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ask an expert: caring for hardwood floors

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's always-useful Ask an Expert column dealt this past week with something we all need to be concerned about but often overlook: caring for our hardwood floors.

Q: I have a beautiful 1925 Craftsman bungalow. The house is blessed with wood floors. I have noticed a black spot near the doorway to the kitchen (a heavy-traffic area) and also in the corner of the family room (a not-so-heavy-traffic area). What are my options in dealing with theses spots? And, more importantly, where do they come from so I can stop them from coming back? There are no leaks anywhere near the spots, and the floor is always dry (except when I mop). Do you have any suggestions on types of cleaners I can use to keep the floors looking shiny and new? I've been using Murphy's Oil Soap. - D.W., Bedford

A: From Roger Somogyi of Lamb Floor Fashion Center (30840 Lake Shore Blvd., Willowick, 440-943-6722):

As you know, hardwood floors are natural, beautiful and timeless. Caring and consistent proper cleaning and maintenance will ensure that they remain that way.

As for the black spots, I would have to assume that it is some type of moisture-related problem, possibly pet urine or mold. With your home being a 1925 vintage, it is likely that whatever has caused the black spots has penetrated the surface, and a plank replacement is the best way to permanently solve the problem. The wood planks that show the spots can be removed, new, unfinished planks can be installed, and the new planks can be custom stained to match the color and finish of your existing floor. A reputable wood repair and refinishing company should be able to help.

Cleaning techniques vary depending on the type of finish that is on the uppermost layer of the floor, which is called the wear layer. Knowing the type of finish is important to properly clean a wood floor.

read the entire column with information on caring for a variety of finishes