There’s no doubt that bamboo floors are a chic, contemporary addition to your home. They’re also an eco-friendly flooring choice. Unfortunately, if you don’t maintain them properly, they’ll deteriorate.
So how do you make sure your bamboo floors are a sight for sore eyes, rather than an eyesore?
You may think that keeping your wood floors pristine will be a challenge, but don’t worry — we’re here to help. We’ve found the most affordable, effective, and easiest methods for you to try.
Bamboo isn’t like other hardwoods. Here’s what you need to know to you can give it the appropriate care.
Solid Bamboo vs. Engineered Bamboo
There are two main types of bamboo flooring: solid and engineered. It’s extremely difficult — practically impossible, in fact — to tell them apart once they’re installed. The difference is in how they’re produced.
Solid bamboo is viewed as pure. Strips of bamboo are cut, dried and glued together to form planks that are then lined up and installed. These planks are universally set at 5.59 inches by 72.83 inches (1).
Engineered bamboo is similar to the solid variation, but the strips of bamboo are fixed to a base of plywood first. This foundation adds extra stability and means that the bamboo planks can be set on any subfloor. There’s also more variation, with a greater allowance for the dimensions of the planks.
Of the two, you can expect to pay a little more for engineered bamboo. This is because the manufacturing process is longer and slightly more complex. The plywood used as the base adds to the cost of the planks as well.
Other than that, there are no differences in how to treat your floor. They’re used the same way and have the same lifespan. Both types will look the same (with the exception of design) and require the same maintenance.
The Benefits of Bamboo Floors
Technically speaking, although bamboo is seen as wood, it’s actually a type of grass. It serves as an excellent alternative to true hardwood flooring and has many advantages over the others. Here’s why you should choose it.
1. It’s Eco-Friendly
Hardwood is beautiful, but conservation is a concern that comes with the package. Wood is a renewable resource, but its industry is one of the driving forces of deforestation (2). Trees can be regrown, but it’s a lengthy process that can’t keep up with the rate at which forests are torn down.
Bamboo, on the other hand, is the world’s number one renewable resource. It grows at an almost uncontrollable rate of up to 4 inches a day. Cutting it improves the structure of the plant as a whole, and so is encouraged (3).
There’s a rumor going around that bamboo is waterproof. It’s not, but when treated, it does have a higher resistance to water than other hardwoods. This means it’s a versatile option that you can install in almost all areas of your home.
Bamboo will do particularly well in a kitchen. For example, spills won’t affect it as greatly or quickly as they will true hardwoods. The rule of thumb is that puddles or messes won’t damage your bamboo floor if they’re cleaned within 24 hours. Smaller drops of water will evaporate, without leaving unsightly watermarks in their wake.
3. Easy Maintenance
You don’t have to have a degree in cleaning bamboo floors to preserve their condition. As you’ll see later, the steps needed to maintain a bamboo floor are easy and affordable.
Much like hardwood, special equipment is not a must. And apart from a few considerations, the techniques are easy to grasp. So, there’s a good chance you already have everything you need for maintenance, like your vacuum cleaner.
If all else fails, there are homemade solutions you can try using items in your kitchen and good old tap water.
The initial costs of bamboo are lower than those of true hardwood (4). So if you dream of wood floors, but aren’t looking forward to investing in them, bamboo is the best alternative. You’ll have the same sophisticated look and feel of wood, at a fraction of the price.
If you take good care of your bamboo floor, it will last you decades too. Installation — or reinstallation — is also easy. If you’re handy, you might not even have to hire professionals to do it, saving you a good amount of money.
5. It’s Stronger
Bamboo is sturdier, and therefore more durable than hardwood. One study even notes that it trumps oak in stability (5). If you have a busy home and need that extra sense of solidity, bamboo is a wise choice.
This ties back into the costs of bamboo. Its strength spells out fewer repairs and replacements for you, lowering its overall costs.
The Best Cleaning Tools for Bamboo Floors
Although maintaining your bamboo floor isn’t difficult to do, if you don’t do it correctly, you could accidentally damage it. So what’s safe to use on your floors in your quest to keep them pristine?
Can You Mop Bamboo Floors?
Excessive, or continuous, exposure to water will stain, discolor or warp your bamboo. Because of this, though you can mop a bamboo floor, not any mop will do. For best results, take the following into account:
- Dry mops: Treat bamboo as you would any other hardwood. It may be more resistant to water, but you should still make an effort to keep it as dry as possible. Dry mops (also known as dust mops) are perfect for this.
- Standard wet mops: You can still use water when mopping, but do your best to wring out as much of it as possible. Don’t soak your bamboo floors or use so much water that it won’t evaporate.
- Mop buckets: These are an excellent investment if you want to use a wet mop on your bamboo floor. They come with built-in wringers that eliminate a lot of elbow grease from your cleaning. Some models are designed to keep dirt off your mop fibers and will prevent accidental abrasions on your floor’s surface as well.
- Spray mops: So long as you make sure that the spray is pH neutral, a spray mop will work well. Double-check manufacturer information to see if the model you’re interested in is suitable for bamboo.
What About Steam Mops?
Never use a steam mop on a bamboo floor. It will absorb the moisture from the steam, and essentially be soaked from the inside. You may not notice any damage at first, but given enough time, your floor could stain, warp or weaken (6).
Remember that bamboo functions as hardwood and should be treated as such. Apply the same methods you’d use to clean wood. Don’t soak, steam or use abrasive cleaners and your bamboo will be fine.
Can You Vacuum Bamboo?
You absolutely can, but there are some precautions you should take to prevent damage. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your vacuum’s brush must not have hard bristles (7).
These will scratch — and possibly ruin — your floor’s finish. If you’re going to vacuum a bamboo floor, make sure that its brush roller is suitable for wood floors. If the vacuum itself isn’t built for wood, you’ll have to get a hard floor attachment for it.
Never use wet vacuums on bamboo. You also want to consider the hardness of your vacuum’s wheels. Rough casters could leave tracks or scrapes.
Which Solutions Can You Use on Bamboo?
When it comes to chemical cleaners there are a few things you can try. Both store-bought and homemade options are effective, so it’s a matter of personal preference.
Ready-made cleaners may be a little safer as they’re often made specifically for hard floors. You have a choice in products and scents and can determine which one works best in your home. Another advantage, of course, is that they’re convenient and require no preparation on your part.
Drawbacks are that they may contain chemicals you’re not comfortable using. You’ll also have to consider how you’ll store them, and if you want them in a home with children or pets. Depending on the brand, they could cost you more initially, too.
Keep these four considerations in mind when buying a bamboo floor cleaner:
- pH balanced: As recommended, choose a pH neutral cleaner. This will prevent streaking on your floors. Acids easily stain hardwood, and since bamboo is considered one, it’s best to stay away from them.
- Bamboo specific: If you can, find a specialized bamboo floor cleaner. In a perfect world, this wouldn’t be a problem. But in reality, they can be hard to find or expensive to buy. So don’t fret if you can’t find one; it’s a luxury worth trying, but not a necessity.
- Hardwood cleaners: If you can’t find or afford a bamboo cleaner, your best bet is to opt for hardwood solutions. They’re made to protect the coating of floor finishes, and some may even conserve your floor’s shine. They’re relatively inexpensive and are simple to apply.
- Gentle products: Never use abrasive chemicals.You also don’t want to risk using other cleaners (for example, carpet cleaner) on your bamboo. These solutions are way too harsh and will tear through your floor’s finish, likely causing scratches and stains.
Read the Instructions
Homemade cleaners, on the other hand, are safer to have in your home, as you won’t be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals. They’re a cheaper alternative to buying brand name products and require little extra effort to prepare. You might not have to go out and buy anything if you already have the ingredients.
Downsides to homemade solutions are that they’re not specialized for bamboo and that there’s a risk of mixing them incorrectly. You will need to invest a bit of time into preparation. Plus, chances are you won’t have the pleasant odor of scented cleaners.
For each method, you need a spray bottle. Spritzing cleaner onto bamboo will reduce its contact with water. It’s also easier to target stains or dirt this way. Other ingredients you’ll need are:
- Castile soap: One to two drops of concentrated castile soap added to two cups of warm water will do the trick. Remember not to soak your floors with this, and to use a cloth or mop that is as dry as possible.
- Dishwashing liquid: You shouldn’t use acidic dish soap, so avoid ones with added lemon extract. One or two drops added to warm water should clean without leaving any residue. To further prevent streaking, mix it with as few suds as possible (8).
- Vinegar: This is an old favorite among floor enthusiasts. However, note that vinegar is acidic, so some experts don’t recommend it. Only use your vinegar mix on sealed, finished floors. Add a quarter cup of white vinegar to one gallon of warm water.
- Add oils: If you don’t like the smell of any of these solutions, add a drop or two of your favorite essential oil to your spritzer.
How to Clean Bamboo Floors
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you choose to use tools or your bare hands, chemical cleaners or DIY mixes. The technique is what makes the difference between abrasions, dents and water damage and a pristine bamboo floor. Here’s what you should be doing to make the most of your cleaning:
Before you do anything else, gently remove dirt and dust from your floor by sweeping it. You can opt to vacuum, or dry mop instead. In each case, be sure to use the appropriate tools, like microfiber heads, soft bristles or hard floor cleaning attachments.
Choose your favorite cleaner and spritz some onto your floor as you go. Don’t try to cover as much ground as possible. You want to spritz and then wipe immediately in gentle circular motions with a dry or slightly damp cloth or mop.
Leaving chemical cleaners to stand, even home-made ones, could cause streaking or even worse: moisture damage.
3. Pat Dry
If you notice excess moisture, whether from water or a cleaning solution, dry it as quickly as possible. The best way to do this (if you’re not using a mop) would be to take a soft, preferably microfiber cloth, and pat it dry. You can use this method for spills too.
Don’t think of bamboo floors as you would a carpet or tiles. They don’t need deep cleaning in the usual sense — doing so may damage their finish. For tough stains, scuff marks or disinfecting your floors, the method is much the same.
Once you have swept, vacuumed or mopped, the only extra step you have to take is to spot clean.
1. Target Stains
Using your chosen solution, spritz some of it directly onto the stain. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions when using chemical cleaners. Some of them can be left to work for a few minutes, while others cannot.
When using a homemade remedy, it’s best to treat it as you would water, wiping it up as soon as you can.
Check that your store-bought cleaner has sanitizing properties. If not, the recommended vinegar solution will do the trick.
2. Rub Gently
Once you’ve applied your cleaner, take your cloth and gently rub the mark or stain. Use the same circular motions for the best effect. Don’t use any harsh brushes, scrubbers or abrasive tools for stain removal.
If your stains are deep-set, multiple treatments might be necessary before you notice a difference. In some cases, stains could be too embedded, and so, unfortunately, impossible to get rid of without replacing the bamboo.
Reviving Bamboo Floors
Sometimes a broom or cloth just won’t fix the damage on your bamboo floor. If that’s the case, you’ll have to buy specialized products to restore its sheen:
- Use cleaners: There is a multitude of products available that will shine your floors. Be cautious when choosing them though, as polishes and waxes will leave a residue, and may make your floors slippery. Stick to the hardwood cleaners that are pH balanced, but look out for those with restoring properties.
- Stop using vinegar: There are many happy cleaners who speak for vinegar, but the truth is that it may be the problem. If you notice that your floors have dulled over time, stop applying vinegar immediately. Prevention is better than remedy, so take precautions to preserve your bamboo.
- Rescreen: Bamboo lasts a while when treated with care, but inevitably, you will have to replace it. Rescreening means that only the top layer of finish is removed and replaced. It’s easier, saves time and will cost less if you call in the professionals.
- Refinish: If you want to fully restore your bamboo floor, a little more effort will be required. Refinishing means that all layers of your finish are removed, and your bamboo is sanded down before adding a new finish.
- Replacement: If your bamboo is damaged beyond repair, you will have to replace it entirely. On the upside, remember that bamboo is one of the most affordable wood floors you can buy, so revamping won’t cost a fortune.
Don’t Be Bamboozled
See? There’s little effort involved in maintaining bamboo floors. Unlike others of its kind, cleaning and preservation are almost effortless. The best thing you can do is treat it with care from the start.
This way, you’ll ensure that no unsightly or irreparable damage is done. You’ll also save time and effort in your daily and weekly runs. Simply sweep dirt daily and mop with your favorite cleaner weekly, and your floors should stay pristine.