Recipe for Clean Floors

Warning: What you don't know can damage your floors.

During 12 years professionally cleaning homes, I felt it was an important part of my job to study the proper care of all floor surfaces and spent hours doing so. During this process it became clear that 100% cotton was the safest, best and fastest way to clean any hard floor surface.

*NOTE: Please see my section below for warnings about Microfiber mops and the new premoistened towel mops.

Before we start on the actual care of floors, I will warn you that I recommend cleaning most floors with hot water only based on the information I have gathered from floor manufacturing companies. I do not recommend disinfectants or detergents as they can ruin the sealant on the floor. Do you need to disinfect your floor? Let me ask you this: do you disinfect your feet? Right, you don’t. So why worry about the floor? Your carpet contains billions more germs than your hard floor surfaces. Don't worry about those few germs. If you have dropped a raw egg, meat, milk or your pet has an accident and the resulting bacteria will cause odors or more serious problems then yes a disinfectant is needed. Otherwise those germs are as harmless as the bottom of your feet.

Hardwood floor care. Cotton dust mops are the safest way to dust a hardwood or laminated floor without damaging the floor. The long strings prevent grit from scratching the surface of the floor. If your floors are large and the cotton mops in the grocery just aren’t large enough, head to a janitorial supply store. The folks are very knowledgeable and will be happy to assist you in getting the right size dust mop for your home.

A word of warning about Murphy’s Oil soap and similar products on hardwood floors: When I was professionally cleaning homes one of my clients had to refinish their wood floors because their prior cleaning lady had used Murphy's Oil Soap. Several of my seminar attendees have repeated this same story.

The vegetable soap in the products sticks to the floor causing the sealant to become gummy and eventually the floor needs to be refinished. An even larger problem occurs when using these products on laminated flooring. You cannot sand and refinish laminated flooring. It must be replaced.

Older wood floors: The wood floors in this category usually range from 35 to 100 years old. They require different care than newer floors. Dust weekly with a cotton dust mop. Spot clean to avoid frequent damp mopping. Dry the floor immediately.

Clean these floors by mixing one-quarter cup of white vinegar per quart of water in a spray bottle. Lightly spritz the cotton dust mop to barely dampen it. Then damp mop your floor and launder the dust mop.

Older floors should be treated with a paste wax made for wood floors to maintain their luster. Depending on household traffic, usually two to three times a year keeps them in sufficiently good condition. Get the best kind of wax possible by checking with several companies who sand and refinish wood floors. Generally they are quite knowledgeable on this subject.

Clean newer wood floors and laminated floors in the same manner. Do not use excess moisture on any wood floor. The water works between the boards and will warp them. Lightly spritz a terry towel with the above white vinegar and water mixture. Mop the floor shifting the towel as it soils. Generally drying wood floors is unnecessary if you are using a lightly dampened towel. Otherwise damp mop a section at a time drying the floor with a second towel as you go. Newer wood floors generally do not require waxing.

Stone floor care: Do not use any kind of detergent, cleaner or disinfectant on stone floors especially tile. Tile floors are porous. The detergent seeps down into the tile where removal is impossible. The sticky residue then attracts dirt and the buildup begins. Over time, the detergent softens the adhesive on the back of the tile causing them to loosen.

*A soft nylon scrub brush and very hot water removes some of the dirt trapped in the tile. Dry with a clean towel as you scrub the floor in small sections. Never use vinegar on tile or stone floors. It will pit and damage any kind of stone flooring.

Clean stone floors; marble, tile, granite and slate with hot water only using a heavy duty terry towel. Marble and granite floors must be dried as they are mopped to prevent water spots from forming.

Grout stains are a common problem but can be difficult to remove. Grout is porous so most cleaners soak right through. Sudsy water and a toothbrush will help. Immediately wipe after any spill. Prevention is always the key to easy cleaning and this is true for tile grout. Seal your grout after getting it clean. Apply a five year grout sealer. Wait three to four days and seal it again. Wait another three to four day then spray a bit of water on the grout. If it stays on top, the grout is sealed. If it soaks through, apply a third coat.

Linoleum floors: Use a terry cloth towel and clean these floors with hot water. Add one fourth cup of white vinegar per gallon of water for a cleaning boost if desired. If the floor has deep groves, borax usually does a good job cleaning. It will not soften and damage the sealant like the phosphorous found in most cleaners. Detergents cannot be rinsed off a floor. The sticky residue deteriorates the sealant causing the floor to dull and become difficult to clean. Fill a sink with hot water and half a cup of borax. Scrub the floor with a nylon scrub brush then rinse with white vinegar and water.

If your floor has dulled and is not coming clean, then it could be time to strip and wax. I recommend purchasing your floor stripper, sealant and non-yellowing wax from a janitorial supply store. The supplies are more expensive but replacing your floor costs considerably more. You will be well pleased with how much easier they are to use and the lasting results.

Strip the floor following bottle directions. Then mop with one half cup vinegar per gallon of water. Apply the sealant allow to thoroughly dry then add two coats of wax waiting for each to dry before apply the next layer. A sealer is necessary or the wax will not give the proper results.

Now for the warnings:

Let's take an in depth look into the new floor care products on the market. This information comes not only from hours of research but first hand information from far too many of my seminar attendees when they speak of the damage the products have caused their floors.

Microfiber: This fabric has been touted as the neatest thing since chocolate and it does have a place of honor when cleaning glass or mirrors. When microfiber first came out, the packages warned about not using them on any kind of sealed or painted surface. Some packages still carry this warning.

Microfiber is made from 80 to 85% polyester which is plastic. Plastic scratches. Given time and repeated use, plastic will scratch the clear coat sealant off any vehicle including RVs, cars, boats, motorcycles, airplanes etc. It will scratch the sealant off wood, laminated, linoleum, marble or any sealed flooring. It will scratch the paint off a wall and the finishes from your furniture. This information was also verified by two microfiber companies at a large industrial trade show recently.

Wood floors, although expensive can be sanded and refinished. Laminated floors must be replaced. Marble and granite floors may not be able to be restored. Linoleum at least can be stripped and waxed.

Premoistened towel mops: The towels on these mops are so thin that the towel itself is incapable of cleaning a floor – besides being extremely expensive. The sticky residue left behind on a floor over time deteriorates the sealant just like most detergents.

Detergent of any kind softens the sealant on linoleum, wood and laminated wood flooring and will ruin a stone floor. You can tell that is happening because the floor is sticky underfoot after cleaning. By the time you notice that your floor has lost its shine, the damage is done The only solution is to refinish the floor. Seminar attendees have also reported that they have removed the color from the edges of carpeting next to the flooring.

This article may be reprinted with the express written consent of Mary Findley with proper credit give to her, owner of Mary Moppins at

About the Author - Mary Findley is a veteran cleaning expert and President of the Mary Moppins. For the past several years, Mary's cleaning seminars and magazine articles have helped people become more proficient in their cleaning tasks. Her website – - offers a wealth of cleaning tips and advice, with even more information when her new site goes live March 1st, 2005. Her line of specially designed cleaning products is steadily growing in popularity nationwide.


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