What’s under your feet (or however you get around) is as important as anything when it comes to home. That’s why this fall, we collaborated with The Home Depot on an A to Z guide that’ll give you the confidence to make flooring choices you’ll love. Check out the A to Z handbook here.
Grease tracked onto tile after working in the garage. Science experiments gone awry in the kitchen. Muddy paw prints on the living room carpet. There are countless ways that messes find a way inside our homes.
Fortunately, most situations that seem like a major mess at first glance are actually not too tough to deal with, as long as you don’t let them linger. Below are five tools — affordable, handy workhorses you might not think are as crucial as they are, all of which you can find at The Home Depot — that will ensure your floors stay in tip-top shape for years to come. (For even more information about cleaning ideas for different types of flooring, don’t forget to reference their specific letter in the A to Z Flooring Handbook.)
Tool: Boot Brush
The first thing a cleaning expert will tell you about keeping floors neat is to ban outside shoes from coming inside the home.
“That is my number one [piece of] advice: Take your shoes off at the door,” says Carolyn Forte, Director of the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Home Appliances & Cleaning Products Lab. “You may not want to ask guests to take their shoes off, but even if the family itself has [the] habit, it does an amazing job of keeping floors looking better.”
But if there are holdouts among your ranks, or guests don’t quite understand what the hubbub is all about, general contractor Mark Clement of MyFixitUpLife suggests purchasing a shoe and boot brush and parking it right outside the entryway. Ideally, it’ll encourage anyone coming inside to clean off their shoes before entering your home. (Placing welcome mats where shoes can be wiped outside the front door can also help mitigate any superfluous dirt.)
Tool: Wet-Dry Mop
Ditch the dirty mop water and bucket for good with a wet-dry mop, like the GH Seal holder Swiffer Sweeper Dry and Wet Mop. This tool can clean up dust and debris that collects on hard surfaces when in the dry mode, then seamlessly switch into its mop version for bigger jobs, for which wet cloths are attached.
There are even products that come with a built-in spray system for cleaning solution if you’re working in a larger space but still prefer a tool that’s lightweight and more streamlined than a traditional mop. (Yes, please!) Both the wet pads and dry pads from wet-dry mops can be tossed after use, making clean up a breeze.
Tool: Surface-Specific Cleaners
When it comes to cleaning, it’s always best to follow manufacturer’s instructions and the advice of experts, lest you end up with a messy mistake that can’t (easily) be undone. While flooring isn’t a place to improvise with whatever cleaning products you might have on hand, there is often some overlap for which types of flooring they can tackle.
The cleaning process for laminate floors is a good example. “Many cleaners that are safe for hardwood are safe for laminate, too,” Forte notes.
There are also cleaners that pull triple-duty for laminate, stone and tile. (Tip: if you’re looking for an extra layer of protection to make cleaning even easier down the line, consider applying a sealer to appropriate flooring styles, like tile.)
And if you’re an allergy-sufferer, there are cleaning products, like Bona’s Free and Simple for hardwood, that are specifically formulated without dyes and scents.
Tool: Microfiber mop
Spills turn into stains on floors when they’re not dealt with in a prompt manner, making time seriously of the essence whenever an accident occurs. Whether the mishap takes place on hardwood, laminate, vinyl, or tile, a microfiber mop is a tool you can turn to for its multi-use properties: try it dry for capturing dust in tight spaces, damp for general cleaning, and wet when spills occur.
To use one effectively, Forte recommends working on a small, three-foot square section at a time: Apply the cleaner you are using, mop it with a microfiber mop, and then let it dry. Also take care to buff off any cleaning residue that might linger on top of floors and give them a cloudy look. The goal is a floor that’s spic-and-span, but also shiny.
Tool: Stick Vacuum
It’s not news, per se, but outside of one-off disasters, regular attention and care will keep your flooring in pristine condition for years. One of the best ways to accomplish this is regular vacuuming at least once a week, and a stick vacuum is the space-saving, lighter-weight way to make this task as easy as possible.
“Dust and dirt is abrasive: if you look at sand, dirt and grit, it’s sharp,” Forte explains. “If you walk on that stuff day to day, it can eventually dull the [floor’s] finish.”
Stick vacuums can often pack the same punch as their bulkier canister counterparts (particularly for apartment dwellers or people living in smaller homes) and have some serious perks, including cordless models, versions specifically designed to tackle pet hair and the ability to convert into a handheld model to clean effectively in crevices.
If you have carpet in the house, it doesn’t hurt to call in the pros once a year or so. “Besides vacuuming and removing spills, it’s important to have wall-to-wall carpets professionally deep cleaned every 12 to 18 months,” Forte advises. “Professionals can reapply a stain protecting coat that will help carpets look good longer.”