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The choices for home flooring are dazzling these days, with nearly a dozen types of floor tile available and laminate options you’d need to examine closely to be certain they aren’t actually real wood. But different floors require different cleaning methods to keep them looking their best.

Here’s a guide to proper maintenance for the four most common floor types:

  • Ceramic or Porcelain Tile – These most-popular floor tiles by a wide margin are also among the easiest to clean, requiring nothing more than a wet string mop and warm water, and/or a neutral floor cleaner that does not contain abrasives. If the grout between tiles gets dingy, you can clean it by hand. Spray on a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water, let it stand for five minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush.
  • Vinyl – Vinyl floors are gaining in popularity, both as tile and in planks resembling wood. Their only natural enemy is too much water, so again, warm water and/or a neutral, non-abrasive cleaner applied with a good string mop are all you need. Just be sure the mop is well wrung-out before using. 
  • Laminates – Laminate flooring, available in a wide variety of patterns, offers the look of wood at a fraction of the cost. Like vinyl, it dislikes a lot of water and it hates harsh chemicals, so use a dry dust mop or vacuum for regular cleaning. If it needs more every two or three months, mop it with a solution of one teaspoon of unscented baby shampoo mixed into a gallon of warm water. Be sure that mop is damp, not soaking wet.
  • Hardwood – Little can replace the warmth and luster of real hardwood floors. But if you’re lucky enough to have them, you’ll need a little more elbow grease to keep them looking their best. Regular vacuuming is the first step. A microfiber mop sprayed with a dusting agent once a week will pick up dust and prevent scratches. If a deeper cleaning is needed, use a wood floor cleaning product, diluted according to label instructions. Saturate a string mop in water, then wring it almost dry and damp-mop the floor. Rinse with a clean mop and be sure no standing water is left on the floor, as this can cause permanent damage to the wood.

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