A wood floor is a great investment. It is natural, warm, attractive and long lasting. For those who choose a natural, green lifestyle, it is the flooring of choice. However, who wants to clean their beautiful natural floor with harsh chemicals that may ruin the finish and pollute their home? With a little knowledge, it is possible to quickly pick the best biodegradable wood floor cleaner.
About Murphy Oil Soap
My mother's choice to clean her narrow-board hardwood floor was Murphy's Oil Soap, a product from the Colgate company. This product first came into the American home market more than 100 years ago, and its spicy, lemony odor is familiar to many. Colgate advertises the product as 98 percent
natural with just a small amount of preservative to keep it from separating and spoiling, as all natural oil products will do.
It is ultra-concentrated in its original formulation and requires just a quarter cup to a gallon of water. The price is reasonable considering how concentrated the product is.
The main drawback is that the fragrance and disinfecting agent is citronella oil, and some people are allergic to it. The packaging is a simple recyclable plastic bottle. Professional floor refinishers often choose this product for cleaning a wood floor before varnishing. Even in higher concentrations, it does not leave residue.
Clorox is a well-known brand name for chlorine bleach and other cleaning products. They have produced a line of low-toxin cleaners called "Greenworks," which are available throughout North America.
These products are reasonably priced and packaged in convenient containers from the standard plastic bottle of floor cleaner to pump spray bottles for touch-up cleaning. While the products contain fewer potentially toxic chemicals than found in the older line of Clorox products, the "Greenworks" floor cleaner still contains synthetic fragrances and a colorant.
The basic cleaning ingredients are derived from coconuts, which is not exactly a green choice, as valuable tropical forest is destroyed in order to plant more lucrative coconut palms. I do not find the fragrance pleasant, as I am very sensitive to synthetic fragrances, which can trigger allergies in many people.
Natureclean is a Canadian company specializing in natural, fragrance-free products.
Most of their products are made entirely of biodegradable, nontoxic products. The disinfecting agent and fragrance in the floor cleaner is tea tree oil, a product that is safe for the skin and lungs. Natureclean is a family-owned Canadian company, and has been in business since the 1960s. The floor cleaner is reasonably priced, concentrated, and is packaged in a recyclable plastic container
Alternative Solutions and Cleaning Tips
An alternative to cleaning with detergent products is to simply wash wood floors with hot water and white vinegar. Older wood floors were washed this way, often on a daily basis. I learned this from my grandmother, who was also sensitive to fragranced products.
Her weapon of choice was the rag or string mop, a bucket with a wringer attachment, hot tap water and a half cup of white vinegar per gallon of water. Grandma turned her nose up at cheaper, generic white vinegars. The products she used, such as Heinz white vinegar, were made from natural ingredients. Some white vinegars sold for cleaning may contain petroleum derivatives.
No wood floor, no matter what the finish, can abide an inundation of liquid. Water seeping into cracks will cause the deep wood fibers to swell, and trapped moisture provides a home for mold and rot.
Whether using a sponge mop or Grandma's favorite rag mop, apply a mop that is wrung out well, not dripping. My father's first job as a teenager was mopping the fine hardwood floors in a hotel every morning. If he wasn't careful and the varnish lifted because of excessive wash-water, it would be his duty to sand down the spot and revarnish it. He is still a top-notch wood refinisher, having learned the hard way.
Most wood floors do not tolerate the combination of moisture and strong sunlight. Drops of water on the floor act like little magnifying glasses, boiling the surface of the finish and expanding wood fibers. At first, the floor appears dull in spots, but if the action is repeated, eventually the finish will craze and flake, necessitating a complete refinish. It is better to lightly wash a floor daily with a nearly-dry mop than to slosh water on it occasionally in an effort to lift the grime.
I usually use white vinegar for cleaning my floors, both wood and vinyl, but of these commonly available commercial products, Natureclean is my choice for the best biodegradable wood floor cleaner. All three products contain some chemicals that may cause reactions in sensitive individuals. I have found that Natureclean products in general cause me less discomfort, are well-priced, and work as advertised.