Wood Floors: when are they "clean"?

SparklingWaterDecember 3, 2012

Due to the high volume traffic here, I'm going to take the liberty of cross posting my wood floor post. I just know there have to be some answers to this question.

I have finished oak wood floors and clean them regularly by a detailed dusting and as per floorer instructions, using Bona Hard Wood Floor Cleaner. I've been known for years to do the whole big house over a series of days with large cotton covered mops and on my hands and knees in corners or tough spots, taking my time to get the floors really clean. I repetitively change out of cotton rags to new white ones as I go through the house.

Recently, after I had just cleaned in this manner over a series of days, a gentleman helping me address the floors chronic dullness, took a clean rag or whatever (sorry, I don't recall) and my Bona Cleaner and in various areas sprayed the floor and wiped. The rag(s) showed some discoloration: not black, some brown, some light beige or hardly any. He summed up my dullness lament that my floors weren't "clean".

There is hardly any finish left on these wood floors so whatever comes in (mainly minus shoes) goes on them in spite of my regular dutch cleaning. I am working to address this dullness (it was the point of the gentleman's visit) and because of lack of finish I work extra hard to keep my wood floors "clean".

How do you tell when your wood floor cleaning is "clean enough"? Are your cleaning rags white upon finish? Thank you for the kindness of a response as this is a serious matter to me. Happy Holidays to you all.

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My floors are clean after they are vacuumed and I wipe up any sticky spots.

I just don't worry about them much, and actually wash them at most monthly, and some rooms only once or twice a year.

About like windows as far as I'm concerned

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 9:48PM
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I have 2700 sq ft of wood floors in the downstairs. More than half is 120 yr old heart pine and the rest is narrow old oak that was put down over the original heart pine , probably in the 1940's.

I vacuum all of mine once a week. I wash the kitchen/sunroom weekly on my hands and knees. I use a very small amount of Awesome in water and rinse the rag and wipe till it is clean and then move on. I change the water as it gets grey. I don't move on till the rag is clean. The rest of the wood floors get done 2x a year with water/Awesome and a micro fiber cloth mop that I found at the grocery store..it does a great job.

The heart pine is still as shiny as it was when I had it done 10 yrs ago with 4 coats of poly. The oak isn't shiny at all. It can't be sanded as it has been done too many times by po's and is down to the last wood...don't want it to splinter. I have been looking in to some kind of wax product to begin using on it but haven't done anything yet.

I go by the color of the rag..when it is white the floors are clean . c

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:07PM
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Seems like Don Aslett addresses cleaning wood floors in some of his books. Not sure how the info has changed over the years, but I remember him recommending wax for wood floors, that it helps protect them and make them easier to keep clean.

My dear father brought over his beloved steam mop a while back, and tried it out on my hardwood floors that we refinished a couple of years ago. It ruined the finish, and they never look super clean anymore, even after being freshly mopped. :(

In all honesty, my floors survive my neglect. I think our whole house would roll over and start shaking like a dog getting its tummy scratched if I cleaned the floors like you described. : )

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:11PM
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I vacuum my oak floors once a week. If something has spilled, I will get on my hands and knees to wipe up the particular spill. Other than that, I do not do any other cleaning of my wood floors. No one wears shoes in my house though. You can wear white socks on my wood floors, and the socks will stay looking nice. My wood floor guy told me not to use Bona cleaners, or anything other than a little vinegar mixed in water for spot cleaning. Wood does best when left alone. Sparkling Water, it sounds to me like you are over-cleaning, and perhaps getting build-up and stickiness, which is attracting dirt like a magnet. If the dirt is sticking due to build-up, your vacuum won't be able to pick it up.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:17PM
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Thank you all for your responses. I burst out laughing at the dog tummy scratch picture.

I have indeed wondered if, while advised to use Bona Wood Floor Cleaner since a Bona Polyurethane Waterborne Finish had been applied, it may have caused a build up which is unnatural to the wood floor. I have never waxed my floors nor used any other product than Bona on them.

"Bona Wood Floor Cleaner is specifically designed for unwaxed polyurethane finished or prefinished floors."

How can my floors be both "clean" from Bona Hard Wood Cleaner and "dirty" from over cleaning resulting in build-up? And how can the chronic "dullness" be due to "dirty wood floors" if they were just carefully cleaned?

I hate the idea of having to re-do these floors but I see little choice to break this bad cycle. I believe a light scrape (abrade) and excellent, attentive re-finish job may be the only solution to get clean, non-dull wood floors again.

Such a pity given how much work I did emptying the house and vacating and then keeping one-hundred percent to the Bona Wood Floor program out of the common desire for a beautiful hard wood floor finish.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 10:50PM
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Sorry to hear about your wood floors and surprised to hear that Bona products are suspect. I have used Bona on my floor for years and they have never looked dull. My flooring installer did say that I should never use Murphy's oil soap or wax, never damp mop (the water deteriorates the wood and finish) but sweep, dust or vacuum the floors 1-2 times per week and clean only when necessary. Maybe the finish is actually worn off your floors from too much cleaning. My installer also recommended doing a buff and coat (which is not sanding to the bare wood) every 5 years.
Below is a link to a previous post on GW regarding dull floors. It offers some suggestions for removing dull build up.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dull wood floors

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 11:54PM
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Badgergal, I think you linked the wrong thing - your link is Paramount Granite Blog.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 1:12AM
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I have Bona traffic on my downstairs floors and standard poly on my upstairs floor and I have found that the Bona cleaner causes dullness on both. I only used it for a short time because of the dullness and have since switched to a spray bottle of water that at one point had some Method all purpose cleaner mixed with it, no more dullness issues.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 6:54AM
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Soorry about the incorrect link. Hopefully this is it

Here is a link that might be useful: Dull wood floor

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:24AM
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I vacuum a few times a week and damp mop with a solution of warm water and a bit of vinegar per my hardwood guy once every week or two. He told me not to use those hardwood floor cleaners as they can cause build up. Guy is well known, been in business for more than 20 years and considered one of the best in my area so I am listening to him. I have a mix of newly installed and 30 year old red oak. I've always cleaned the old stuff this way so I was happy to hear I was doing it right.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:54AM
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SparklingWater you said: "There is hardly any finish left on these wood floors ....... I would address that first. Are you saying the finish is worn so bad that you are down to bare wood. If so, it is time to apply new finish. You will find the floors much easier to maintain.

All my red oak floors are finished in plain old polyurethane. Some are original to the house, about 40 years old, and some have been added throughout the years in various remodeling projects/add-ons. I swiffer the areas that are just dusty, broom sweep (one of those soft tipped Old Cedar brooms) when there is grit and crumbs, and when I am deep cleaning I use my Rainbow sweeper.

For mopping I used to use Murphy's Oil Soap which left an oily film. Hate that stuff. Finally starting mopping with a small amount of vinegar in my water using those microfiber pads that velcro to a flat head. Love, love those things. I might also add - the bedrooms and low traffic areas are lucky to get mopped once or twice a year, LR & DR maybe once a month, and kitchen and baths weekly (if I am lucky).

I know a lot of people don't recommend vinegar, but I personally love to use it. My floors feel squeeky clean, with no build up, and using the pads wrung out really well, the water drys within a couple of minutes.

I made up my mind years ago that I was not going to be a slave to my wood floors. They are to walk on.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:30AM
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you mentioned that the floors are finished with a waterbase finish. our floors had a waterbase finish when we bought the house and it made the floors dull with a milky sort of appearance, especially as the finish aged. we refinished them six years ago and they are fine now.

i don;t know if all waterbase finishes cause that problem but i'll never put one down. the waterbase finish also did not protect the wood as well.

i seldom wash my wooden floors except for spots. i use water and white vinegar. i dust mop them quite frequently with a wool dust mop.

This post was edited by donaleen on Tue, Dec 4, 12 at 11:03

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:44AM
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I have 5" wide red oak that's been in for 5 years. It has three coats of something, smelled awful when it went on (oil-based I believe). My floor is still lustrous and never looks dirty. I vacuum or sweep regularly plus spot clean if I see a drop of something (I have three cats). About twice a year I do a thorough, hands and knees cleaning, not because it looks dirty but because it makes me feel better.

The floor installer told me to use a little white vinegar in water for cleaning, which I continue to use for the big thorough cleaning. For little spots (mostly in the kitchen), I use my water/Dawn spray with a microfiber cloth.

Other than some minor scratches when my cats are rounding corners, the floor looks new.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:52AM
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From my experience, all the floor cleaners leave a residue, even Bona. OP, if you clean thoroughly, that makes me suspect it's the floor cleaner residue that is on the rag and not dirt. You could try cleaning with just a bit of water for the next couple weeks and see if that produces a different result?

FYI, I vacuum (with CV) whenever I see dirt on the floor. That could be as often as daily, but not always. When I am especially motivated, I mop or scrub on hands and knees with just a hint of water. I don't want to admit how rarely I'm motivated to do that on all the hardwood. :)

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:21AM
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Again, thank you all. Yes, I too wonder if it was the Bona Hard Wood Floor Cleaner residue at this point that came up on the wood floor inspectors white rag (or whatever) when he was here.

The Bona Pacific Strong Finish appears gone: sucked into the Duraseal one coat stained wood (no intervening Bona Sealer was written under technique on the contract invoice) and/or worn off by feet over the last five years. This is the first time I've been so disappointed with professional floor refinishing. Attempts to remedy the situation with Bona Inc. and the Professional floor refinisher have failed.

donaleen-thank you for your picture and words. You're wood floors are simply beautiful!

I will try the majority's suggestion of water and a little vinegar, lightly applied, not letting the water sit etc. I know how to wash a wood floor. Perhaps it will work on changing the dullness by cutting through some of the Bona Hard Wood Floor Cleaner, perhaps not.

I appreciate your suggestions very much.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:43AM
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SparklingWater-We've had our heart pine floors going on 13 yrs. and they are finished with the Bona Waterborne finish. For years I have alternated using the Bona Cleaner and the Shark steam mop. The steam mop for the weekly cleaning of the kitchen and the Bona about once every six weeks. The secret to avoiding damage by the steam mop is to not leave it sitting in one spot on your wood floor.( learned that the hard way.) Always keep it moving. My Bona cleaner has not caused any buildup as I can tell, but that may be because I use the steam alternately. The other rooms are not cleaned as often but are vacuumed frequently. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 1:07PM
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oh, my first house had heart pine floors..they are so beautiful.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 1:10PM
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SparklingWater, if in fact it is build-up from your floor cleaner, when you mop with the water/vinegar solution, you will feel the "gumminess" for lack of a better word when you start mopping. It may take several mopping to remove the build-up. You will know when the mop/rag glides over the floor without the stickiness.

My DIL mopped my floors for me a few years ago with one of those Pledge Wood Floor type cleaners to help me out when my mother was terminally ill. The next time I mopped with my vinegar solution, I could feel the the "stickiness" with the mop. Had to go over it a couple of times to get the build-up off from just one wrongful mopping.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 3:11PM
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donaleen-we really like them, but they are oh so soft! What I can see of your entrance, I love your home. What a welcoming entrance. Can I ask about your wall color? It looks really warm with your wood tones, thanks.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 4:00PM
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Isn't there some sort of "floor renewer" product out there? Sounds like yours may be past that. We experienced the Murphy's Oil Soap effect - dulling - before remodeling. Used Bona in the house we were renting, but it was not always that useful with just the mop when there was stuck-on stuff. We still went down on hands and knees to tackle that with a damp paper towel, and another dry one so it didn't stay damp.

No kids or pets, and though DH goes shoe-free, I don't, so (a) not as much stuff coming in to it, we hope (?) and (b) we only worry about ourselves, not babies crawling all over, so I think we are less concerned. We just vacuum whenever it seems to need it, and wipe up spills within a day or two after they happen. White towels are NOT still white after this, after cleaning up spaghetti sauce or other sticky things, and we've never thought to see if new ones are still white AFTER we clean.

We may become more lax about cleaning the longer we live here, though. It's only been a couple of months, and there is that adage about "new brooms." Right now, the kitchen is so gorgeous that we don't want to leave it, so thorough cleaning is another excuse to stay in there.

It wasn't the beautiful and expensive kitchen I have now, I've rented several apartments, the last apartment I rented a few years ago before I got married two+ years ago had the kitchen shown in the attachment. I think you can see that the finish had worn off in several places. It seemed like a lost cause to try to clean that with anything special. NOTE: those are not marble countertops, those are marble-look, if you defocused your eyes and didn't touch it, some kind of peel and stick who-knows-what, moisture-damaged and pre-warped before I got there. Miss those tall ceilings but not the six doors of that kitchen.

Getting rid of the buildup on the floor may be the first step, but I think a new finish is warranted.

Kids/pets? Coming in from mucking out stables? What level of clean do you strive for?!

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 4:48PM
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So many helpful suggestions, I thank you, tuesday, I appreciate the heads up about anticipating some gumminess initially. No kids home anymore and long weekend coming up for me, so I may try tackling some of the rooms this weekend. I'll post back what I find.

Regarding a second re-finishing: in thirty years I've had about five separate homes' floors re-finished with polyurethane and never had a situation like this of dullness and disappearance with the Bona polyurethane waterborne finish. So while re-finishing again might be last resort, I'm hoping to stay away from waterborne products next time around if it is possible.

Wood floors are beautiful when re-finished correctly and can make our home sparkle. Thanks to you all.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 6:20PM
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My floors are cleanest after my dog licks them!

That being said, there is a great product for getting the residue off floors and restoring the lustre to old floors. It's called Kramer's Best Antique Improver. The website talks a lot about getting residue off floors. Plus, it smells wonderful (to me, it's kind of like a natural, real pine sol smell).

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 7:07PM
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You've gotten great advice, so nothing new to offer, except that I'm wondering if they just didn't do a good job refinishing the floors in the first place. I've seen a few times that if only two coats are applied, they lack shine and look unfinished. The third coat, IMO, really seals the deal. Pun intended, lol.

I'm in the Swiffer/vacuum/vinegar camp.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 8:01PM
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I would like to say that I feel better about my cavalier care methods now, since it seems to match up with the consensus.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 10:27PM
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Wow, this is going to be more complicated than I thought! The cork flooring seems to mirror hardwood. Globus recommends occasional damp mopping (immediately dried) with a few drops of Joy dish detergent in water (that was the example given, I think it just said neutral).

If I want to try the vinegar, what mixture ratio do you use and how do you use it? I assume white vinegar, but I am essentially a cleaning novice. Damp mop, rags by hand, other method?

What type of schedule works best? I think we will have to man up and sweep or vacuum most/every day, but vinegar weekly? Monthly? When our feet stick? I don't want to ruin the new floor, but at least I can be lazy until it goes in in May.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 7:56PM
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