Tips from Toby: Cleaning your hardwood floors

If you have one of these new steam mops, and are thinking about doing a little cleaning today, keep them away from your hardwood floors.

Let’s make sure we are very clear to start: these new steam mops that are all the rage right now are truly a great device for use in our homes, just not on hardwood and laminate floors. The problem is that the steam penetrates through both the varnish and the wood, and can cause it to bubble, split, and even leave water stains.

“Problem with steam, steam is water, and water and wood do not mix,” said Bob Bales of Weber & Joe’s Flooring. “You add water to wood, it raises the grain, dries it out, causes splitting, splintering. So it might do a great job cleaning the floors, but it is eventually going to damage it.”

Steam mops are fantastic for cleaning tile floors, vinyl and even your concrete floors. Use it in your shower or bath, but it’s always a good idea to test a small area first. Also make sure you read the owner’s manual. Many of us feel that turning the steam all the way up is a good thing, but a little goes a long way.

You don’t want to use a product like Murphy’s oil soap; they used to advertise it as a tremendous product for hardwood floors, but it is an oil-based product, and oil will not penetrate the urethane, and will leave a film.

So if you’re cleaning those hardwood floors, the key is to make sure you don’t do anything that can leave the floors wet. Use a vacuum or dust mop to clean up any dirt, and then the best way to clean them is a simple lightly-damp mop. Use a towel or dust mop to immediately dry them.

There are tons of hardwood floor cleaning products on the market, but the best way to clean them is still the old fashioned way: elbow grease. The easiest is a large towel that is half damp and half dry, and just wipe and dry all at the same time.

Just remember, the combination of steam and wood are just going to cause huge problems.

Most of the steam mops use distilled water, but check your owner’s manual to make sure what type to use.

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