House Cleaning Series: Hard Floor Cleaning And Maintenance

updated: 05/10/2023

Hard Floors Bring A Touch Of Style And Class To Your Home

Choosing the floor covering for your home is an essential interior design decision with significant long-term ramifications for the housekeeping and maintenance. The different types of hard floors – wooden panelling, tiles, marble – possess a few major advantages such as durability, long life, comfort, and easier maintenance. Once you install a hard floor, however, you should not take it for granted – it does require regular maintenance and cleaning, though not as demanding as carpets or rugs.

In this article, we take a look at the basic requirements for effective hard floor cleaning and give you useful tips on how to do it as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Natural hardwood is arguably the most preferred domestic hard floor covering type because of its incomparable beauty and style, warmth, comfort, and durability. A well-maintained wooden floor may last for generations – something you can hardly say for even the best carpets.

The easiest way to clean a hardwood floor is to use the soft brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner or a soft broom to avoid scratches on the floor. You should clean the floor at least two times a week to keep it dust-free, but the frequency may vary on the number of people in your household and the foot traffic. Once you dust your floors, proceed with the mopping. Apply a limited amount of water, though – moisture is the most dangerous long-term enemy of your hardwood floor.

In case of spillages, you should act quickly and absorb the liquid with a towel. Otherwise, the surface will be damaged if the liquid soaks into the floor. You should address stains immediately (wine, coffee, oily foods are the most common culprits) or they may result in permanent damage to the wood. Rub the stain with a damp cloth until it has completely gone and do not let it soak into the floor. For some stains, you might need to use hot water, but you need to check with your manufacturer before proceeding.

Regular cleaning is just the first step of hardwood floor care. The next one would be polishing. Wood needs to be polished to keep it protected from excess moisture in the air and to keep it looking glossy. What you don’t want to use is chemical detergent that puts a fine spray of silicone into the air where you will breathe it in (cough, cough, lung irritation, eye irritation and more). And don’t use pour-on polishes that don’t tell you what’s in them: harsh chemicals can be as bad for the wood as they are for you. A beeswax-based polish is best.

If you have used a beeswax-based polish and then use a silicone-based one, you may find the two polishes react and turn whitish. Remove the offending silicone with a cloth soaked in vodka or white spirit, and try again with beeswax.

You can make beeswax polish for all wooden surfaces fairly easily, as long as you can get hold of beeswax (candle-drippings from beeswax candles aren’t the best idea, but you could cut the bottom off a beeswax candle if you can’t find this natural wax elsewhere). Melt a dollop of beeswax in a double boiler (or in the microwave on low power) until it goes runny. While the wax is liquid, add in a little turpentine – natural turpentine if you can get it, otherwise, you’ll have to make do with artificial – and a bit of essential oil. Lemon essential oil is traditional to add to polish, but cypress or pine work just as well and are appropriate to use with wood. Let the mixture cool, then apply it to the wood with a soft cloth. Leave it for a bit to soak into the wood, then buff with another soft cloth.

You should beware of over-polishing wood, as the wax polish can build up and make the finish of the wood look dull and drab.

Wood should be dusted frequently. Be careful with dusting – rub too hard on the dust that is too thick and you will scratch the finish. Damp dust with a cloth that is too moist (a slightly damp cloth is all right – think a rag that has been on the washing line for ten minutes rather than one that has just come out from the washing machine) and you will get the wood wet. An old-fashioned feather duster is ideal, but any soft cloth will do – recycle old sheets and T-shirts as dusters; they’re perfect.

Cleaning Marble Surfaces

Marble looks fantastic in almost every setting, but its natural composition makes it surprisingly susceptible to scratches, stains, and erosion. Unless maintained properly, these beautiful decorating material will deteriorate quickly, and you will lose all the positive vibes of its installation.

Marble cleaning and maintenance, however, is not hard at all! You can always book a specialised cleaner to help you with the task or follow these simple tips to prolong the life of your domestic marble surfaces.

To clean marble you will need the following:

  1. Soft cloths and sponges

  2. Warm (not hot) water

  3. Chamois cloth

  4. Neutral non-abrasive marble cleaners like acetone, hydrogen peroxide or ammonia

  5. Marble polish.

Apply the following algorithm for perfect results:

  • Wet a sponge or cloth with warm water and wipe the stone surface thoroughly.

  • Rinse out the sponge or cloth and wipe the water away from the stone surface. If a soapy residue appears, keep wiping and rinsing away at the stone until the residue has disappeared.

  • If you find that the marble surface is dull or has streaky marks on it, this usually means that a soapy residue is still left on the stone. This is often not easily visible. If this is so, keep on with the wiping and rinsing until all the streaks have gone and the stone surface has an even glossy finish.

  • Wipe the surface dry with a clean soft cloth. It is important not to let the marble air dry and this may cause streaks and other marks to appear on the surface.

While the above is all you need to do for regular cleaning, there are some more steps you can take on a six-monthly or annual basis to maintain the marble.

  • After completing the steps given above, clean the marble with the neutral non-abrasive house cleaner, being careful to look for stains camouflaged by the patterns on the stone surface.

  • After using the cleaner, make sure all residues are removed using a clean damp cloth.

  • Once again, dry the surface with a clean cloth. Do not allow it to air dry.

  • Once the surface is completely dry, apply a marble polish to the stone. Since different polishes have different application methods, make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to get the best results.

Cleaning Tiled Floors

If you have spacious tiled floors to deal with, chances are you dread cleaning it. The back and forth motion of the mops on the market today makes for sore arms and backs. If you are the type of person that loves a really clean floor, your hands and knees have probably been your last resort to get it that way. I hope to help you change all that.

Other problems with old methods of cleaning tile floors are that only small surfaces can be cleaned at a time – therefore marks are left as the surface dries. Another reason for concern is that tiles can be very slippery. If you have children, cleaning the tile floor is a real concern, because if they happen to walk on it before it dries, it is very easy to slip and fall. Many severe accidents have been attributed to wet tiles.

So what do we do? How do we clean it?

  • First, the more the merrier. If you have children, get them involved. They will have fun and will help you polish the floors much faster.

  • Next, you need some big rags. I have found that old beach towels are the best for the job. The larger the towel the better, although for young children, probably a regular size bath towel is all that they will be able to work with easily.

  • All you need as cleaning solution is warm water. If your tile floor is really dirty, you might put a drop or two of dish soap to a gallon of warm water. Make sure the water temperature is not too hot if you have children helping you.

  • Wet and ring out your towels. This is the hardest part, but it can even be fun if you do it in the bathtub. Have a child stand in each end of a dry tub. Have each child take an end of the wet towel. Have one start to twist the towel one way, the other start to twist the towel the other way.

  • Each child needs a towel to start the fun of cleaning the tile. Spread the damp towel out on the floor to be cleaned. Have a child step on the towel with feet about a foot apart. The idea then is to shuffle the feet, moving the towel with you as you go. It is fun to have races or see who can shuffle over the largest space in the shortest amount of time. The weight of the body with the shuffling motion of the feet will clean tile very effectively.

After you have gone over the entire floor, repeat the process using dry towels. The floor is dried very quickly. There are no slips, no marks left, and the floor dries to a clean, dry finish in no time. The rags are thrown into the washing machine easily. It’s great fun. Children love competitive games. Make it a game. It’s amazing how much they will get done.

Natural Stone Floors – Care And Maintenance

No other floor covering can surpass the beauty of stone flooring whether it is made from marble, granite, limestone, slate or terracotta. They all have a natural beauty that exudes richness. Carpets, linoleum, laminates, wood, and ceramic tiles are often cheaper and most people know how to care and maintain them. However, they eventually wear out or otherwise become damaged and you have to replace them. Natural stone flooring should last for several lifetimes and provides you with an unmatched sense of luxury.

Very few people, however, know how to care for their natural stone surfaces to get the best out of them. The stone seller will give advice and the builder or tiler who lays your flooring will quite often know very little about the product. Some natural stone wholesalers will also lay the stones for you, and if you can get one of these firms, then you are in a better position, as these know how to treat the product they are installing for you.
Never use a chemical product to produce a shine on the stone. If you want to polish your stone floor, you will be better off getting a man-made product. Stone produces its shine by being ground down until it is perfectly flat. Once the crystals in the stone are flat, they reflect the maximum amount of light uniformly producing the high gloss finish associated with marble and granite. It is not an artificially applied polish that can periodically be buffed to restore the shine.

What removes the shine from the stone? Most stones except granite are relatively soft and can be easily scratched by small particles of dirt. The more the dirt builds up, the more they scratch due to foot traffic. These scratches scratch the flat surface of the stone and light reflection ceases to be uniform, so the shine gradually disappears. The only way of restoring it is to have the stone reground flat – a straightforward but time-consuming process.

By following a good care and maintenance programme, the situation can be delayed for many years. Mop your floor regularly rather than vacuuming it. In high usage entrances to buildings, it should be done two or three times a day. In a domestic lounge, once per week may be sufficient. You should also mop the floors every so often using a neutral soap solution. Never use detergents or other chemical cleaners on stone surfaces. The stone soap will help to maintain and enhance the natural colours. Every two or three years, again depending upon usage, have the stones repolished. If this is done as the shine just begins to fade, then regrinding becomes unnecessary. The repolishing can be done quite quickly and relatively cheaply.

If the flooring has spillage marks or deep scratches then get these attended to as quickly as possible. Regular maintenance using the correct techniques and products will ultimately preserve your flooring and reduce the need for very costly refurbishment.

Further Thoughts On Mopping

Mopping has always been one of the least looked forward to chores of domestic cleaning in London (a vital part of housekeeping). Grandma did it on her hands and knees with a pail of water and a scrub brush, and many people still contend that this is the best way. Since grandma’s time, the market has come out with tile and linoleum that is supposed to be easier to mop, and easier to take care of between mopping. Even so, a good, once a week mop is still needed to keep your floors clean and germ-free. Here are some tips to make this job easier:

If you fail to seep the floor thoroughly, you’re only pushing dirty water and soil around, not mopping it up. The best way to sweep the floor is not to use a broom at all, but to vacuum it before mopping. This way you will get the corners and the crud under the lip of the fridge completely. Use the hose attachment to get every nook.

You’ll need to keep your mop and then rinse water clean. Again, failure to do this makes more work for you. Work smarter, not harder by rinsing your mop and changing the cleaning solution in the water often. You don’t need much, but you do need to change out old water for clean often. Turn the mop over to the lighter, cleaner side often while mopping; water accumulates on the bottom of the mop, and dirt is subsequently pulled to the bottom. After you’ve turned to mop over two or three times, soak it in a cleaning solution and squeeze out thoroughly.

The proper way to mop using a commercial mop (check our page about office cleaning London) is to go over the floor once with the cleaning solution, wetting the floor. Let it sit a moment to lift off the grime and stubborn dirt. Then rinse the mop and go over the same area again, to lift off the released dirt. If you use the figure 8 motion, you will lift dirt off more efficiently. Using a small paint scraper, you can pry off stubborn, sticky messes such as chewing gum easily. This is an old custodian trick.

You have a choice in mops that grandma didn’t have. Sponge mops and string mops are great as long as they are clean and new, so change your mop heads often. Once again, failure to do this will result in the dirt being pushed around, not picked up.

The best way to dry the floor is to let it air dry. If you are in a hurry, though, “skating” across the floor in bare feet on an old towel works wonders.

If you insist on mopping the floors the old fashioned way, on your hands and knees, a foam pad, like the kind used to cushion your knees while working in the garden will lessen the wear and tear on your joints. Use a large, handheld scrubbing sponge with a green back to get all the dirt up, rinse and repeat as often as needed. You can dry the floor with an old towel as you go, too. This way when you’re done, you’ve only had to go over the entire floor once and don’t have to wait for it to dry, as you would with a long-handled mop.

About the author 

Nick Vassilev

Nick blogs about cleaning. He is a cleaning expert with more than 25 years of experience. He is also an NCCA-certified carpet cleaner. Founder and CEO of Anyclean.