Floor Cleaning & Maintenance: A Guide
Keeping clean what’s under foot can be a daunting task – especially if pets and little ones are a part of one’s brood. Good looks aside, regular cleaning and maintenance will keep a floor looking good and can prevent expensive damage repairs – or worse the expense of replacement.
Simple habits such as frequent vacuuming, floor mats at all exterior doors and shoe removal can do wonders to cut down on unnecessary housework and costly repairs. Beyond that, most floor cleaning and maintenance “challenges” can be dealt with using one or more of the following tips.
Scuff-marks on a vinyl floor are unsightly and can be a real pain to clean. Get an art-gum eraser (one of those grayish-tan ones you used in high school) or borrow a pink pearl eraser from your favorite kid. Simply rub the mark and it will disappear. Tough scuffs may need a bit more “cleaning horsepower.” Pour a sparing amount mineral spirits (paint thinner) on a clean, white, soft cloth and rub the spot clean. Be careful not to nuts with the thinner and test an inconspicuous area first to prevent damage to the finish.
Here is a great one for eliminating bubbles in your vinyl floor. If they’re small, take a large sewing needle and poke a tiny hole in the center of the bubble all the way through the vinyl. Lay a thick towel over the area and use a hot iron to soften and flatten the flooring. Then stack several large books onto the repair to keep the former bump in close contact with the adhesive while it cools and re-bonds to the substrate. Larger bubbles (6- to 8-inches or more) require more sophisticated solutions, and are best left to a flooring pro.
Something as simple as vacuuming can do wonders to extend carpet wear. A popular falsehood is that frequent vacuuming will weaken carpet fiber and thus shorten the life of carpet. Just the opposite is true. Carpet should be vacuumed at least once weekly and more frequently if possible. Ground in soil abrades carpet fibers that results in premature wear and greater stain susceptibility.
Does your carpet smell like dirty gym socks? Not a pleasant thought, but often a reality. You can try a commercial carpet deodorizer or you can go to the pantry and arm yourself with a box of baking soda. Sprinkle it into the carpet, leave it for several hours and then vacuum it up. For less money and a little extra work try sprinkling grated potato (yes, potato) throughout the area. Let it stand for several hours, then vacuum. The extra work with the potatoes is in the grating. If neither of these methods works, a call to a professional carpet cleaning company is probably your best bet.
Is your carpet dirty around the edges? It might be mildew, but it likely is dirt deposited there as air migrates from room to room and from outside to inside. The carpet fiber is filtering dust, soot and dirt out of the air. Solve the problem by caulking the joint between the baseboard and the subfloor. This usually means removing the carpet at its edges. Though you can reattach the carpet yourself, it is best to call in a carpet cleaning pro who has the expertise and tools to perform the task. It’s also a great time to stretch rippled carpet and clean the pin-striped stain at the perimeter.
If you have a damaged section of carpet or vinyl flooring here is a suggestion that can save you plenty. Make a patch by removing the damaged section and replacing it with a remnant. If you don’t have a scrap laying around to make the repair, then grab a piece from a closet, from under an appliance or from beneath a piece of furniture. It may not match perfectly, but our experience is that most of your guests will never know – “the real truth” about your floor.
Got dirty hardwood floors? Most cleaners you can buy at the store work fine. But if you want to save money, and like to play chemist, or just prefer to do things the old-fashioned way, mix up a five percent solution of vinegar and water. Measure carefully, and don’t use any extra vinegar – the acid can dull the finish. Keep in mind that water and wood don’t mix, therefore, when you mop use as little water as possible. Your mop should be damp, not wet. Do a section of the floor at a time and wipe the floor dry immediately with a clean, soft cloth. Never let the floor air dry – you can damage the wood and might end up with more water marks than you know what to do with.
Scratches in hardwood flooring aren’t quite as simple to deal with. There is nothing you can do except refinish. So, for future reference, be sure to use a welcome mat or rug at the outside and inside of each exterior door to catch the grit that might get tracked in and acts to “sand” the finish. And don’t be embarrassed to ask workmen, children and ladies wearing spike heels to take off their shoes before coming in.
There is only one way to properly repair a damaged section of hardwood floor? Be prepared to replace any stained or damage wood and then sand and refinish the entire floor. In the greatest percentage of cases, any other solution will leave a noticeable “patched” area.
Want to keep ceramic tile from looking lousy? Don’t use abrasive cleansers. They literally “sand” off the finish. Check the labels of the products you use – it will amaze you how many contain abrasives. A mild soap and water solution is usually all that’s needed to keep most floor tile looking good. Be certain to rinse the area thoroughly and dry and polish with a clean cloth. Looking for a safe alternative to keep your grout clean? Use hydrogen peroxide – the same stuff that you put on cuts. Pour it on, let it sit, rinse with fresh water and towel dry. A grout sealer will prevent staining and keep it looking good longer.
And remember, when it comes time to choose new flooring, make sure that you consider appearance and how practical it is for your family’s lifestyle. A durable, easy to clean finish may not necessarily be most “plush” choice; however, it may end up looking best considering fido and the kids or grandkids. Fortunately, with today’s wide product selection, you won’t need to trade style for practicality. You will have to look at that floor every day of your life, and regardless of what makes best economic sense, it is important that you’re comfortable with it.
For more home improvement tips and information visit our website at www.onthehouse.com or call our live radio program at 1-800-737-2474 every Saturday, 9 AM to 1 PM EST.