Hard Surface Floor Cleaners

Buying Guide: Hard Surface Floor Cleaners

Hardwood, linoleum, ceramic and laminate are just a few of the different types of hard-surface flooring commonly found in homes. In many cases, hard floors are fairly easy to clean with just a little daily maintenance and upkeep. If spills are wiped up quickly and floors are regularly swept and vacuumed, you won't have to spend too much time on your hands and knees scrubbing. Inevitably, however, there will come a time when the shiny finish on a floor dulls or dirt and grime set in to the point that a little sweeping isn't going to take care of the mess. When that happens, you'll need to take action.


Keep the following questions in mind as you search for the right cleaning solution for every type of floor in your house:
          • What steps are necessary to finish a floor?
          • How can you best treat and care for hardwood floors?
          • What cleaning solutions are ideal for linoleum and vinyl?
          • How should you treat tile and stone floors?
          • What is the best way to clean laminate flooring?


Finishing, Cleaning Solutions and Features

Each type of floor requires slightly different techniques and cleaning solutions to create a glossy appearance that both looks good and is easy to maintain. Finishing your floor is the key to maintaining a beautiful appearance through many years of hard use. Once it's finished, you'll simply have to keep it clean by sweeping and mopping. Keeping your rinse water free of dirt is extremely important when mopping. If you don't change it frequently, you'll simply be rubbing dirt and grime back into the surface. In all cases, clean up spills immediately regardless of what type of floor you have. The longer spills sit, the more likely they are to set, making them difficult to remove.
Hardwood Floors: Wood is a beautiful substance that requires a fair bit of care to maintain its appearance. Depending on whether a hardwood floor is finished with varnish, shellac, lacquer or polyurethane, you'll need to use different cleansing methods. Floors with a polyurethane coating can be damp mopped, but remember that wood and water are not a good combination. So avoid soaking floors when cleaning, and wipe up wet stains quickly. Avoid using water if your floor features a finish other than polyurethane, as water can cause damage to some types of finishes.
          • Use solvent-based cleaners and polishes if wood does not have a polyurethane finish
          • Sweep and vacuum wood floors prior to applying cleanser, wax or polish
          • Electric floor polishers can be used to apply finishes
          • Avoid using heavy-duty or abrasive cleaners as they can dull a floor's surface
Vinyl and Linoleum Floors: Regularly sweeping, vacuuming and dust mopping vinyl and linoleum floors will go a long way toward keeping them looking good. If you have a vinyl or linoleum floor with a no-wax finish, simply use a mild all-purpose cleanser or detergent and damp mop to remove dirt and grime and then rinse thoroughly to remove both the soil and soapy residue. Avoid using solvent-based cleaners and very hot water, as both can damage linoleum. Waxed floors can be stripped, refinished and then cleansed with a degreaser or all-purpose cleaner. Many floor manufacturers have a package of cleaners and finishes designed specifically for use with their product, so be sure to consult the information they provide..
          • Soak stains and heavy soil in cleanser for a moment or two, and then gently remove with a scrub brush
          • Mop and rinse as normal once stains and heavy soil have been removed
          • Avoid rubbing too hard when cleaning to prevent damaging wax finishes
          • Place felt pads underneath furniture to avoid marring the surface
Tile and Stone Floors: Generally speaking, ceramic tile is very easy to maintain. Simply mix a general household cleanser with some warm water, and then apply the solution with a mop or sponge. Use a soft cloth to dry the floor to ensure a streak-free finish, and apply wax if you want to give the floor a shiny appearance. Cleaning grout, however, is a different story. If it has been treated with a silicone seal, it will resist stains better. Untreated grouting will require more frequent and thorough cleaning. If you have a terrazzo floor, use a sealer specially designed for terrazzo surfaces, and then apply an acrylic floor finish. Using a solution of vinegar and warm water will help restore lost luster.
          • Sweep or vacuum floors prior to mopping to remove loose dirt and soil
          • Tile floors may be either glazed or unglazed, and each is cleaned differently
          • Seal unglazed floors to prevent stains from setting in
          • Avoid using abrasive or highly acidic cleaners on glazed floors
          • Use a grout brush to remove soil from grout
          • Seal and wax porous brick and marble floors for easier maintenance
Laminate Floors: Laminate floors are amongst the easiest types of floors to maintain. Regular sweeping, dust mopping and vacuuming will keep them looking good, and using felt pads underneath furniture will help ensure that the finish remains unmarred. If your floor requires a more thorough cleaning, consult the manufacturer. In most cases, they will have special products designed for use with laminate flooring. These cleaners are often sprayed onto the head of a mop rather than directly onto the surface of the floor. In many cases, cleaners used on hardwood floors will be safe for use on laminate, but be sure to thoroughly read the product literature to make sure.
          • Do not wet mop laminate floors and always wipe up wet spills immediately
          • A damp sponge can be used to clean most spills and stains
          • Terry cloth mop heads are best for applying cleansers to laminate floors
          • Touch-up kits, which may include putty or wax pencils, can be used to repair small scratches and dents

Floor Type

What to Do

What to Avoid

Hardwood • Sweep and vacuum regularly
• Use solvent-based cleaners if you don't have a
  polyurethane finish
• Water, unless floor has a
  polyurethane coating
• Abrasive cleaners
Laminate • Sweep and vacuum regularly
• Use felt protectors underneath furniture
• Position rugs to collect gravel and other
  abrasive material
• Wet mopping
• Soapy solutions
• Wax and sealer
• Abrasive cleaners
Stone and Brick • Seal and wax
• Use a solvent-based wax
• Use heavy-duty floor cleaner on concrete
• Acidic cleaners
• Abrasive cleaners
• Alkaline cleaners
Tile • Use a grout brush to keep grout clean
• Mop with a mild all-purpose cleanser
• Abrasive cleaners on glazed
• Acidic cleaners on glazed floors
Vinyl and Linoleum • Seal when new
• Sweep and vacuum regularly
• Solvent-based cleaners
• Hot water
• Alkaline cleaners


Grout Brush: Cleaning the grout in between tiles is a difficult job for mops and brooms. To effectively remove dirt and grime, you'll need a grout brush. They often feature brass tips for extra cleaning power. If scrubbing doesn't effectively clean grout, you may be able to use a grout-coloring solution to restore its original appearance.
Mops: Mops are a crucial component in keeping hard-surface floors clean. In many cases, you'll need to damp mop floors, which is accomplished by spraying a cleaning solution directly onto the mop. Mops may be made from different materials, such as cotton and rayon.
Stain Markers and Colored Putty: Stripping and finishing floors is a taxing process, one that you want to do as infrequently as possible. Scratches and holes in wood floors may be cause for refinishing. If they're small, however, you can avoid the hassle of refinishing by using stain markers to touch up scratches and colored putty to fill in holes
Slip Resistance: Newly finished floors can be quite slippery. To help prevent people from slipping and falling, look for slip-resistant finishes.