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.
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.
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.
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.