Sunday, September 7, 2008

Cleaning hard floors

Yesterday I had comment on my blog asking me to share how I clean my floors, and soon after Mandy from The Vintage Kitten blog, asked me specifically about slate floors. Mandy, I too have slate kitchen floors, they are not the easiest flooring to keep clean. But I will be dealing with all sorts of flooring in this post, so feel free to skip to the sections that apply to you in this post.

For any type of hard flooring, daily sweeping is essential in keeping the floors dust free, scratch free (stones brought in from outside under shoes are a big culprit), and will mostly avoid a build up of dirt. The important thing is to use the right type of broom. You can see my post about sweeping floors, and different type of brooms here, so I won't be dealing with sweeping n this post but rather the washing of floors... and cleaning carpets... well that's a whole different post, but I'll put it on my posts to-do list.

Lets' get to it then, below are tips on how to mop, different types of flooring and how to clean them followed by the different types of mops you can get, and what they are best for.

Mopping should be done on a weekly basis to avoid the build up of dirt and grime. Easier said than done, I know - especially with an uneven floor surface like slate tiles. Always, sweep the floor thoroughly, followed by dry dust mopping or vacuuming before wet mopping a floor. You can use two buckets of water - one with a cleaning solution, and another with clear hot water to rinse the mop in. Change the rinsing water when the water becomes dirty. When you have finished cleaning the floor, tie a cloth or an old t-shirt over a dry mop and wipe over the floor (thanks Anthea Turner for this tip!) to dry the floor and avoid streaking or cleaning solution deposits.

Types of flooring:

Sealed laminate floors
This is what we have throughout the majority of our downstairs floor. The first time I cleaned laminate flooring I used dish washing liquid, and couldn't understand why the floor looked dull after I cleaned it. That's because a soapy solution will leave a film on the surface making the floor look dull. The best solution to use is 1 cup of vinegar in a bucket of luke warm water, this is what I use, and it works brilliantly. Tough stains can be removed with denatured alcohol and a soft cloth.

Vinyl & linoleum
Use a pH neutral household detergent such as dish washing liquid, but remember to wash away any soap with clear warm water.

Sealed with polyurethane
Most wood floor boards nowadays are sealed with polyurethane which is durable. But water should never saturate the surface as it can penetrate the cracks and damage flooring. Use 1/4 cup vinegar to a bucket of water. Avoid oil soaps that can leave a residue attracting dust.

Finished with wax
Use only plain tepid water to wash waxed wooden floors, but make sure the mop is only very slightly damp, not wet. Therefor it's best to use a mop that can be rung out easily and sufficiently so as not to saturate floors. Spills must be wiped up immediately, and small surface scratches can be buffed away with a soft cloth.

For almost all types of tiles, avoid an acidic cleaning solution (so for once forget the vinegar) as this can etch glazed surfaces and damage grout. Once again, it's best to use a mild detergent such as good old dish washing liquid, removing soap by following up mopping with warm water.
Unglazed tiles such as terracotta or unsealed slate are very porous, and can be damaged with water spills. These tiles should preferably be sealed, and can benefit from an additional layer of protective wax.

Stone tiles especially should not be washed with an acidic solution. Because stone tiles are often uneven, dirt can become trapped in cracks and crevices. Using a hard bristle broom with uneven bristles (such as a natural corn broom) to sweep the floor with regularly followed by a soft bristle broom to remove finer dust particles should prevent these floors from becoming clogged with dirt. But you will most likely find that a once a year scrub with dish washing liquid and a floor brush is necessary. For mopping, use a string mop which withstands uneven floor surfaces better.

Brick and concrete
As with stone floors, indoor brick or concrete floors need to be glazed to protect the porous surface from staining. Use warm water and a pH- neutral all purpouse cleaner along with a rag or string mop.

Cork floors are generally sealed with a synthetic plastic like finish. Never let water stand on this floor surface as it can seep in around the edges and cause the cork to swell. Use a well wringed mop that is only slightly damp and a pH neutral cleaning solution.

Have I missed out a type of flooring you would like me to write about? Leave me a comment and I will add it on.

Types of mops

Rag or String mop

The old-fashioned kind of mop. They are great for absorbing big spills immediately and can cover a lot of surface area. They are great for withstanding wear and tear from uneven surfaces and are more likely to get into the crevices to clean them. This is my choice for our slate floor kitchen. You do get rag or string mops that are self-wringing attachment, alternatively use a bucket with a wringer attachment. A cotton-rayon blend rag head will dry quicker than an 100% cotton mop, and looped ends will last longer resisting fraying. These mops also now come in synthetic microfibre mop heads, I've not tried these myself, have you?

Sponge mop

These mops tend to come with a wringer lever so that the mops heads aren't saturated with water, so these mops are best for wooden floors, cork floors, and laminate floors. They are best on flat smooth surface floors, as uneven floors can snag and damage them. Look for these mops in your local supermarket where they sell replaceable mop heads separately for when yours need replacing.

All-in-one mop

Wow, personally I've never come across these, they look great for quick touch-ups! They have an attached container for water and a spray nozzle attached to the head eliminating the need for a bucket. Most all-in-one mops come with disposable cleaning pads, and you can easily attach your own cloth instead. Mopping a large floor surface with one of these would be a bit of a pain as the cleaning pads may need to be replaced or rinsed out quite often. But for small smooth surfaced rooms where a quick mop is needed regularly, this is great.

Dust mop

Also known as dry-mops, can be used in place of a vacuum or soft bristled broom. Unlike brooms, they are often pre-treated to attract dust, rather than spread dust. Before using a dust mop, make sure any wet or sticky spills have been cleaned up. When you're done, shake out the dust, or vacuum the mop.

That's it for today on floors. I hope I've covered everything you might like to know about cleaning floors - but if you have any extra tips you'd like me to add, or anything I might have missed or even got wrong do let me know and I'll add it or correct it.

Now that reminds me, I better go clean our floors!

Next up is my monthly post on pests, and this time, I'm on about fleas. So if you have PETS (and as a result PESTS), then this post will be very handy.
Have a lovely Sunday!

PS: Thanks to Melmel from At Home with Memel who alerted me to the fact that Oxfam in the UK are selling bicarbonate of soda cleaning products and big boxes at great prices. And what a great tip to sprinkle bicarb on a mattress before vacuuming to leave it smelling very fresh! Thanks Melmel!

Many tips on this post was written with the help of the book Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook, a wonderful resource for all sorts of home keeping questions.


Anonymous said...

Ok, this sounds weird but I was so excited to see your blog entry today! You are amazing and thanks for providing so much great information! I was the one who sent you the email asking about cleaning floors and I am so glad I did. Thanks again for responding!

Judy said...

The only floors that are not carpeted are my bath and kitchen and I always scrub them on my hands and knees. What a glutton for punishment am I?

The Vintage Kitten said...

Another excellent post and so informative. I discovered the best way of cleaning our slate floor.... Let Mr K do it LOL! The stone floor was very interesting as we have one in our sitting room and although when we moved here I spent a few days sanding and varnishing its not perfect...What can I say its rustic!!! but your post has inspired me to have another go at trying to make it look better (and cleaner) Mandy XX

LaundryBasketCase said...

Hi Eileen, I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post. Thanks for asking me about it, it's great to get a question.
Judy- wow, I am yet to scrub our new bathroom, and kitchen floor... yikes. But I guess it will have to be done at some point.
Mandy- great idea! Let Mr K do it, or in my case Mr Laundrybasketcase He he.

Thanks for the comments ladies!

Lesley said...

oh i was so pleased you mentioned slate floors!! I have slate in the kitchen and its a nightmare! do you use a mop? i use the direct floor spray stuff then a bristle brush to clean it as every mop i had just got shredded ! any ideas on what i could use?
Lesley x

Debbies-English-Treasures said...

Hello, My Sweet Friend,
For once I`m excited about cleaning my laminate floor!
I`m going to try the vinegar suggestion...I have tried "everything" in the past... and nothing seem to have worked!
I always knew that there must to be an easier and cheaper method to do it!
Thanks for another great "secret"!
My sweet FRIEND!

Debbies-English-Treasures said...

Sorry, honey its me again...
I have a confession to make!
I have carpet on my bathroom!!!
I know that`s on my to do list, to replace the flooring... but, when we decorated our small bathroom I thought that having carpet in it, would be the ideal solution to lay the children after they add a bath!
We are lucky to have a downstairs cloakroom, so the bathroom its mostly used just for having showers and baths.
I feel better for telling you somehow...
Maybe now, I get the motivation to change the carpet... which type of flooring would you recommend!?

Debbie Moss

Mary said...

We won't even go into how much I need this post. Thanks for being such an user-friendly resource.

I gave you an award for your fun and fabulous blog. Check out the details on mine.

simplehappy home

Ivy said...

Great post ;)

My hubby mops the floor for me so maybe I can pass some tips onto him. Hehe!

Oh-sorry-I have tagged you. See the end of my blueberry post for details.

A note on perfection

Many of the posts featured on this blog are about doing household chores the correct, or so to say perfect way. My intention is not to make readers feel that the way they are running their households are wrong. So if making the bed, or ironing shirts in a certain way doesn't fit your lifestyle, do not feel guilty about it. But by learning the correct way of doing things it might just come in handy for those times when special guests are staying, or when you need to iron that shirt perfectly for a job interview. So enjoy the learning, but skip the guilt and LOVE your homes. x

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