I get a lot of questions about how to clean and maintain a hardwood floor from two groups of people. The first group is lucky. To begin, they have a new floor finish. This new floor finish will be either on a new prefinished floor, or a sand-on-site floor, or on a recently resanded and refinished existing wood floor. Mostly what these folks are missing is information on how to maintain that floor finish. The second group are people who have no idea what floor finish they are dealing with and should start by taping this link here. These people want to learn how to clean and improve the longevity of their floor.
Most hardwood flooring contractors give short shrift to this subject. They usually mention washing the floor with vinegar and water, or oil soap, or they try to sell you some rather expensive cleaning agents supposedly meant only for hardwood floors. They will try to convince you that only their special floor cleaner should be used or the warranty will be voided. Oh, what coercion! So my task here is to set you on the right track from the beginning.
New Floor Or Newly Refinished Floor Maintenance
First, I’m going to refer to water based cleaners. These are the safest and easiest cleaners to use on a well-finished floor. Well finished means the finish must be either 3 coats of oil modified polyurethane (no lacquer sealers please), or 4 coats of a water based finish (either a one part oxygen cross-linking formula, or a two component catalyzed type). The pre-catalyzed conversion finishes (Swedish finishes) and moisture cured urethanes are also very water resistant.
If the floor is in a kitchen or heavily used area, one more coat than is normal must be applied. A lot of poorly finished floors cannot handle any kind of water based cleaners. Be sure you know that you have one of these 5 finishing systems before you start to clean your floor. I’ll assume that a pre finished floor has a factory applied conversion finish that is not a wax or oil based. These floors can be damp mopped with water based cleaners, but not wet mopped! I’ll discuss this later.
The best cleaning agent for a new floor finish is a PH neutral cleaner. Be sure you wait until your new finish has cured. Oil based polyurethane finish take a month to cure while most water based finishes take 2 weeks to fully cure. Cleaners are available in various PH’s. This is a measure of their alkalinity or acidity. The lower PH cleaners (more acidic like vinegar) will work on dissolving hard water and mineral deposits. So this makes vinegar a good rinsing agent but a poor cleaning agent. It won’t clean grease or dirt. Continue reading to learn more about PH Neutral Cleaners and how to use them.