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How to clean carpet, wood, vinyl, tile and marble floors

Whether you've got hardwood, tile, stone or carpet, here's how to make it sparkle, with help from our sponsor, Neato.
/ Source: TODAY

Cleaning the floor: It certainly isn't sexy, but like paying your taxes or visiting the dentist annually, it shouldn't be avoided unless you like the idea of living with grime, dust bunnies or worse. But keep in mind that not all floors are created equal: A cleaner that degreases one surface beautifully might be too harsh for another.

Read on to learn how to clean hardwood floors, tile, carpet and more.

How to clean wood floors:

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The secret to cleaning hardwood floors is determining what type of finish you have since that, and not the wood itself, will determine your plan of action. Most new floors are surface-sealed with a coating such as urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic, and these are easiest to deal with since they can be swept and mopped. Others might be called seal-treated, oil-treated or have a finish like a lacquer or shellac—these are less resistant to moisture than a floor that's been surface-sealed. To figure it out which one you have, run your finger across the wood floor. If you don't create a smudge, it's likely been surface-sealed.

All hardwood floors should be swept or vacuumed frequently since ground-in dirt can ruin their finish over time. Removing shoes before coming inside can cut down significantly on the amount of gunk that gets tracked in. And be sure to wipe spills quickly, so the liquid doesn't have time to sink into the floor and cause damage.

How to clean surface-sealed hardwood floors:

  1. For a surface-sealed hardwood floor, you can make a DIY floor cleaner by mixing a quarter-cup of either a mild dishwashing soap or Murphy Oil Soap with a gallon of warm water.
  2. Remember that wood and water don't mix well (even if there's a protective coating), so use a mop that's damp, not dripping.
  3. Mop in the direction of the wood's grain and when you've finished the entire area, fill the bucket with plain water and rinse.

Note: Never use oil, wax or furniture polish spray on a sealed hardwood floor, as these products can leave the finish dull or slippery.

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How to clean untreated hardwood floors or floors that have penetrating seal, oil finish, lacquer, varnish or shellac:

Step away from the mop! You're going to need either liquid or paste wax to keep them looking fresh. If your they've been previously waxed but seem to need some TLC (like maybe you've just moved in), you can first use a wax-removal product such as Trewax. Here's how to apply the wax:

  1. First thoroughly vacuum to remove all dust and debris.
  2. Then apply either a liquid or paste variety (liquid is easier to put on, but paste lasts longer).
  3. Buff with either a soft cloth or buffing machine.

Later, extra wax can also be used on a fine steel wool pad to remove heel scuffs or stubborn food stains.


How to keep any floor clean:

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No matter what type of floor you have, the experts at robotic vacuum-cleaner company Neato, a TODAY sponsor, recommend choosing one day a week to devote to cleaning it, the same way you'd schedule a date night or an exercise class. This will prevent you having to spend tons of time scrubbing off layers of muck when you finally realize things have gotten out of hand—say the night before you're due to host Thanksgiving dinner. If you're living with allergy sufferers, they also suggest vacuuming daily during times when pollen is at its peak, like spring and fall.


How to clean vinyl and linoleum floors:

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  1. After sweeping or vacuuming, vinyl and linoleum can be mopped.
  2. Following the method described above for surface-sealed wood floors, use a quarter-cup of mild dishwashing soap in a bucket of water to clean
  3. Rinse using fresh water.

How to clean cork floors:

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For cork, the key is to be gentle.

  1. First, replace your stiff-bristled broom with a softer one, to prevent scratches.
  2. After sweeping or vacuuming, mop the floors using only warm water and a mop that's barely damp (when it comes to cork, less water is definitely more).
  3. Then dry well with a microfiber cloth.
  4. If feel you must add some type of cleaner, use a quarter-cup of vinegar dissolved in a gallon of water.

How to clean tile floors:

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  1. Following the method for surface-sealed wood floors, use a quarter-cup of mild dishwashing soap in a bucket of water to clean.
  2. Rinse with fresh water.
  3. If dirt persists in grout areas, a toothbrush can be used to help remove it.

To remove mold or mildew in areas like bathrooms, dissolve ¾ cup of bleach in a gallon of water and clean with a mop or soft brush, but always do a patch test in a hidden area first, to be sure the mixture won't damage the tile's finish. Then rinse with clean water and dry with a cloth.

How to clean marble and other stone floors:

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  1. Stone floors such as marble, limestone and travertine can be mopped with just a small squirt of mild dishwashing soap dissolved in a bucket of water.
  2. Rinse with clean water.
  3. Dry with a soft cloth.

Avoid products such as ammonia, strong detergents, spray cleaners and anything abrasive, as these may damage the stone permanently.

How to clean carpet:

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If you prefer to rush through vacuuming your rug or carpet in an attempt to get the whole thing over with, we're here to tell you: You're doing it wrong. It's best to use slow, repetitive motions, which will help pull up all the debris so it doesn't ruin the carpet and, worse, send potential allergens into the air to irritate our eyes and throats.

How slow should you go? A 300-square-foot room should be vacuumed for about 20 minutes, ideally twice a week. At least once a year, get your carpet professionally steam cleaned, which will help extend its life. And stores like the Home Depot also rent carpet-cleaning machines, for times when you need to deal with unexpected messes. For seriously stubborn spots, the Carpet & Rug Institute has a list of cleaning tips as well as suggestions for stain-removal products, but when in doubt, always check with your carpet manufacturer first.