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Cleanliness will keep shine on hardwoods

SUNDAY, NOV. 8, 2009

Q. I have beautiful hardwood floors and love to keep a nice shine on them. What is the best way to care for these floors?

A. Your description indicates your floors are finished with polyurethane, a widely used and durable finish. Polyurethane, which forms a tough surface film on the wood, has a built-in shine that doesn’t need – and shouldn’t be given – waxes or polishes to enhance it.

The main goal in keeping poly floors looking good is to keep them clean. One of the best steps is to vacuum the floors regularly to remove loose dust and dirt. The vacuum should not have any attachments that can scratch or mar the finish.

When additional cleaning is needed, the floors can be damp-mopped, but using as little water as possible. Some experts recommend a solution of 1/4 cup white vinegar to four cups of warm water. Apply to a small section at a time with a clean cloth or sponge, well-wrung out, and dry each section of floor immediately after it is cleaned.

A better approach is to use a special hardwood floor cleaner such as the one supplied in Minwax’s new hardwood-floor care system, a kit that has all the materials needed for proper cleaning of polyurethane and laminate floors.

The kit includes a quart of cleaner and a long-handled applicator faced with a washable microfiber pad. Some cleaner is poured on the floor and some easy spreading with the pad leaves a clean, streak-free finish. For more information, visit

Some additional tips: Don’t use oil soap or any cleaner containing ammonia on a poly floor. Do use area rugs to protect traffic areas, keep pet nails well trimmed, and try to avoid walking on poly floors with high-heeled shoes.

Q. White paint from some shutters has washed down onto the brick siding of our house, leaving ugly stains. How can we remove the stains without damaging the bricks? Pressure washing didn’t work.

A. These stains are often caused by old paint that oxidizes or forms a powder on its surface. The stains are difficult to remove from bricks because the powdered paint gets in the pores of the bricks.

An old remedy is to scrub the bricks with a solution of TSP or trisodium phosphate, a heavy-duty cleaner sold at most paint stores (you will probably get a phosphate-free version that is still called TSP). This is a strong cleaner and might damage some bricks, so don’t use a concentration of more than two tablespoons of TSP per gallon of hot water.

Use a stiff scrub brush to apply the solution. You can also try using a paint remover. A paste-type remover should be used, since it will cling to the vertical bricks long enough to soften the paint so it can be removed with a scraper and stiff brush.

Some additional scrubbing with paint remover might also be needed to get all the paint out of the pores.

Q. I used double-faced tape to hold area rugs to my hardwood floor so they wouldn’t curl at the edges. Now I can’t get all the tape residue off the floor. I removed some of the surface tape, but ugly stains remain. Can you help?

A. You should be able to remove the residue with Goo Gone, a solvent sold at many supermarkets and department stores. The solvent should not harm your floor, but test it first in an inconspicuous area. If it passes the test, spray some Goo Gone on a clean cloth and rub the tape residue gently.

I’ve removed double-faced tape residue from vinyl floors with this product without any damage.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.


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