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Common Hardwood Floor Care Questions
Floor care Q&A's courtesy of the American Hardwood Information Center
Whether you're looking for information to get started with your hardwood project or simply want to know the difference between "solid wood" and "all wood," this section has the answers. Details on American hardwood species, sustainable forestry, and even a glossary of hardwood terms will help you learn about your choices. (http://www.hardwood.org)
  What sort of broom should I use on my hardwood floor?
  What sort of vacuum should I use on my hardwood floor?
  What sort of dust mop should I use on my hardwood floor?
  Is it bad if water spills on my hardwood floor?
  Can household dirt hurt my hardwood floor?
  Can I use area rugs on my hardwood floor?
  Will direct sunlight harm my hardwood floor?
  What precautions should I take with furniture on my hardwood floor?
  Whatís the difference between polyurethaned and sealed & waxed hardwood floors?
  How can I tell if my floor has a urethane finish?
  How can I tell if my floor has a sealed & waxed finish?
  How do I remove scratches to my hardwood floor?
  How do I remove Stains and spots on my hardwood floor?
  How do I remove heel marks on my hardwood floor?
  How do I remove mold or mildew on my hardwood floor?
  How do I remove chewing gum, crayon and candle wax on my hardwood floor?
  How do I remove cigarette burns on my hardwood floor?
  How do I remove oil and grease on my hardwood floor?
  When is it time to refinish my hardwood floor?
  Is their a specific relative humidity thatís best for my hardwood floors?
  Does my hardwood floor really expand in the summer and contract in the winter?
What sort of broom should I use on my hardwood floor?
Brooms with fine, exploded ends trap dust and grit effectively.

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What sort of vacuum should I use on my hardwood floor?
Use a brush attachment. Do not a vacuum with beater bars because this can cause dents in your floor's finish. Canister vacuums with special bare floor attachments are the surest way to get rid of all the dirt and dust.

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What sort of dust mop should I use on my hardwood floor?

Use a dust mop with a 12-to-18-inch cotton head. Check with the flooring manufacturer if a mop treatment is to be used.
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Is it bad if water spills on my hardwood floor?
Regardless of its finish your floor will quickly lose its luster if exposed to water. More serious damage is also possible, including warping and other problems. Wipe up any spills immediately with a soft, dry cloth, starting at the edges of the spill and working your way toward the center. Donít let water stand on your floor, or use wet cloths for clean up. Donít mop sealed-and-waxed floors, not even with a slightly damp mop.

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Can household dirt hurt my hardwood floor?
Dirt and dust can damage your hardwood floor. Tracking dirt and dust can dull its finish and cause scratches that can only be repaired by refinishing the floor. Sweep your floors regularly. Invest in a good broom that features exploded tips to trap dust and dirt, not simply spread it around. Dust mops can also be helpful in keeping dirt, dust, and grit under control. Vacuum frequently, using a canister vacuum with special hardwood floor attachments. Donít use an upright vacuum with beater bars. They can cause dents in your floor's finish. Use doormats at the entrances of your home to help trap dirt and grit. Clean them regularly.

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Can I use area rugs on my hardwood floor?
Use area rugs or small sections of carpet placed inside doorways and in areas like kitchens where spills are likely to occur. Donít use throw rugs with rubber or vinyl backing without checking to determine if they will affect your floor's finish. Some materials in the backing can react with certain floor finishes, discoloring or causing the finish to become dull. Donít let even damp throw or scatter rugs sit on the floor. Check the rugs frequently and make sure damp rugs are removed and move your area carpets or throw rugs occasionally to maintain a uniform appearance in the floor's finish.

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Will direct sunlight harm my hardwood floor?
The ultraviolet radiation in sunlight can cause discoloration over time. The ultraviolet rays that can burn and age our skin will affect any organic material, including wood. Thatís why the finest art collections are kept in rooms without windows. Prolonged exposure to sunlight will change the color of virtually any wood floor, regardless of the stain or finish. Some woods lighten when exposed to sunlight. Others, like cherry and oak, tend to darken. The newest water-based urethane finishes seem to slow color changes more effectively than oil-based urethane finishes, which tend to turn the brownish-yellow color of amber. Some finishes feature sunscreens to help block the penetration of ultraviolet rays, extending the time it will take the wood to change. Protect your floors by using sheer drapes, curtains, or blinds to limit sunlight.

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What precautions should I take with furniture on my hardwood floor?
Place glides made of felt or some other fabric under the legs of furniture to prevent scratches. Clean the glides regularly to ensure that dust and grit do not become imbedded. Use barrel-type casters instead of ball casters to prevent dents. Use non-marking rubber casters instead of plastic or metal. Lift furniture when moving it to avoid scratches in the floor's surface.

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Whatís the difference between polyurethaned and sealed & waxed hardwood floors?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors
Floors with urethane-type finish are extremely durable. With just minimal care your floor will look beautiful for years to come. The key to preserving your floor is protecting its finish. Urethane-finished floors require minimal care, but it is important that you provide regular care. It is particularly important to get grit off the floor before it can be ground into the finish. Sweep the floor regularly and vacuum at least weekly. Clean up spills before they turn into stains or otherwise damage the finish. For stubborn, sticky spills a damp mop with an approved cleaner may be used. Refinishing will only be necessary once the weekly care fails to restore the floor's shine. Of course, never apply a wax to a floor with a urethane finish.

Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
You will find that, with regular vacuuming and occasional buffing and waxing, your floor will look as good as the day it was installed. Over time you may find that the shine cannot be restored in areas with heavy foot traffic; if so, re-waxing may be necessary. Perhaps you have recently moved into a home with waxed floors that have been overlooked in recent years, or you simply have a few trouble spots that need help. The following tips should help you rejuvenate your floors, and treat other common problems that may arise.

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How can I tell if my floor has a urethane finish?
Urethane is one of the most common finishes in use today. An easy way to determine if your floor has a polyurethane finish is to select an inconspicuous area and apply a small amount of paint remover to the floor surface. If the finish bubbles up it is most likely a surface finish. You can also try scraping up a bit of the finish with a sharp blade (also in an area hidden from view). If you are successful in scraping up a clear material, the finish is likely a surface finish.

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How can I tell if my floor has a sealed & waxed finish?
Run your hand over the floor surface. Can you feel the wood grain? If so, the finish is probably a penetrating finish. Another test is to select an inconspicuous area and attempt to smudge the floor surface with a finger tip, or scrape the surface with a fingernail or sharp instrument. If the floor smudges but no clear material is scraped up, then the finish is likely a penetrating finish.

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How do I remove scratches to my hardwood floor?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors
Most minor scratches can be removed with the help of a touch-up kit available from any wood flooring retailer.

Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
Most surface scratches should be easily repaired by applying a new coat of wax to the affected area, and then buffing to a shine. For deep scratches that can't be concealed with the method above, try rubbing the scratch with a piece of oily nutmeat, like Brazil nut, walnut, or pecan. A good quality commercial scratch remover or stick wax that matches the surrounding wood can also be used. Apply a new coat of wax and buff to a shine.


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How do I remove Stains and spots on my hardwood floor?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors
Generally stains and spots caused by standing water can be removed, and the shine restored, by applying a small amount of recommended floor cleaner and buffing vigorously with a soft clean cloth or towel.

Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
Begin with the least aggressive treatment: Rub the spot with No. 1 steel wool and re-coat with wax. Buff to bring back the shine. If this doesn't work, try sanding lightly with a very fine sandpaper (90 to 120 grit). Clean the spot and the surrounding area with No. 1 or 0 steel wool and a small amount of mineral spirits or a good wood floor cleaner. Let the floor dry thoroughly. Apply a matching finish, "feathering" it into the surrounding area. After the finish is dry, re-coat the floor with wax and buff.

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How do I remove heel marks on my hardwood floor?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors
Heel marks, caster marks, and similar scuffs can usually be removed by rubbing with fine steel wool and wood floor cleaner. Wipe dry and follow with polish.

Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
Heel marks, caster marks, and similar scuffs should wipe up easily with an approved cleaner. Some marks can also be scraped up carefully with a sharpened blade.

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How do I remove mold or mildew on my hardwood floor?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors
Using No. 1 steel wool and a good wood floor cleaner usually removes mold or mildew.

Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
Mold or mildew that is on the surface can usually be cleaned with an approved cleaner. If the mold or mildew is under the surface, however, that portion of the floor will need to be refinished.

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How do I remove chewing gum, crayon and candle wax on my hardwood floor?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors & Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
Try scraping the residue off with a sharpened blade, taking care not to scratch the surface. Another option is to apply ice until the substance becomes brittle enough to break off. If you use ice, make sure you remove any spots of water immediately. A third option is to apply cleaning fluid on the surface of the floor surrounding the spot. It will seep under the substance and loosen it.

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How do I remove cigarette burns on my hardwood floor?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors
Use a sharpened blade to scrape the burned area. Apply additional finish if necessary..

Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
Steel wool will often remove superficial cigarette burns. A small amount of water and soap along with the steel wool will often help. Be sure to wipe the area dry with a clean, dry cloth and re-wax. If this method doesn't work, try scraping the area carefully with a sharpened blade. Sand lightly and apply matching stain, if necessary. Once the stain is dry, re-wax and buff to a shine.

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How do I remove oil and grease on my hardwood floor?

Polyurethaned Hardwood Floors
Generally it is possible to remove oil and grease stains by applying mineral spirits or tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) and wiping with a clean cloth. Buff the area to restore the shine.

Sealed & Waxed Hardwood Floors
Try applying soap that has a high lye content, or tri-sodium phosphate (TSP). As a last resort place a soft cotton cloth saturated with hydrogen peroxide over the stain, then place a second cloth saturated with ammonia over the first. Repeat this until the stain is removed. Reserve this treatment option for the last because it is possible that the ammonia may discolor the wood..

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When is it time to refinish my hardwood floor?
Properly maintained, hardwood floors can last a lifetime. The key to preserving your investment is assuring that the finish on your floor is still doing its job. You can test this by going to a high-traffic area where the finish is likely to be most worn, pour a tablespoon or two of water onto the floor. Does the water:
Bead up so that you can wipe it up without a trace?
Congratulations! Your floor's finish is doing its job!

Soak into the wood after a few minutes, darkening the floor only slightly?
Don't panic, your floor's finish is only partially worn. Immediate refinishing probably isn't necessary, but keep a close eye on the floor.

Immediately disappear into the wood leaving a dark spot?
If so your floor's finish is seriously worn and it's probably time to recoat or refinish.

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Is their a specific relative humidity thatís best for my hardwood floors?
You should aim to maintain a relative humidity of at least 50 percent. This can be accomplished simply by using a humidifier in winter and an air conditioner in summer. Remember that hardwoods are natural materials and will expand or contract with extreme changes in your homeís relative humidity.

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Does my hardwood floor really expand in the summer and contract in the winter?
Expansion and contraction of wood is perfectly normal during changes in the weather. Wood is a natural material that seeks to be in balance with its surroundings. Hardwoods destined for use in home furnishings are carefully kiln-dried for that purpose, and they will take on or give off moisture with extreme changes in relative humidity. When the air is exceptionally warm and humid, solid hardwoods will absorb moisture and expand. Likewise, with much cooler, drier air, the wood will give off moisture and contract. This is completely natural, and craftsman design fine solid hardwood products to accommodate these changes.

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