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Ceramic Tiles

If you want your ceramic tile floor to stay looking good, never, ever use an abrasive cleanser on it. It literally sands off the finish on the tiles. Check the labels of the products you use -- you'll be surprised by how many contain abrasives.

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The odds are good that you have resilient flooring -- sheet vinyl or vinyl tile --somewhere in your house. After all, it's the most popular flooring material for kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. It's popular because it's easy to care for.

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Some older homes still have linoleum floors. Made of ground cork and linseed oil, it stains, dents, and scratches easily. If you have a linoleum floor, it's probably time to replace it with a better-looking, better-performing sheet vinyl floor. But if you like the retro look, and want to keep it, care is not difficult.

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Torginol floors don't require hard scrubbing because dirt releases from the surface quite readily with only damp mopping. If you need a tougher cleaner, use a mild or pH-neutral cleaner. Waxing is not recommended, as it attracts dirt, making the floor more difficult to keep clean.

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Care for Terrazzo

Made of white portland cement and tan and white marble chips (the old method), or epoxy and marble chips (the new method), and formed into large "tiles" or slabs, terrazzo is a long-lasting, stone-like material. It's not a terribly common residential flooring material, but some late-1950s houses still have it.

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Harder than vinyl, plastic laminate has the ability to match virtually any wood flooring or even ceramic tile pattern with uncanny accuracy. The floor pattern is essentially a photograph -- but it's coated with a protective layer that provides years of virtually maintenance-free use, provided that you're not too rough on it.

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Keeping Wood Healthy

Properly finished wood floors are without a doubt the easiest of all floor surfaces to keep clean and looking good. The trick is to keep grit off the floor. Use walk-off mats at all exterior doors to help prevent dirt, grit, and sand from getting on your wood.

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Keeping Carpet Clean

Carpet cleaning professionals tell us that the most effective method of keeping carpeting clean -- and making it last a long time -- is to vacuum it regularly. In fact, they recommend vacuuming three or more times per week, and daily in high-traffic areas.

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