When it comes to keeping the floors clean, it's as important to know what not to use as it is to know what to use.
YOUR BASIC TOOLS
The basic tools in a floor cleaning arsenal: vacuum, mop (wet, dry or steam) and broom. And, while absolutely no one wants to hear this, there is a lot to be said for getting down on your hands and knees to do the floors with a scrub brush and rags.
HOW TO CLEAN CARPET
If you have carpet or area rugs in your home, owning a vacuum is pretty much non-negotiable. The best vacuum is the one you’ll use frequently, which sounds facile, but the most souped-up vacuum in the world is no good to you if it’s too heavy to lift out of its storage space. It may be helpful to consult The Sweethome’s guide to vacuum styles, Which Vacuum Should I Get? For stains, a carpet and upholstery cleaner is a good thing to have when inevitable spills happen.
HOW TO CLEAN WOOD FLOORS
Before you can clean wood flooring, try this trick to figure out if you have surface-sealed, or oil- or penetrating-sealed wood floors: Run your finger across the floor: If there’s a smudge, the floors are oil- or penetrating-sealed; if not, they’re surface-sealed.
When cleaning surface-sealed wood floors, avoid very hot water and abrasive cleaners. Use warm water to dilute dish soap, white vinegar or ammonia for these floors. Glass cleaner also works well. Oil- or penetrating-sealed wood should be cleaned with a broom or dry mop and vacuumed; avoid products that contain acrylic or water-based wax.
HOW TO CLEAN LAMINATE FLOORS
Laminate flooring should not be cleaned with soap, abrasives or products that contain abrasives. Instead, clean the floors routinely with a dry or damp mop. If a cleaning solution is needed, diluted ammonia or white vinegar can be used sparingly.
HOW TO CLEAN LINOLEUM FLOORS
Linoleum should also not be cleaned using very hot water, abrasives or with wax- or solvent-based products. Instead, clean the floors routinely with a dry or damp mop. If a cleaning solution is needed, diluted ammonia or white vinegar can be used sparingly.
HOW TO CLEAN TILE AND NATURAL STONE FLOORS
Tile and natural stone flooring should never be cleaned using abrasives or a vacuum with a brush roll attachment, both of which can cause scratching, nicking or cracking. The brush roll is a rotating brush that’s great on carpeting for getting deep into fibers, but that shouldn’t be used on hard surfaces. Ceramic and porcelain tile can be cleaned using oxygen bleach, chlorine bleach or diluted dish soap.