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Floor Care 101

Martha Stewart Living, September 1995

For any floor, vacuuming is the first step. Do this as often as daily and at least once a week; removing the everyday accumulation of dirt makes mopping and waxing less arduous. Dust-mop for a quick fix when you don't have time to vacuum.

The next step depends upon the type and finish of the floor. Here are some specific tips to follow.

Wood Floors
If floors are waxed, reapply wax once or twice a year, and buff in between to revive the shine. Waxed wood should not be mopped -- a wax seal is not watertight, and liquid could cause damage. Wipe spills with damp paper towels as soon as they hit the floor, and buff the area with a soft cloth. For wood floors with a polyurethane finish, damp-mop with a combination of one quart water and one-quarter cup vinegar.

Vinyl Floors
Wax vinyl forty-eight hours after installation and about every six months thereafter. Apply wax sparingly directly on the floor, and spread it into a very thin coat using long, straight strokes with a wax applicator or sponge mop. Open windows, and let dry to a shine. Damp-mopping with warm water brightens a less soiled floor; wet-mopping with vinyl-floor cleaner removes more substantial grime. Remove wax build-up with stripper about once a year.

Marble, Ceramic Tile, and Stone Floors
Masonry floors require care similar to that of vinyl, with the addition of an early step: sealing. Apply an all-purpose masonry-floor sealer (available at hardware stores) with a sponge mop or clean rags, following package directions. Once sealed, a stone floor should be waxed about once a year with an acrylic liquid or paste wax. To clean, damp-mop with water and mild soap, such as Ivory Liquid; rinse with clean water. After one or two waxings, repeat the process from the beginning: strip, seal, and rewax.

General Floor Care Tips
Give your floors a break. When you move anything, always lift and place; never slide. For heavy objects, slip a square of carpet, pile side down, under the points touching the floor (or try EZ Glide surface protectors). Attach felt or nylon glides to legs, and check the glides occasionally for dirt, which can scratch the floor.

Mop Tips
Rag mops are the choice of many people, for good reasons: They're effective on large areas and on textured surfaces, such as tile and grout -- even concrete. Look for cotton-rayon blends; pure cotton takes longer to dry, attracting bacteria. Sponge mops are good for damp-mopping, but invest in a good one; a poor-quality sponge head will quickly break apart.

Comments (10)

  • buffalosue 28 Feb, 2009

    Do the new steam cleaners for ceramic floors do a sufficient job? Would it be better to alternate using that and a traditional mop and cleaning solution? I don't own a steam cleaner yet, but I am considering it.

  • riocasa 15 Apr, 2008

    Great homemade cleaner-- good for ceramic tile, laminate, formica, just about anything. 1/3 water, 1/3 alcohol, 1/3 vinegar and a few drops of dishwashing liquid. I mix mine up a gallon at a time and refill my spray bottle. I use a dry swifter mop, spray the floor, and mop! The alcohol sanitizes and helps dry the floor quickly (important on laminate floors). The vinegar and dishwashing liquid cuts through the dirt and grease. Also mild enough for folks that are allergic to other cleaners.

  • Puddin_Pop 15 Apr, 2008

    If you buy the mop with the strips of sponge as the mop, you can remove it and throw it in the washing machine when it gets too dirty. I don't mean the one strip of sponge, I mean the kind that looks mop shaped and a cone shape plastic that you pull down over it to wring it out.

  • kmassenburg 10 Apr, 2008

    to sunshinetojohnny...my guess would be that brick would be considered masonry and fall under the paragraph discussing stone floors. if unsealed brick is very porous so would most likely need to be sealed.

  • laurametz 7 Apr, 2008

    how often should you replace your mop. Sometimes I my feet still get dirty even after I have just mopped it. any suggestions? thanks.

  • sunshinetojohnny 7 Apr, 2008

    How do you care for indoor brick flooring? Our new home has brick covering 1/2 of the downstairs (including the kitchen)

  • peigirl 5 Apr, 2008

    I use vinegar and water equal parts for my laminate and it has been working great for the past six years

  • countryrose 5 Apr, 2008

    I also need advice on how to maintain laminate floors. I have been advised to use plain water, but don't feel plain water is getting it as clean as I would like and don't feel I am sanitizing it as well.

  • 1joker 4 Apr, 2008

    What about concrete or cement floors?

  • bug32 4 Apr, 2008

    What do I do for laminate flooring?