Caring for Floors
Learn how to keep all types of flooring clean and avoid premature wear with these tips.
- Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
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Do-It-Yourself Carpet Cleaning
Carpets keep their beauty longest if deep cleaned at least once a year. This job is one where it pays to bring in the pros, as they have muscle, methods and machinery not usually available to home carpet cleaners.
If your budget won't stretch to professional carpet cleaning, there are do-it-yourself alternatives that make a respectable job of home carpet cleaning, as long as you work carefully, use the right equipment and observe these cautions:
Know your carpet. Be sure you understand the type of cleaning method recommended by your carpet's manufacturers.
Stick to steamers, not shampooers. When you buy or rent a carpet cleaner, choose a carpet steamer. Older "carpet shampoo" units use rotary agitators to apply detergent solution and may overwet carpets. The shampoo film can be difficult to remove, causing resoiling.
Vacuum first. Dirt plus water equals mud, which is almost impossible to remove. Before cleaning the carpet, vacuum thoroughly to remove as much loose dirt as possible.
Buy the right cleaners. Stick with cleaning products designed specifically for home carpet cleaning, and follow package directions to mix cleaning solutions.
Pretreat. Use a traffic-lane cleaner or pre-spray to treat areas of high soil before cleaning.
Keep it dry. Over-saturated carpets aren't cleaner, just wetter. After extracting, make a second dry pass over the carpet to remove as much moisture as possible. Keep traffic off freshly cleaned carpeting until it is dry
As with carpets, routine cleaning is the best way to maintain the beauty of hard-surface flooring. Daily sweeping, vacuuming or dust-mopping removes abrasive grit and dust from the floor. Establishing a "shoes-off" policy and using entrance mats helps prevent street soil from entering the home and being tracked onto floors.
When it's time to clean, clean with a light hand. Hard-surface floors look best when clean and clear, but detergent use or cleaner buildup can create a hazy film that dulls floors — and attracts and holds more dirt. Rely on these cleaning tips to keep hard-surface floors looking clean and beautiful:
Vinyl and Linoleum Floors
To care for vinyl and linoleum, sweep, vacuum, or dust-mop daily to remove surface grit. Damp-mop with clear water to remove dirt and restore shine. For more heavily soiled floors, vacuum first, then wet-mop floors using a very light solution of about 1-2 teaspoons liquid dishwashing detergent per gallon (4 liters) of warm water. Rinse the floor with clean water before drying it with white cleaning cloths.
If there are depressions in the floor, use a scrubbing pad to loosen any soil in these areas as you clean, then rinse with fresh clear water.
These floors are susceptible to abrasion, are easily dented and can be damaged by moisture or incorrect cleaning methods. Remove dust and surface soil from hardwoods daily, preferably with a large-headed microfiber dust mop. Alternately, hardwood floors may be vacuumed but be sure to turn the beater bars off to avoid scratching the floor. When necessary, damp-mop with plain water to pick up dirt, using a barely wet mop. Avoid any drips or standing water; the mop head or terry mop cover should be wrung till nearly dry before it touches the floor. A solution of white vinegar and water will up the cleaning ante, so try it for stubborn dirt.
More intense cleaning will require a cleaning product formulated for the floor's specific finish. Do not use oil soap on hardwood floors; it will create a dirt-trapping sticky film and it can interfere with recoating or refinishing floors later on.
Ceramic Tile Floors
Keep ceramic tile floors looking their best with daily sweeping or vacuuming to remove surface grit. If using a vacuum, set the beater bar to the off position to vacuum. Every week or so, damp-mop with a solution of 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent to 1 gallon of warm water. Use a cleaning toothbrush to scrub stained or dirty grout. Rinse with clear water. Buff the tile with a clean, dry towel to remove any water spots. Never apply wax to ceramic tile floors; it can be difficult to remove, can cause slip-and-fall injuries and may interfere with resealing grout.
Excerpted from Houseworks, by Cynthia Townley Ewer
Text Copyright © 2006, 2010, Cynthia Townley Ewer, extracts from Houseworks, reproduced with permission from Dorling Kindersley Limited