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How Road Salt Affects Your Floors and Carpets

Posted Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Winter floor care that will make your hardwoods and tile last.

Winter weather in Michigan brings its share of hassles. We spend hours shoveling, winterizing, and de-icing everything in sight. Most of us rely on one of the commercial brands of ice melt to do some of the work for us. These handy, calcium-chloride based products melt away stubborn ice and keep our walkways safe. City road crews and private businesses use rock salt liberally as well. Eventually, it’s inevitable that we track it into homes and businesses, where it can damage our floors. The experts at Modernistic have a few recommendations that should help you protect your hardwoods and tile from salt this winter.

Apply salt sparingly.

People often use too much ice melt thinking that, unless the salt is actually touching all of the ice, the product won’t work. This isn’t the case. Salt dissolves in the thin layer of water always present on the surface of the ice. As it dissolves, it lowers the freezing point of the liquid, since salty water freezes at temperatures far lower than fresh water. As the saltwater solution spreads over the surface of the ice, it naturally distributes salt evenly, and continues the thaw. Using a moderate amount of salt will be just as effective and reduce the chance of salt being tracked into your home.

Know how to identify salt on the floor.

Most often salt appears either in the form of small granules or white splotches left behind when puddles of salty water dry on the floor. Although most often salt will leave a white mark on the floor, don’t assume that without visible stains there is no salt residue. Different ice melt formulations will leave a slick film instead of a white stain. Check the floor to see if it feels sticky or oily, and remember that it’s almost impossible to avoid salt during the winter.

When you see salt on your floor remove it as soon as possible.

Sweep up any undissolved salt you see, and try to keep wet shoes at the door and on a mat. As with most spills and dirt on your floor, the longer the salt sits the more likely it is to permanently mar the look of your hardwood or tile. It will scratch the floor just like any dirt, but the effect of salt on your floors can be much worse. In fact, salt can even dissolve the surface finish on floors, making it imperative to remove it quickly.

Use a neutralizing cleaner on your floors.

If you see or feel dissolved salt on the floor, you will need to use a special cleaner to remove it.

Salt is alkaline, which means that normal cleaning products, which have a neutral pH, will only spread the alkaline salt around without removing or dissolving it. To make matters worse, since the salt residue is sticky, it attracts dirt as well. Instead of using your ordinary cleaning solution, switch to a neutralizing cleaning agent that will change the pH of the salt.

How to make your own neutralizing cleaner.

You can pick up a neutralizing cleaner at your local hardware store, but if you don’t feel like making a special trip you’re in luck. You probably already have a neutralizing cleaner on hand – distilled white vinegar. White vinegar is a safe, weak acetic acid. A half cup in a bucket of water should react with the alkaline salt residue and safely neutralize it so that it wipes away easily.

What if your floor finish is already damaged?

If your hardwood and tile are already looking dull and damaged, we know how to help. Modernistic’s unique hardwood cleaning process will remove salt, as well as dust, dirt, and dander. We vacuum, deep clean, rinse, and re-coat your hardwood so that it gleams like winter never happened.

Often entry areas, like mudrooms, have tile floors. If the surface of the tile seems dull and scratched, it might be time to let the professionals at Modernistic clean and reseal your floor. Not only will our penetrating sealant restore the shine to damaged tile, but it will protect your floor from further damage. You can use our easy online booking system to get a quote and schedule either service online here.

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