CAN I USE A STEAM MOP ON MY HARDWOOD FLOORS? Usually not. According to consumer reports tests on the various models of steam mops, steam mops may be safe for hardwood floors but should be approached with extreme caution. Despite many steam mop manufacturers indicating their steam mops can be used on sealed wood floors, manufacturers often warn against their use. Consumer Reports tests showed that all the tested models left residual moisture, some more than others. A wood floor that appears sealed might have crevices where water can seep in and cause damage. The steam is also forced into the joints and any incisions or cracks, which can cause cupping. The heat from the steam can also damage the floor’s finish and some wood finishes or older waxes might haze over. If you really want to stick to a steam mop, check with the manufacturer of your flooring to make sure a steam mop won’t void the warranty.

IS VINEGAR SAFE FOR CLEANING HARDWOOD FLOORS? Not with hardwood floors. Contrary to common advice, you should never use diluted vinegar or ammonia to clean polyurethane. The acid can etch the finish, making it dull. You will probably not notice this after the first couple washes using vinegar but the acid will slowly eat away at your hardwood floor finish over time. You won’t notice until the damage is already done.

ARE PADS REALLY NECESSARY UNDER MY AREA RUGS ON HARDWOOD FLOORS? You bet. Scatter rugs with rubber backs can discolor wood floors. Special rug mats can be purchased from a most carpet or wood flooring retailers. These mats or pads will protect the floors from discoloration.

HOW DO YOU SAFELY REMOVE SPOTS, SCUFF MARKS AND OTHER GUNK? Consumer Reports offers some handy tips for removing some of the toughest stains from hardwood floors.

Gum and wax. Cover the stain with a sealed ice pack to make it brittle enough to break off in pieces. Be especially careful when scraping it off. (Try a plastic scraper or a credit card.) Finish the job by wiping the area clean with a damp cloth to get up any residue and drying it well.

Oil, paint, marker, lipstick, ink, tar. If you’ve already tried a variety of other cleaners and a bit of elbow grease and nothing’s worked, there is one last resort. Very carefully, apply a small amount of nail-polish remover to a cloth, dab, and then lightly rub the stain. Be sure to follow up with a clean damp cloth to remove any residual chemical. Avoid using abrasive cleaners, steel wool, and heavy-duty scouring pads on any flooring.

Minor scratches and chips. Some hardwood-flooring manufacturers offer color-blended filler you can use to hide small scratches and dings. If a small area of hardwood flooring is worn, try sanding and refinishing the area. But heavily damaged pieces might need to be replaced. (The damaged piece will have to be chiseled out and a new one inserted.)

Scuff marks. Try to rub it out first with your finger. Many scuff marks will disappear.  An eraser may also remove shallow marks on most hardwood floors. Be sure to test it on a hidden area first.