Home Tips & Advice

Floor and Rug Cleaners

Electric Floor Polishers and Scrubbers - Floor polishers and scrubbers leave floors with a longer-lasting polish with less effort.

Features vary from model to model, but top-of-the-line appliances have three-speed motors to scrub and apply wax at lower speeds and polish at higher speeds. They also may have extra brushes that convert them to rug shampooers.

Lightweight versions with detachable handles can also be used for stripping and wood refinishing.

If the appliance picks up water after scrubbing-an optional function-the machine must dry the surface thoroughly before being used to apply wax; moisture will smear the waxed surface. Floors should be swept before using one of these units to ensure that loose dirt does not block the water pickup openings.

Solvent-based waxes should be recommended for polishers because they will not smear as will self-polishing, water-based and resin waxes.

Floor Care
Scratches: Blend in surface scratches by applying paste or liquid wax and buffing well. Use furniture touch-up polish to cover deeper scratches.
Spills: Wash the stained area promptly with household vinegar. After three to four minutes, wipe dry. May be necessary to repeat several times. Black heel marks can be removed by rubbing with liquid wax and fine steel wool.

VACUUM CLEANERS

Upright and canister vacuums fill general purpose cleaning needs. Personal preference dictates which type to purchase; both (with appropriate attachments) perform household vacuuming chores, including lifting dust from drapes and upholstery.

Convenience features include carpet-pile selectors, bag-change signals, retractable and extra-long cords.

Lightweight stick vacuums, used primarily for quick cleaning, handle much like a broom. The motor is housed in the handle. Some depend on suction for cleaning while others have a brush or comb in the nozzle to loosen dirt.

Cordless, battery-operated or corded, electrically operated handheld vacuums are another quick cleanup convenience. Battery-operated vacuums run for a short time on each charge. Both types provide enough suction to pick up surface dirt. Some come with tool attachments.

Neither the stick nor handheld vacuums are good substitutes for standard upright or canister household vacuums.

Heavy-duty shop vacuums for use around garages, patios and workshops pick up wood shavings, sawdust, bits of metal, twigs and other light debris.

Wet vacuums will draw up water as well as dry dirt. Sizes most often used around homes are 5, 6, 10 or 12 gal. capacity.

These vacuums have heavier construction than household machines. Features include a steel or plastic drum, stronger suction, extra filters to protect the motor from heavy dirt and larger hoses to allow relatively large debris to pass through without clogging.

Accessories include extension wands, crevice tools and floor nozzles with brushes.

Cleaning effectiveness of any vacuum is determined by suction, not horsepower. Nozzle and agitator construction are important, as is brush placement.

Vacuum Cleaner Care
Remove lint and hair from brushes and wash occasionally with mild detergent. Use damp cloth for interior of canister shell and dust bag cover.
Replace bag frequently; it can burst without being completely full. Plaster dust and other fine dusts can clog the pores of the bag, cutting off air flow.
Replace paper filters. Permanent plastic filters should be washed occasionally and allowed to dry completely before put back.
Watch for small objects lodged in hose or fan. If they cannot be removed easily, find a repair center.

RUG CLEANERS

A wet shampooer carries a liquid shampoo solution in the tank; rollers distribute the shampoo, and brushes lift the nap of the rug and work shampoo into the pile. Tank capacity ranges from two to four quarts.

Dry shampooers, primarily for Oriental and non-colorfast fabrics, substitute powder for the liquid shampoo. Again, rollers apply the powder and brushes work it into the carpet. The powder is removed with a vacuum cleaner.

Heavier-duty electric steam or dry units are usually handled as rentals, with the consumer buying the steam detergent or cleansing powder. Wet and dry units are not interchangeable.

A steam cleaner injects a solution of hot water and detergent into the carpet under pressure and removes it immediately with powerful suction.

The dry cleaner spreads on the cleansing powder and works it into the carpet; the powder is then vacuumed up.

Some types of steam and dry cleaning units operate with rotary brushes. Others use an oscillating or vibrating brush. Some vibrating brush units are powerful enough to pull dirt particles through from the carpet's underside.

A final method of carpet cleaning is an aerosol spray. It is the easiest method and suitable for spot cleaning.

The aerosol is sprayed directly on the carpet, allowed to dry and vacuumed up. Brushing the foam into the carpet with a stiff brush increases its cleaning action.

For best results with any cleaning method, carpets should be thoroughly vacuumed before cleaning to remove loose surface dirt.

CARPET SWEEPERS

Hand-operated carpet sweepers are another means of picking up surface dirt in a hurry. Most have adjustable settings for thick or thin carpet pile and can be set low enough to clean bare floors.

Nylon or rubber wheels with nylon bearings and nylon bearings in the brushes mean smooth and long-wearing operation. Cleaning action comes from nylon or mixed-bristle brushes and metal combs that lift dirt from carpets into the sweeper.

UPHOLSTERY CLEANERS

Upholstery shampooers clean with liquid or aerosol shampoo.

Liquid shampooers apply shampoo directly to the upholstered fabric; the material should not be saturated.

Aerosol shampoos work through a brush attached to the can. The brush combines a foam-rubber pad with nylon bristles to spread the cleaner and work it into the fabric.

Most upholstery shampoos are safe for colorfast fabrics, but it is wise to test before covering the entire piece.

Some steam cleaners also come with an upholstery cleaning hand tool. The tool is attached to the machine and the cleaning procedure is the same as in cleaning carpets. A special steam detergent for upholstery is designed to prevent over-wetting.

WAXES AND POLISHES

Floor Waxes - Water based, solvent based and polymer are the three major kinds of floor waxes.

Water-based and polymer waxes dry to a high gloss without buffing; solvent-based wax requires vigorous buffing. This is best accomplished with an electric polisher. One-step waxes clean and wax simultaneously.

Water-based wax should be recommended for asphalt, vinyl, vinyl asbestos and rubber-tiled floors; solvent-based waxes produce a hard, shiny finish and are best for wood, cork and terrazzo floors. Self-polishing waxes, such as polymer or resin, will yellow or discolor and wear off in heavy traffic areas; they should be stripped off and reapplied after three or four coats. Water-based waxes can be damp mopped without damaging the shine, but use of detergents will eventually dull the finish.

WAX REMOVERS

Most wax removers contain chemicals that can be injurious if splashed in eyes or come in contact with the skin. It is a good idea to wear rubber or plastic gloves as protection.

Some general purpose cleaners, either those that contain ammonia or require it to be added, will remove wax; but if the wax buildup is heavy, a special remover will ease the task.

MOPS

Inexpensive cotton string or rayon wet mops have a tendency to mildew and rot if stored damp. Better-quality nylon/rayon blends or sponge-rubber mops resist rot and mildew and are less likely to shed. Cellulose sponge mops with single or double heads wash floors, mop up spills, apply self-polishing wax and other cleaning compounds. All have some form of squeezing mechanism.

Dust or dry mops are made of cotton, wool, nylon or nylon/acetate blends. Those of 100 percent nylon yarn generate static electricity as they move across the floor and attract dust and lint better than other materials. Quality dry mops should have flexible plastic or metal handle-to-mop connectors to slide under low furniture.

Other quality features in both wet and dry mops are replaceable heads, long, smooth handles and rust-resistant plating.

BROOMS AND BRUSHES

Brooms and brushes are made of natural or synthetic fibers held together by staples, wire or ties.

Heavy-duty patio brooms are usually made of coarse natural fibers such as palmetto, palmyra or brass fiber; indoor brushes and brooms have softer fibers such as Tampico horsehair or broomcorn.

Synthetic fibers are unaffected by water, are more durable, pick up more dust and are less likely to break or shed.

FLOOR MATS AND RUNNERS

Indoor/outdoor mats have nonskid backings and rough surfaces to remove mud, dust and snow from shoes and boots.

Outdoor natural hemp and cocoa fiber mats and those made of heavy rubber or vinyl links may be hosed clean.

Indoor mats of nylon pile with non-slip backing can be washed with soap and water. Chemically treated mats are machine washable, but after several washings should be retreated with dust-attracting chemicals.

Vinyl runners protect carpeting from dirt and dust; they, too, can be cleaned with soap and water. When weight is placed on the runner, cleats grip carpet to prevent slippage.

HOUSEHOLD CHEMICALS

Every cleaning and polishing compound is a chemical formula of some kind. They are potential health hazards if not used according to directions and if not stored properly. Labels will warn of possibly dangerous ingredients and you should be sure to read and heed the labels.

Polishes should be used for whatever surfaces they are recommended for and for the purpose stated on the label: to clean metal or chrome or to polish glass, porcelain, bathroom tile or wood paneling. These agents come in cream, paste, liquid or aerosol form and some will clean more than one finish.

For furniture, there are wax, oil and cream polishes and silicone- based polishes that protect plastic or laminated surfaces from scratches, fingerprints and static.

All-purpose household cleaners usually spray on and require no rinsing to remove stains, fingerprints, heel scuffs and kitchen grease. Oven cleaners are stronger than general household cleaners and contain chemicals harmful to the skin. Rubber or plastic gloves are a good add-on sale for any cleaning agent.

Aerosol powder spot removers that are sprayed on, allowed to dry and brushed out are safe for most clothing fabrics as well as carpeting and upholstery.

Household Chemical Safety
Keep chemicals, especially flammables and aerosols, away from open flames.
Read the label-when you buy it and each time before you use it-and follow the directions explicitly.
Store flammables and aerosols in a cool place, away from gas and oil furnaces and heaters.
Store dangerous and poisonous products where children cannot reach them.
Use chemicals as they are intended; don't experiment.

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Check your state and local codes before starting any project. Follow all safety precautions. Information in this document has been furnished by the North American Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors. Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy and safety. Neither NRHA, any contributor nor the retailer can be held responsible for damages or injuries resulting from the use of the information in this document.

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