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Cleaning And Restoring Hardwood Floors

Grime, dust and wax can build up over time and leave your floors looking bland and lusterless. Oftentimes the solution isn't as drastic as refinishing, but rather only a thorough cleaning and restoration process.

Make Them Glow
Having beautiful floors doesn't have to be difficult or fill your every waking moment. If you apply the following techniques once a year (and every 6 months to high-traffic areas), you'll restore and maintain your floor's vibrancy and extend its life.

For this project, you'll need:

  • A vacuum
  • A bucket
  • Mild dish soap
  • A stiff nylon scrub brush or Teflon-approved dish scrubber
  • Plenty of absorbent shop-cloths
  • A good paste floor wax
  • A buffing machine

You may also need:

  • A solvent-type (not water-based) commercial hardwood cleaner
  • Rubber gloves

What to Do
1. The first step is to remove every trace of loose dirt and grit. Sweeping may leave traces of grit behind so, if possible, vacuum the floor thoroughly using a non-scratching nozzle.

2. In a bucket, mix hot water with 1-2 tablespoons of mild dishwashing detergent. Read the detergent's label to make sure it contains no ammonia, lye or trisodium phosphate, any of which can stain wood. Test a small area to see if this mild solution is enough to release old dirt and wax. If the build-up on your floor is especially stubborn, you may need to opt instead for a solvent-type commercial hardwood cleaner that can cut through the gummy layers. Always wear rubber gloves when using such solvents and make sure the room is well-ventilated.

3. Use a clean nylon scrub brush to scour in the direction of the wood grain as you work across 2-3 foot sections at a time. Scrub the small section and then dry it thoroughly with a clean dry towel before moving on to the next area. As your towels get damp, replace them with clean dry ones. Never let the wood remain wet. Once the floor is clean and completely dry, apply floor wax by hand one section at a time. Once you've waxed the floor, rent a buffing machine to polish your floors to a rich glow.

Tip
There's no doubt that hand-polishing your floor with paste wax and finishing with a buffing machine will produce the best and longest-lasting results. If the job seems unbearably daunting, however, you can still get great results and protect your floor using a good liquid wax and a mop-style applicator.

Hammer Share DIY tips on our Floors forum with others!