Hardwood floors add a beautiful touch to just about any room, but there's some debate about the best way to clean them.
"There are several different mixtures to use for hardwood floors, and you'll want to be sure to try any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area first," Natalie Wise, author of "The Natural Home: Tips for Cleaning with Natural Ingredients," told TODAY. "A pretty fail-safe way is to use good old soap and water."
Donna Smallin Kuper, author of "Cleaning Plain & Simple," offered a word of caution, "Some hardwood floor manufacturers recommend using a mop dampened with water only, and may even void a warranty on new floors that have been cleaned with any other cleaning solution."
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In high-traffic areas, like the dining room and kitchen, sweep or vacuum daily if possible and mop hardwood floors once or twice a week. Mop less-trafficked areas once a month or once a season.
How to clean wood floors
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Remember: Water is wood's worst enemy (even on sealed floors!), so use a damp mop rather than a soaking wet one.
"You don't want to let any water sit as you're cleaning your hardwood floors, so be sure to work in one small area at a time," Wise said. "If you don't want to be on your hands and knees with a soft cloth, a spin mop will get your mop dry enough to work your floors. Begin by dusting or sweeping your floors well. Then make a cleaning mixture using 4 cups warm water and a few drops of castile soap or dish soap. Do not shake, but gently mix this, then mop or scrub small sections at a time, drying them with a clean cloth or dry mop after."
"Allow floors to dry while you clean another area," Smallin Kuper said. "Always clean top to bottom in a room, which means that you should clean the floor last."
Do's and don'ts
Do use a floor-cleaning product recommended by the floor finisher or opt for plain soap and water. If the recommended product is hard to find or costly, and other floor cleaners contain ingredients that violate your floor's warranty, try soap and water. Try 1/4 cup of mild or pH-neutral soap (like liquid dishwashing soap) or Murphy Oil Soap (despite the name, it doesn't contain oil) to a bucket of water.
Don't use oils, waxes or furniture sprays. Oil leaves a residue, furniture spray creates a slippery surface (think ice-skating rink!) and wax takes time to apply and makes re-coating difficult.
Don't use straight ammonia, alkaline products or abrasive cleaners. They'll dull or scratch the finish.
Don't rely on lemon juice or a vinegar-and-water solution to clean hardwood floors. "I don't recommend using vinegar or lemon juice, at least not in large quantities, as these can damage the floor's seal," said Wise.
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This story was first published on May 1, 2011.