cleaning floors: feel good about clean

Wood floor with cleaning caddy, and floor mop.

I love walking into a room with clean and shiny floors. Who doesn't? But cleaning floors? Not so much. Our floors are a potluck of dirt, germs, and grime. Cleaning floors using the right cleaners for a floor's surface is critical.

But how do you know what you should use on them? There is a confusing array of floor cleaning products on grocery store shelves. 

To determine the best solution for cleaning floors in your home, this guide can help.

Cleaning Floors: Love that Linoleum

This retro-cool flooring is made from organic materials (i.e., linseed oil, plus many additives including cork, pine resin, and minerals) and is antibacterial and non-allergenic. 

As a result, this is easy-peasy stuff. Damp-mop every few days or so. (Gentle reminder here: Damp-mopping is not wet mopping.) Too much water exposure can make your linoleum floor brittle.

For really dirty jobs, when a more in-depth cleaning is required, use a neutral Ph cleaner, such as a few squirts of liquid dish soap in your mop bucket, and lightly go over the floor's surface.

CLEANING DON'TS: Hot water, strong alkaline cleaners, such as ammonia, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide, anything abrasive. 

Maintaining a Vinyl Floor

Tiles or sheets of vinyl are soft to walk on and are available in many colors and patterns - some designed to look like granite, marble, wood, and other natural materials.

All vinyl floors are coated with clear vinyl or urethane layers, making them relatively easy to keep clean and bright - as long as you keep daily dirt out of surface crevices, that is. Vacuum regularly to keep dust and grit from becoming ground in. 

Clean regularly by damp-mopping with water only. When a deeper clean is needed, a cleaner with a surfactant will provide the muscle you need to get your floor clean. Or clean with ammonia and water, which also works well for a cork floor with a urethane finish. 

CLEANING DON'TS: Anything soapy, such as mop-and-shine products, abrasive cleaners, paste wax.

Handle Hardwood

Warm, durable hardwood floors are easy to clean. Be sure to wipe up any liquid on the floor's surface promptly. 

The only other consideration is keeping grit and sand off the surface to keep scratches minimum.

Weekly, give the floor a thorough vacuuming. For a deeper clean, choose a wood floor cleaning product with a neutral pH. Wring the mop almost dry before mopping.

CLEANING DON'TS: Standing water is the biggest threat to your hardwood floor's longevity.

Keep Laminates Lovely

Laminates are hard materials consisting of two or more layers bonded together: a hard, thick base made of chipboard or similar material encased in a plastic laminate to get the look of hardwood without the cost and care.

Keep laminate floors clean by regularly vacuuming, dust-mopping, or wiping them with a damp (not wet) cloth. For tough dirt and grime, use a diluted vinegar solution. Buff away stubborn stains with undiluted acetone nail polish remover.

CLEANING DON'TS: soap-based detergents (they'll make the floor slippery after cleaning) and abrasive cleaners or tools like steel wool (they can scratch the surface sheen). 

Clean Natural Stone

Wipe or damp-mop natural stone floors daily to remove dust and tracked-in dirt. Even when sealed, these floors can be easily stained, especially by liquids. Make sure to wipe up spills as they happen throughout the day.

For easier cleanups, hang the floor's damp mop in a nearby closet. Daily wipe downs may seem cumbersome, but if you keep up with the cleaning, they'll continue to look lustrous for years.

CLEANING DON'TS: Dusting sprays or chemically treated mops or cloths; alkaline cleaners such as ammonia; strong soaps and detergents.

Treat Tiles Right

Regularly vacuum and damp-mop to remove dirt, dust, and sand to prevent ground-in grunge from scratching the shiny surface. For a deeper clean, use a neutral pH cleaner to keep the glossy finish intact.

CLEANING DON'TS: Standing moisture can cause damage; mop up any spills as soon as possible. 


This polished natural stone also benefits from regular sweeping and damp-mopping, using water and mild detergent.

Since this surface stains easily and the glossy finish tends to wear quickly, professional products tend to be the safest cleaning bet.

Cleaning  Concrete Floors

This may be the ideal kitchen flooring. All that you need to do is sweep, vacuum, or damp-mop regularly.

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