Does your floor look patchy and unclean each time you walk in, and are relieved only in the evening when the lights dim the stains? Do you often wonder what has happened to make them this way, when they had looked beautiful, sparkling and shiny just a couple of year ago? It seems that your floors have not been maintained in the correct manner with the right type of cleaning liquids and equipment. Everything in the home has a number of cleaning agents to clean them in the best possible manner. All that it takes is to enquire from the person who provides you the flooring, how best to clean it and keep it stain free. But if the damage has already been done, do not despair, since solutions are available to undo the damage as well. But do you want your floors clean just for appearances?
The Need For Clean Floors
There are more reasons than one that explain why floors need to be maintained and kept clean. Some of these include:
-Basic hygiene – A clean home is a healthy home. Clean floors prevent germs from breeding and causes infections leading to poor health. Stains and gaps are an excellent breeding ground for germs.
-Preserving an investment-The home or apartment requires a lot of investment on materials for walls and floors. Keeping them clean helps to make them last longer.
-Preventing injuries by falling or tripping, which is highly likely on a dirty floor
-A clean floor beautifies the whole house
-Clean floors remove allergens that can cause a lot of discomfort to people suffering from allergic ailments like asthma, hay fever etc.
Types of Floors
Floor materials in use today, are of different types and decided by personal preferences as well as the maintenance level required. For example, working women opt for tiled floors or granite since they are the easiest to maintain and stains easy to clean. The most common types of flooring include:
–Marble floors give the most exquisite luxurious look. Marble is a natural stone that comes in long sheets or in smaller tiles. Marble is processed from metamorphic rocks and contains calcium carbonate.
–Granite is the most exquisite, the hardest and he densest stone available for use as flooring. It brings a rich and luxurious elegance to the whole apartment, and is expensive as well. Being natural it lasts for years and comes in various shades. It is resilient and stain free since even oil, acid and chemical spills leave it unaffected.
–Ceramic tiles are the most waterproof type of flooring. Made out of ceramic, they are used extensively in kitchens and bathrooms as flooring with finishes like glossy, matte, glazed or textured. The textured tiles are ideal for floors since they are anti-slip and safer.
–Linoleum floors are cheap and resilient. Linoleum is made out of raw and natural materials and safe for the environment. Its principal ingredient is linseed oil with its rich colors coming from added mineral pigments.
–Vinyl flooring is another viable option. Vinyl is actually “fake leather”, a substitute for leather made from chlorine and ethylene, and more like resin. Often made into tiles for floors, they are durable, waterproof, easy to install and low on maintenance.
–Cork is a new fad for floors but cork floors have been used for a century and more. Cork comes from trees in Spain and Portugal that are mature and is ready for harvest every nine years. It is economical and being stain absorbent not difficult to maintain.
Wooden floors- made from solid wood like Beech, Cherry, Pine, Oak, Maple, Walnut, hickory or others, this is the most exquisite but expensive flooring option. These have been in use for centuries, but their high maintenance makes people for cheaper substitutes.
Bamboo floors– This eco-friendly and reasonably priced natural product has recently entered the flooring arena. Belonging to the grass category, its tan or honey brown shades make every room look grand. Above all it is versatile and highly durable.
Laminate floors are made of multi-layered synthetic material made from melamine resin and fiber board, that is fused together through he lamination process. It simulates wood or occasionally a stone finish, is cheap, durable and easy to maintain.
Rubber floors are extremely practical, as they require little maintenance beyond the regular washing, sweeping. Being soft on the surface they are popular for exercise and play areas.
Wall-to-wall carpeting-Carpets add a different kind of elegance to the room. Initially considered suitable for cold countries, thinner carpets are being used in homes in warm, tropical countries as well. Carpets are made from jute, wool, silk and cotton, besides a variety of synthetic weaves.
Each of these materials look great when new but regular and lack of proper maintenance and recommended cleaning methods can make even the best of floors look unappealing in a short duration of time. A few steps will prove to be enlightening for you and you will understand what must be done to keep your floors clean:
Keep a different set of slippers for the home, to avoid the dirt that comes with shoes to spread inside.
Maintain a cleaning routine. Details about cleaning different types of floors are explained below. Make this a habit, and the floor must be cleaned at least on alternate days if not everyday.
Get professional cleaners annually to spruce up floors to ensure that all stains and darkening corners are attended to.
Keep the right cleaning liquids, chemicals or natural cleaners
Invest in equipment like scrubbers, mops, scourers, vacuum cleaners etc
Exercise caution- make sure that unnecessary spilling or dropping does not take place. Even children should be taught not to drop things on the floors. This helps prevent scratches, stains and marks that may not be easy to get rid of.
Pick up furniture to move, do not drag it across the floor-this helps to maintain wooden and sensitive flooring
Train your mind to instantly wipe off any liquid spills before they dry off.
Ways to clean different types of floors
Most floors remain in shape with a regular sweep and mop routine with a bi-annual polishing and scrubbing. But it is preferable to treat each type of floor in a different manner.
Marble floors- Marble is a natural stone with its own sheen that is more pronounced when kept clean. The investment that goes into marble will also be justified if it is maintained properly. To start with, a daily sweeping and mopping with an additional cleansing agent diluted in water should suffice. Stains must be scrubbed clean but ideally without using harsh chemicals. The first attempt to remove food or beverage stains must be with water or with a very mild cleaning agent recommended for marble with a neutral pH count, i.e., pH7. However if corners and edges somehow get neglected, some amount of dirt build up is inevitable. This will not disappear with mild products and regular cleaning regimen. A monthly or a fortnightly routine can be established to pay attention to these corners and a stronger cleaning agent with a pH level of 10-11 would help to clear these marks. Avoid using vinegar or other strong chemicals. If marble seems to be losing its sheen, apply a coat of marble polish that contains tin oxide.
Make every effort to avoid scratches on the floor, by keeping a doormat to wipe off feet, placing walk-off mats at entrances. Mats spread randomly on the floor also serve the purpose of absorbing liquid spills.
Granite is a luxurious floor material and its price makes everyone scared about the correct way to clean and maintain it without spoiling the surface. Experts believe it is one of the easiest natural materials to clean and keep it that way. Sweeping and mopping with a wet cotton mop/cloth soaked in warm water is sufficient as a daily routine, and make sure to blot any liquid spills immediately. Never use vinegar or other acidic liquids since it will make the surface dull. Rugs in high traffic parts preserve the gloss of the stone and regular polishing every month or two keeps it sparkling and new for a long time.
Ceramic tiles are amongst the most popular flooring materials used for the simple reason that they add elegance without costing too much. They are also easy to maintain and keep clean with a simple sweeping and mopping ritual everyday. A periodic cleaning with a mild detergent and warm water clears any dirt or grime lurking in the corners and also helps to clean the gaps between tiles. Most tiles come with cleaning instructions to preserve their luster, and these must be followed. The use of mats and rugs adds to the life and beauty of the tiled floor. Never use harsh chemicals, steel wool, scouring pads, or abrasive materials since they will permanently scratch the tiles.
Linoleum floors are not difficult to clean for the first few years, but as they get older keeping them shining is a bit of a task. Often they have indents to prevent slipping, and these are dirt collectors that need thorough cleaning with warm soapy water and a soft scrub brush. Wipe thoroughly with a dry towel and get great results. A bi-annual ritual of this type can keep the floor in good shape. Regular cleaning requires sweeping and mopping after soaking the mop in a bucket of warm water with half a cup of vinegar. Regular floor cleaners can damage linoleum and the best way to maintain it is by walking bare foot on it.
Vinyl floors clean best with the use of warm water. If swept regularly and then mopped with a warm water-vinegar solution, the floor will stay in good shape. How acidic liquids stronger than vinegar must be avoided. A pH neutral cleanser can also be used. The use of soap makes the floor look stained and must be avoided. Water must not be allowed to stand on vinyl floors since it will loosen the glue used to stick it. Any spills and stains must be wiped off as soon as possible. Abrasive materials must be avoided. Never go beyond a nylon scrubber to remove stubborn dirt. Vinyl floors scratch easily and therefore you need to be cautious before dragging furniture across the floor without the floor protection pads.
Cork floors are among the easy to clean floor coverings, requiring lighter maintenance and can stay new with a simple semi-wet mop. It does need to have wet spills wiped away immediately since its wood component is absorbent. Vacuum cleaning of corners or any gaps removes dirt that lingers, and this can be a fortnightly routine. An occasional cleaning with a pre-finished hardwood floor cleaner will keep old marks and stains disappear. It is long lasting if care is taken to place cleaning mats to take away dirt from footwear before entering, fix felt pieces to furniture legs to prevent scratches every time furniture is dragged, and avoid direct exposure to sunlight to prevent fading.
Wooden floors are the most exquisite natural flooring available. But the maintenance hazards often prove to be a deterrent for their use. Keeping wooden floors clean mainly requires keeping them away from water and extreme care has to be taken to prevent scratching. Regular waxing and polishing helps them retain their richness for years. A regular sweeping of the floor with a weekly vacuum session keeps dirt away. This must be accompanied by a dry moist mop. A monthly wax application and an annual polish by a professional are recommended. Wooden floors will get ruined if high heeled shoes or outdoor footwear is brought in since dust would also scratch the surface. Placing mats, rugs and furniture pads on the legs of chairs etc will prevent scratches on movement of furniture. Liquid spills must be blotted away and efforts must be made to avoid food being dropped as well.
Bamboo floors are becoming increasingly popular since they look similar to hardwood floors, are made from a natural grass, are easier to maintain and less sensitive to water. Bamboo floors need regular fine brush sweeping and weekly vacuuming to clear dist and dust stuck in the floor. Vacuum cleaning must be followed by a wet mop soaked in water that has a few drops of any cleaning agent or powder. This helps to clean the surface of any persistent marks. While water is acceptable, oil or acidic liquids are a no-no. It does not require waxing, which must not even be tried on bamboo floors. The usual care and precautions like mats and rugs enhance its lasting value.
Laminate floors look beautiful and are easy to take care of. All they need is regular sweeping to remove dirt and periodic vacuum cleaning to suck dirt stuck between planks and grooves. Mopping helps to preserve their newness and also remove stains. The best way to avoid stains is to clean the minute something falls. Water remains the first liquid to try, but not too much of it. Strong cleaning liquids, acidic or detergents must be avoided. They do not require any waxing and shining, but keeping dirty outdoor footwear away always helps to keep them scratch free.
Rubber floors are meant for children’s rooms or rooms with computers etc. They need to be cleaned regularly by sweeping and mopping with any general purpose cleaning liquid. Vacuum cleaners remove dirt from corners. A periodic routine of using a cup of fabric softening liquid to half a bucket of water will help to give it a freshly waxed look. But this can also need to wax deposits that would also require an occasional clearing with a wax stripper. Scratches must be avoided and scouring pads and brushes must never be used.
Wall to wall carpets, are preferred in colder places and do not need daily cleaning. They can be brushed to pick up dirt where it falls and is noticeable. They must be vacuum cleaned every week, and professional cleaning every few months keeps them germ free also. Carpets tend to trap dust mites, but this can be controlled with thorough cleaning. In certain cases, using a wet cloth soaked in water mixed with vinegar, squeezed dry and rubbed all over the carpet, brings out a fresher and cleaner look.
Keeping floors clean is not an arduous task, but requires a bit of time every week to ensure that floors never look neglected, dirty or old even after years of use.