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A painted hardwood floor is tough to keep spotless, but you can improve its look and help maintain its finish with the right cleaning regimen. And Charles Peterson, owner of Charles Peterson Signature Wood Flooring, says that a little cleaning now can save you time and the cost of a large-scale rehab later. Here are some of his top tips.

DO dust

Ground-in dust, dirt, or sand will wear down a floor's finish faster than anything else. Peterson recommends using a vacuum cleaner—as long as it doesn't have a rug beater—or a microfiber mop. Push the mop in one continuous motion, not back and forth. The more often you dust, the better!

DON'T use water

Soaking a hardwood floor with a wet mop is a huge no-no, even if it's painted. Avoid steam mops, too; the moisture and heat can damage the floorboards.

DO pick no-wax, water-based polishes and cleaners

Certain polishes or cleaners are like poison for your floors. They can leave residue, emit harmful toxins, and even over clean or strip your floor. Use a no-wax floor cleaner or a water-based polish instead, Peterson says. Spray and wipe up small messes, like spilled spaghetti sauce, or spray and mop up muddy tracks.

DO spot-treat

There's no magic number, in years, to help determine when you should recoat a painted floor. Keep an eye out for wear. Go over dull or discolored spots with a light coat or two of paint, and finish with two coats of polyurethane. If poly is combined in the paint, go for two light coats.

DON'T choose an oil-based polyurethane

Oil-based polys will give your perfectly painted floor a tint of yellow or orange. Instead, get crystal-clear results by using a non-yellowing, water-based poly.