A good portion of solution can be removed by thoroughly wringing out the mop. Place the mop in the wringer and 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 small amount of solution in the mop will be sufficient to clean most soiling conditions, and will dry quickly. Microfiber flat mops are now available that help to minimize the use of water and cleaning solution as well. The daily/routine maintenance service procedures are the basis of a good wood flooring maintenance program. By performing these services as frequently as possible, the time between the periodic and restorative maintenance services can be extended. Wood flooring will of course need periodic and restorative maintenance when the daily/routine methods are no longer effective; when traffic patterns appear or wear areas get below the coating, these advanced services will be required. Trained professionals should be used to perform these tasks to ensure they are done correctly.

Protecting the wood flooring from dirt, grit and sand is the key to a successful maintenance program in the residential environment. It begins with walk-off mats and continues with frequent dry service procedures and an occasional damp mopping. And when spills occur, clean them up immediately; do not let them sit. Wipe them up with a damp towel followed by a dry towel.

The homeowner often times does not realize that these simple steps can extend the life of their wood flooring. By helping your customers understand basic floor maintenance for wood flooring, you are helping extend the life of their flooring investment.

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