Perhaps not everyone knows that the word “parquet” comes from the French parc (park), in the sense of an area delimited by a tessellated wooden floor (Source: Treccani). Already in use in the French courts of the 1600s and 1700s, it seems that “Parquet” was also the term used in the palace to indicate the room – with wooden floors – where Louis XIV (the Sun King) used to meet with his ministers. What everyone knows about parquet, however, is that it is a fairly delicate material: how to clean parquet often becomes a source of torment for those who buy it or find it at home. But is it really so hard to properly maintain a parquet floor?
In reality, new woodworking techniques and the products designed especially for the maintenance of parquet floors allow us to tackle the subject with a good deal of optimism and provide you with this practical guide on how to clean your parquet effectively.
Before talking about the best ways to make the parquet clean and fragrant, it is helpful to establish some basic points regarding prevention and review all the useful tricks to keep cleaning from becoming an unnecessarily difficult chore.
It is often said that wood is a living material. But what does that mean? Those who own a parquet will have already noticed: over time the strips change colour and darken as a result of prolonged exposure to light and heat. The effect, quite natural, can also be very pleasant, but it is still a good idea to take some precautions to prevent too much alteration. The principle is the same as when you go to the seaside: a little sunshine is fine, but to get a tan without burning it is necessary to protect your skin from the sun. Well, in the case of your parquet it is useful to install curtains, to shield the floor from direct light (in practice it’s the equivalent of sunscreen).
Rugs are another protection against the rays of the sun, but it is advisable to move them from time to time. Be careful not to place the rugs in the first months after installing the parquet because it is precisely during this period that the wood oxidises. In fact, rugs or furniture that are positioned too early almost completely block the passage of light and air, with the result that, once removed, the outline remains visible on the floor – just like tan lines at the end of the season.
Besides colour, wood also tends to change its shape depending on the temperature and the amount of humidity in the air. An environment that is too dry causes microfractures or shrinking, while an environment that is too damp can cause swelling. In fact, wood is a hygroscopic material, which means that it adapts to the level of humidity in the environment in which it is laid. Ideal climatic conditions are a humidity of 45% to 60% with temperature variations that are not overly abrupt. For this reason, it is good practice to air out any room with a parquet and install some environmental humidity regulators, ideal for balancing the level of humidity both in summer and winter.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to remember to wipe your shoes on the doormat before entering the house. Equip tables and chairs with felt pads on the legs, otherwise, besides making the neighbours below angry because of all the noise, you risk scratching the parquet when you move them.
Now it’s time. After taking all the necessary precautions, we are finally ready to deal with the most thorny question: how do you clean your parquet? Here it is a good idea to split the subject into two chapters: ordinary and extraordinary maintenance. By ordinary maintenance is meant daily or almost daily cleaning, which helps to keep the parquet beautiful and “healthy”. The first step for proper cleaning of the parquet is dust removal: a dust-absorbing cloth or the vacuum cleaner with brushes helps to remove dirt from the surface, preparing the parquet for the next step.
Water is the primary enemy of your parquet, and this is true even when it comes to washing, which should be done with the aid of a slightly damp cloth dipped in lukewarm water with neutral detergents. So be sure to wring the cloth or mop well and use only neutral products made specifically for parquets, even better if they have an anti-mould, germ and bacterial action. Avoid aggressive products like bleach and foams, or generic products that could irreparably damage the wood. If the mop used is too wet, it is advisable to make a second pass with a dry cloth to absorb any excess water.
For a parquet that is both beautiful and of “sound and robust constitution”, it is important to alternate ordinary cleaning with more intense and targeted actions, different for each type of parquet. This extraordinary maintenance work helps to restore shininess to the wood, nourishing it thoroughly and repairing micro-abrasions, and is done with varying frequency (monthly or yearly), only after performing normal cleaning, namely:
Wax parquet, for example, requires regular polishing because the wax is often subject to scratches and marks. Once the dust has been removed, to restore the wood’s protective layer and reduce the signs of wear, a special emulsion of waxes and natural oils should be applied once a month to repair the small surface scratches in a gentle manner: a kind of anti-ageing cream for wood. For deeper abrasions and scratches, however, a product based on natural oils “restores body” to the wood because it fills the micropores without damaging it, hiding abrasions and scratches.
If the parquet is varnished, however, the extraordinary cleaning process is slightly different. After having used the vacuum cleaner and damp cloth or mop, you can remove any stains that are not too deep with the help of natural solvents diluted in water and applied with a well-wrung cloth: a good rubbing and a bit of elbow grease will do the rest. Even in the absence of stains, it is still important to protect the coloured wood from external agents (including water) by applying a water-based reviving wax, like Gazzotti’s Parquet Light Plus, with defensive and corrective action.
Whatever method was used in the court of the Sun King, one thing is certain: if the parquet has lasted to our day and still is one of the most used (and durable) floors in the world, there must be a reason!
And how do you take care of your parquet?