Keep all types of flooring clean and avoid premature wear with these simple tips.

Dirt on the floor isn’t just unsightly; it’s the prime cause of premature wear on floor materials. Dust and grit scratch smooth floor finishes, remove wax and protective coatings, and crush carpet fibers and backings. The solution: simple daily care routines that keep them clean and avoid the need for elbow grease down the road.

Caring for Carpets

The three keys for clean and healthy carpets? Vacuum regularly, treat spills and stains promptly, and have carpets deep cleaned once a year. First rule of carpet care: vacuum regularly, even if the carpet doesn’t look dirty. The vacuum delivers a one-two punch: combining suction, which pulls free dust inside the vacuum bag or dirt cup, with agitation from a beater bar, which fans carpet fibers, raising them and releasing dirt and soil. For high-traffic living areas, daily vacuuming keeps carpet dirt under control; less-used rooms, such as guest rooms, still need weekly or bi-weekly attention. Here’s how to vacuum carpet for best results:

Inspect the area to be vacuumed. Remove any small objects that could be sucked into the vacuum.

Check the vacuum. Straighten kinked hoses, and empty the dirt cup or vacuum bag if needed.

Plug in the vacuum, and go to it! To save your back, vacuum in short strokes, moving forward across the room. Overlap strokes for even coverage of the carpet.

Work in alternating directions. For best cleaning and to raise carpet nap, make passes across the room in alternating directions. After covering the carpet, turn 90-degrees and vacuum again in a perpendicular direction.

Finish with baseboards and wall edges. Use an extension wand and crevice tool to clean dust from these areas.

Treating Carpet Spills and Stains

Liquid Spills and Stains

1. Blot up as much of a liquid spill as possible. Use clean white cleaning cloths or white paper towels to avoid dye transfer. Continue to blot gently, using fresh cloths, until no more liquid can be absorbed.
2. Don’t scrub or brush the stain.
3. Apply an appropriate carpet spot remover. Spot-test the product in an inconspicuous place before using.

Solid or Semi-Solid Spills and Stains

1. Use a spoon or spatula to scrape up as much of the spilled material as possible. Don’t use a knife, even a blunt one, as it can harm carpet fibers.
2. Allow the spill to dry, then brush gently to release it from carpet fibers. Vacuum up as much of the spilled material as possible.
3. Treat any remaining stain with an appropriate spot-remover.

DIY Carpet Cleaning

Carpets keep their beauty longest if deep cleaned at least once a year. This job is one where it pays to bring in the pros, as they have muscle, methods and machinery not usually available to home carpet cleaners.

If your budget won’t stretch to professional carpet cleaning, there are do-it-yourself alternatives that make a respectable job of home carpet cleaning, as long as you work carefully, use the right equipment and observe these cautions:

Know your carpet. Be sure you understand the type of cleaning method recommended by your carpet’s manufacturers.

Stick to steamers, not shampooers. When you buy or rent a carpet cleaner, choose a carpet steamer. Older “carpet shampoo” units use rotary agitators to apply detergent solution and may overwet carpets. The shampoo film can be difficult to remove, causing resoiling.

Vacuum first. Dirt plus water equals mud, which is almost impossible to remove. Before cleaning the carpet, vacuum thoroughly to remove as much loose dirt as possible.

Buy the right cleaners. Stick with cleaning products designed specifically for home carpet cleaning, and follow package directions to mix cleaning solutions.

Pretreat. Use a traffic-lane cleaner or pre-spray to treat areas of high soil before cleaning.

Keep it dry. Over-saturated carpets aren’t cleaner, just wetter. After extracting, make a second dry pass over the carpet to remove as much moisture as possible. Keep traffic off freshly cleaned carpeting until it is dry.

Caring for Hard-Surface Floors

As with carpets, routine cleaning is the best way to maintain the beauty of hard-surface flooring. Daily sweeping, vacuuming or dust-mopping removes abrasive grit and dust from the floor. Establishing a “shoes-off” policy and using entrance mats helps prevent street soil from entering the home and being tracked onto floors.

When it’s time to clean, clean with a light hand. Hard-surface floors look best when clean and clear, but detergent use or cleaner buildup can create a hazy film that dulls floors — and attracts and holds more dirt. Rely on these cleaning tips to keep hard-surface floors looking clean and beautiful:

Vinyl and Linoleum Floors
To care for vinyl and linoleum, sweep, vacuum, or dust-mop daily to remove surface grit. Damp-mop with clear water to remove dirt and restore shine. For more heavily soiled floors, vacuum first, then wet-mop floors using a very light solution of about 1-2 teaspoons liquid dishwashing detergent per gallon of warm water. Rinse the floor with clean water before drying it with white cleaning cloths.

If there are depressions in the floor, use a scrubbing pad to loosen any soil in these areas as you clean, then rinse with fresh clear water.

Hardwood Floors
These floors are susceptible to abrasion, are easily dented and can be damaged by moisture or incorrect cleaning methods. Remove dust and surface soil from hardwoods daily, preferably with a large-headed microfiber dust mop. Alternately, hardwood floors may be vacuumed but be sure to turn the beater bars off to avoid scratching the floor. When necessary, damp-mop with plain water to pick up dirt, using a barely wet mop. Avoid any drips or standing water; the mop head or terry mop cover should be wrung till nearly dry before it touches the floor. A solution of white vinegar and water will up the cleaning ante, so try it for stubborn dirt.

More intense cleaning will require a cleaning product formulated for the floor’s specific finish. Do not use oil soap on hardwood floors; it will create a dirt-trapping sticky film and it can interfere with recoating or refinishing floors later on.

Ceramic Tile Floors
Keep ceramic tile floors looking their best with daily sweeping or vacuuming to remove surface grit. If using a vacuum, set the beater bar to the off position to vacuum. Every week or so, damp-mop with a solution of 2 tablespoons liquid dishwashing detergent to 1 gallon of warm water. Use a cleaning toothbrush to scrub stained or dirty grout. Rinse with clear water. Buff the tile with a clean, dry towel to remove any water spots. Never apply wax to ceramic tile floors; it can be difficult to remove, can cause slip-and-fall injuries and may interfere with resealing grout.

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