Dirty Flooring Cleaning Tips


There are dozens of types of flooring material found in homes. Many specialized materials have very specific care instructions from the manufacturer, which should be followed as closely as possible. Woven flooring tiles, commercial grade marmoleum, terrazzo, or finished concrete are occasionally found in homes, although because they usually require professional care, we will not go into detail with these types of floors. The other more common surfaces we will detail are wood (real and synthetic), carpet, vinyl, ceramic tile, and unfinished concrete.

Regardless of the type of floor, the two commonalities are that clean floors look better, and clean floors last longer. For example, imagine a particle of dirt in a carpet. As the particle is stepped on, and ground in, it will rub against the carpet fibers. This abrasion will eventually damage the fiber beyond repair, which will effect the overall appearance of the carpet. The same holds true with wood, tiles, vinyl, and even unfinished concrete. Make it last by keeping it clean.


Hardwood floors are protected by a sealer, which penetrates the wood pores, and a coating of polyurethane, shellac, or varnish. Some of these finishes on newer floors are applied in a factory, others are finished after being installed, and others still, are protected by only by wax. As with all floors, vacuum or sweep frequently to keep dirt from being ground into the floor’s finish. Clean spills or mud immediately using an absorbent cloth. Avoid apply too much water to any floor, the surface may be water resistant, however if the substrate is damaged so will the floor itself.. Dry them off with a clean towel to remove excess moisturel.

Do not wax a urethane finish. The wax prevents future recoating, which is how you renew a dulled finish without stripping, sanding, and refinishing the floor. Likewise, choose cleaning products carefully. Use a cleaner recommended by the manufacturer of your floor or your floor’s finish. If you don’t know the type of finish or its manufacturer, use a general cleaner, like Woodwise Floor cleaner, available at wood flooring distributors, or most Home Centers. For wax finishes apply the same logic and use a wax recommended by the manufacturer.

Never use a water-based cleaner. It can stain the wood white. To remove white water spots on a wax finish wood floor, rub gently and in a circular motion with an extra-fine (#000) steel wool and a small amount of mineral spirits. Always follow the chemical manufacturers safety precautions, and be sure to work in a well ventilated area.

Synthetic wood floors, look like wood, but it is just a printed picture of wood glued to a particle board backing. The finishes on these styles of flooring are VERY durable. The don’t scratch, and will keep there appearance for many years.

Usually a quick sweep or vacuum will clean them, although mopping will be required occasionally to remove spills or stains. When mopping the floor, use a mild detergent and, being sure not to use too much water, go over the entire floor. If excessive moisture leaks between the planks, it can badly damage the backing. Then using plain water, rinse off the floor to avoid leaving a detergent film.


Carpets act as filters for an entire house. All of the dust particles in the air eventually settle into the carpet, where they are vacuumed up and removed from the home. Carpets should be vacuumed weekly to maintain their efficiency in collecting dust, and it doesn’t hurt appearance wise either. High traffic areas or entrance areas from outside or a dirty garage might require more frequent cleaning.

Choose a good quality vacuum, and select a unit with a beater bar (or power head) and a HEPA grade filter if you or any members of your family have bad allergies to dust. Keep your vacuum cleaner itself clean and in good working order. An excellent choice for a vacuum is a built in canister style. These are great because they remove the dust completely away from the main living area.

For spot cleaning check out our Do’s and Don’ts of carpet cleaning. Always be sure to blot the stained area, and check for special instructions for removing different types of stains.

Do not overwet wall-to-wall carpeting – excessive wetting can cause the fabric backing to shrink. Sometimes this shrinkage can even cause tears in the carpet. For many non oil-based stains on water-treatable cotton and wool rugs, a good solution to begin with is ¼ teaspoon clear dishwashing liquid and 1 cup warm water.

Dirt is a lot easier to get out than mud. That means if your kids track mud over your Oriental runner in the hallway, let it dry first. Then lift up as much as you can with a dull knife or the handle of a spoon and vacuum the rest. If there is still a residual effect, like a slight shading where the mud was, use the above detergent solution.

Deep clean your rug every 12 to 18 months, either by hiring a professional or doing it yourself. If you use a wet method, like shampooing, remove the furniture from the room beforehand. Or, to prevent rust or other stains from leaking into the rug, place plastic food wrap under and around the legs of chairs and tables. Follow all instructions carefully. Never exceed the recommended solution strength. When you are finished, remove all shampoos, detergents and moisture, which cause dirt to stick to the rug.

Follow the instructions on the product label for proper use and safety precautions. Oriental rugs, which are the most fragile of all area rugs, can be vacuumed safely – and should be as often as other carpets to keep them in peak condition. Vacuum as usual, except when approaching the fringe. With an upright cleaner, tip up the front of the cleaner slightly and push it completely off the carpet. This cleans the fringe without catching it in the agitator. With a canister use a floor brush or upholstery attachment for the fringe. Send antique area carpets out to a professional for implant cleaning.

Linoleum and Vinyl

Linoleum floors were once very common but until very recently were little used in residential flooring. Lately more linoleum is being laid due to its environmentally friendly nature. A pressed type floor traditionally made from natural ingredients, linoleum is very tough. Newer linoleum floors have a tight surface, which is very water, and stain resistant. However, as it ages and wears down it becomes very porous. This, in turn, creates the need for finish to protect the floor.

We recommend sealing a linoleum floor even when it is new so any wear occurs with the finish and not on the floor. Once a linoleum floor becomes porous it is almost impossible to finish it properly. The porous surface will absorb almost any liquid put on it. Also it is very important not to use any alkaline products on linoleum. These will yellow the floor. Use mild detergent to clean and a very light coat of finish to seal. Stripping should be avoided. To prepare the floor for new finish scrub it with a brush and detergent. Rinse with clean water and let dry completely before applying finish.

Vinyl flooring, typically called a no wax, or a no maintenance floor, they appear commonly in kitchens and bathrooms. These large sheets have a variety of patterns and colors, and are factory finished with a tough polyurethane type finish. These floors are very inexpensive, and are simply glued down.

Usually a quick sweep or vacuum will clean them, although mopping will be required occasionally to remove spills or stains. When mopping the floor, use a mild detergent and, being sure not to use too much water, go over the entire floor. Then using plain water, rinse off the floor to avoid leaving a detergent film.

Although called called no maintenance, these floors can loose their luster over time. This can be restored with an acrylic floor polish, that is applied in a very thin coat. Check your local home center or janitorial supplier. These floors are soft, and easily damaged, especially in the kitchen where we all tend to drop pots and knives. Expect to replace these floors every 7 to 10 years under regular use.

Ceramic Tile

Ceramic is very resilient, and while it is very tough a sharp blow can crack or damage the tile.

Usually a quick sweep or vacuum will clean them, although mopping will be required occasionally to remove spills or stains. When mopping the floor, use a mild detergent and, being sure not to use too much water, go over the entire floor. Then using plain water, rinse off the floor to avoid leaving a detergent film.

These floors can be scrubbed with a machine, cleaned with chemical stripper, and maintained with wax. Some finishes are durable enough to not require any waxing, and in fact wax is likely unnecessary in most residential applications.

Unfinished concrete

The unfinished basement and the garage both are considered dust or dirty. This doesn’t have to be the case. Concrete collects dust like other surfaces, but how often do we vacuum our garages? Treat them like other floors, sweep or vacuum and give them a good mopping once a month. It does wonders for the space visually, and will help keep your house cleaner. There are a number of superior concrete finishes, both clear sealers and paint or epoxy finishes. These are excellent for providing an easy to clean surface, and most are simple roll on applications.

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