Handy guide to cleaning floors

Floor cleaners, polishes and finishes are not interchangeable. Floor cleaners remove dirt. Floor polishes remove scratches because they're slightly abrasive. And floor finishes finish the job — they seal and protect the cleaned surface. Real wax isn't used anymore on the most modern flooring. Various polymers have replaced it.

Handy guide to cleaning floors

1. Follow instructions

  • Each manufacturer has recommendations for cleaning and protecting their products, so always check the manufacturer's instructions and follow them.
  • As a general rule, you want to remove all dirt from your floor before you apply the appropriate protective finish. Otherwise, you'll end up with a shiny, dirty floor.
  • If you don't have the cleaning instructions from the manufacturer, here is a general rundown of the products you'll need. Always read any product's label to make sure it's okay for the floor you're working on.

2. Vinyl floors

  • Start by cleaning with a mild detergent or all-purpose cleaner.
  • After rinsing, apply a water-based floor polish and finish according to the package instructions.
  • You can find one-step, clean-and-polish products, but you probably won't be as happy with the results.

3. Wooden floors

  • A commercial wood cleaning product will do nicely on a modern polyurethane finish.
  • Floors with an old-fashioned lacquer, varnish or shellac finish need the protection of a paste wax product.
  • Some waxes are designed to clean and wax floors of a particular hardwood colour, so check the label.

4. Ceramic tile floors

  • A general household cleaner will do a good job.
  • Specialized tile-cleaning products also are available.
  • Avoid abrasive cleaners.
  • Grout is easier to clean when it has been treated with a silicone sealer.
  • Floor-care products are available from supermarkets, home improvement and hardware stores and specialty cleaning suppliers.
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