Learn how to identify your flooring type and make it shine using these tips from Bona

Between kids, pets, parties and just daily life, floors can take a beating. To help keep your home shipshape and sparkling, it’s important to get to know your floors and how to clean them. However, that can be harder than you might think. “Don’t feel bad if you can’t decipher your floor type,” says Susan Stern, the director of product management at floor-care company Bona. “Sometimes even experts question themselves.” Thankfully, Stern is here to help, as well as offer cleaning tips.

1. Hardwood

Made of solid wood planks, hardwood floors are often synonymous with traditional luxury. Look for natural variances in color and texture or, if you have an older home, exposed nailheads. “Only a side cut of the floor, however, will reveal true hardwood,” Stern says. “So pull up a floor vent or peel back a baseboard. If the plank is one solid piece, it’s hardwood.” Also check your finish by applying a small dab of acetone to an inconspicuous area. If it beads, it’s a polyurethane finish; if it becomes tacky, it’s shellac or varnish; and if it dissolves completely, it’s lacquer. Oil finishes, though rarer, look more matte, Stern says. 

When it comes to cleaning, use a nontoxic, nonabrasive, wood-specific cleaner that suits your finish. “PH-neutral cleaners aren’t acidic, so they will enhance, not wear away, the sheen and color of any polyurethane finish,” Stern says. She recommends dusting and wet-cleaning regularly.

2. Natural Stone

Rich with organic beauty, natural stone can be tricky to identify, as synthetic products can closely mimic the real thing. “The improvements to man-made products have become so impressive, the best way to tell is to look for repeats and patterns,” Stern says. “You’ll never get exact replications in natural stone.” She recommends vacuuming before you clean, using a residue-free cleaner and avoiding acidic products. There are a lot of cleaners you can’t use on unsealed stone, so double-check your floors first by applying a drop of water; if it beads up, the floors are sealed.

3. Tile

A longtime design darling, tile is often made of porcelain, clay or concrete. Some tile is designed to resemble natural stone, so if you’re not sure, choose multiuse products that cover both materials. According to Stern, tile can be coated, so it has to be cut all the way through to determine the exact material. As long as your tile is sealed, you can clean it with a hard-surface cleaner. Use a tile-specific one that won’t strip the top layer of sealant.

4. Laminate

A budget-friendly alternative to wood (and stone), laminate flooring simulates the look with a photographic applique under a clear protective layer. The key to identifying this flooring type lies in its surface. If its texture is more uniform and the color and grain look artificial, the floor is probably laminate.

“The warranty on most laminate recommends a pH-neutral cleaner, as anything else can strip away the top layer of adhesive,” Stern says. Use a microfiber cleaning padand dry off any excess liquid. Prolonged contact with moisture can cause warping and delamination. If you also have stone and tile in your home, look for a cleaner you can use for all three.

5. Engineered Wood

A master of disguise, engineered wood features a thin layer of real hardwood atop layers of bonded wood fibers. “There is very little difference between solid and engineered wood to the naked eye,” Stern says. “But engineered wood can be sanded down only once or twice before that top layer of hardwood is worn thin.” 

A side cutaway will reveal its true identity. And according to Stern, “If there’s a bevel, its almost always engineered wood.” Both types of flooring react very similarly to cleaners, so you can use most solid-wood cleaning methods on engineered floors as long as they’re sealed and finished. 

If you’re still unsure of your flooring type, you can always check with a remodeling professional. Whichever one(s) you have, be sure to use cleaning solutions formulated specifically for that material. That way, you can keep your floors gleaming and gorgeous. 

More: To find a Bona-certified pro for your next flooring project, visit the company’s website.

This story was written by the Houzz Sponsored Content team.