Between the mud of March and the showers of April, how do I keep wood floors clean and shiny? — J.K., Rutland, VT
Floors are like health care — prevention is key. First, you need to decrease the amount of dirt and moisture that are tracked in. Put mats (the bristle type collects the most grit) at all exterior doors, and place area rugs with pads inside entryways and in high-traffic spots. Rugs in the kitchen at the sink and spill locations are a good idea, too. Vacuuming with the brush attachment (not the beater bar, which can damage wood) is more important than washing the floor. It picks up the dirt and sand that can scratch the finish.
Washing is problematic, as wood flooring and water don’t mix (think warping and staining), so I went to some experts for advice on the subject.
Highland Hardwoods in Brentwood, New Hampshire (800-442-1812, 603-679-1230; highlandhardwoods.com), has been supplying quality kiln-dried lumber and hardwood flooring to New England’s carpenters and cabinetmakers for 20 years. Its recommendation is to avoid the following: wet mopping; oil soaps, which can leave a residue that dulls shine; and acrylic products, such as Mop & Glo, which coat, not clean. Highland suggests purchasing Bona, a hardwood floor care system ($24.95) that features a mop with washable microfiber pad (which attracts and absorbs dirt) as well as a floor cleaner to spray on the pad (thereby limiting the amount of moisture put on the floor).
This system (available at bona-floor-resources.com) was developed by BonaKemi, a Swedish manufacturer of hardwood floor finishing products, and is, from my research, the cleaning product line most widely recommended by hardwood specialists.
Carlisle Wide Plank Floors (800-595-9663, 603-446-3937; wideplankflooring.com), a third-generation family business located in Stoddard, New Hampshire, does things the old-fashioned way. It crafts wide-plank floorboards one by one using old-growth pines and hardwoods and reclaimed timber for historic renovations and new construction. Carlisle’s formula for cleaning is as traditional as its product: Mix 1/4 cup white vinegar to 5 gallons warm water, wash the floor with a well-wrung sponge mop or cotton rag (do not saturate the floor), and buff dry with a soft cloth.
–Polly Bannister, Senior Home Editor,