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How to Care for Hardwood Floors

In our previous article, we outlined various tips, tricks, and suggestions for how to clean hardwood flooring. In this post, we’re going to talk more about how to maintain your wood floor to preserve its appearance.

We know what you might be thinking, but no, cleaning and maintenance aren’t necessarily the same thing. Wooden floor cleaning involves removing buildup of dust, dirt, pet hair, and residue to restore a floor to a like-new condition. Maintenance is more about the long-term strategy of keeping your floor in a condition where it can last.

Certainly, cleaning wood floors is a big part of maintenance – but it’s hardly the only part. And being that today’s wood floors are durable enough to last for several generations, ensuring you’re following the right process to maintain your floor surface can help you see the return on investment you hoped for.

Without further ado, let’s get to tips and remedies for the ongoing maintenance of your hardwood flooring:

The 4 Keys to Floor Maintenance

Mopping a dusty wood floor

Any good long-term maintenance strategy of hardwood floors should rest on four main pillars:

  1. Regular wooden flooring cleaning and polishing: Like we said above, cleaning and dusting is certainly a big part of any maintenance strategy – and cleaning wooden floors with regularity is going to keep them looking immaculate for longer.
  2. Protection: Being proactive and protecting your floors helps to reduce debilitating and unsightly scratches, gouges, or other damage.
  3. General conservation: You’ve likely heard the phrase, “If you see something, say something.” When it comes to maintaining hardwood, that phrase might as well be, “If you see something, do something.”
  4. Refinish your floor: Finally, hardwood is going to likely need something more in the form of recoating with wood floor finish every three to five years or so.

Routine Cleaning of Hardwood Floors

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Cleaning according to a schedule is a big part of any hardwood floor maintenance plan. We covered it extensively in our last article, and we’ll briefly touch on it here as the first pillar in the keys we outlined above.

Here are some recommendations for keeping those clean wood floors at all times:

Daily Cleaning

Dust mopping or a sweep of your hardwood floor on the daily helps remove dirt, mud, crumbs, pet dander, and other debris that could end up scratching or damaging it. It also removes pollen, spores, and other causes of household allergens.

Use either a broom, microfiber pad, hard floor vacuum, or even a rag to ensure you’re removing dust particles and not just pushing it around the wood floor. We’d recommend staying away from damp or steam mops.

Weekly Cleaning

Vacuuming at least on a weekly basis is essential for removing debris. Make sure you’re using a hard floor-specific vacuum (for wood or tile), or can disable the brushroll (or floor-brush attachment) that’s meant for carpet on your all-purpose vacuum when you do the hardwood.

Also make sure the wheels on the vacuum are of soft plastic or rubber so they don’t risk scratching the floor as you work.

First prep the surface by sweeping or using a microfiber head, then vacuuming in the corners and along the edges of the room. Don’t forget to also use attachments or tools to get underneath furniture. You can also use a microfiber mop for your weekly cleaning in place of the vacuum if you choose, though it may not be ideal for removing dirt from a heavily soiled floor.

Monthly Cleaning

In order to refresh your floors and make the surface shine, polishing should be carried out monthly. Aside from refreshing the surface of the floor, polish also helps fill in small scratches and will even out the surface.

Let the foot traffic your floor receives dictate how often you should be polishing it. If it receives heavy traffic from family and visitors, consider performing this task once a month. If it receives little to no traffic, polishing every two or three months should suffice.

You can use many different polishes or products, but one solution for the wood finish of your hardwood floor is Howard Feed & Wax. It lays down a natural coat of Carnauba Wax and Beeswax, protecting your floor from scratches and wear over time.

Howard Products FW0016 Wood Polish & Conditioner

Preventative and Protective Care

The next pillar we’ll cover is prevention. One ideal way to reduce potential damage to your hardwood floor is to use the proper method to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

And while there’s always some risk associated with hard floor scratching and damage, there are various methods you can use to reduce this risk. Here’s a look:

  • Invest in furniture pads: These inexpensive floor protectors are designed to limit exposure to scratches and dents, and are to be placed under couches, chairs, entertainment centers, and anything else that might harm your floor’s finish. As an added bonus, furniture pads also help these items from sliding on the floor.
  • Doormats: We always suggest placing floor mats near doors at entryways, as these mats play a large role in capturing dirt, grime, snow, leaves, and rain moisture that members of your household or guests may track in from outside. Doormats can also be placed in areas that receive steady direct sunlight to guard against UV rays. 
  • Window treatment: Door mats are one way to protect your floor from UV rays in areas of steady sunlight. Window treatments are another. While it’s always great to bring natural light into any room, consider investing in blinds and curtains to help protect your floor from premature aging and fading in areas of heavy sun. Area rugs in your home can also help with this.
  • Trim pet nails: If you have pets in your household, make sure that you’re keeping their nails or claws trimmed to reduce the potential of them scratching up your floor.
  • Household habits: You also want to be careful with wearing high heels on hardwood floor, as the heel part of the shoe has the potential to scratch the surface. Generally, we suggest refraining from wearing shoes on hardwood to eliminate the potential of scratching or transferring dirt from outside to inside your house.

Hardwood Floor Maintenance Tips

Our general tip section is partly common sense and partly knowing what to do in certain situations. For instance, you likely know that moisture and liquid are key enemies of hardwood floors, which is why it’s crucial to clean up any type of spill in a quick, timely manner. You should also be cautious with steam cleaners.

Don’t use a wet mop to clean up spills or dirt—instead opt for a dry or damp cloth, or a paper towel.  If unsightly grease or stains are apparent, then go ahead and use a mop with water or special floor cleaner.

Applying wax to a hardwood floor

It’s also important to know that wood can also react to moisture in the air. The heat and humidity levels in the room can potentially cause your wood floors to split or gap, or even begin cupping. One way to avoid issues with humidity is to invest in a humidifier or dehumidifier so the room is always kept at a temperature of between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hardwood Floor Damage

However, if damage to your floors does occur, here are a few ways to go about repairing it:

  • Wood filler: Fill in small gaps with wood filler or putty, then sand and stain the filler after it has dried so that it blends in seamlessly with the rest of your floor.
  • Shims: If your gaps are more significant in size, use wood shims to fill it in with adhesive. We strongly suggest performing this task when the season or weather is at its most humid, as this is the period where the gap is at its smallest. You can also use wood rope for these repairs. 

How Often to Refinish Wood Floors

Finally, more intensive intervention is occasionally necessary to maintain your hardwood floor. This consists of having your floor sanded and applying a product finish like polyurethane every three to five years or so. While you can perform this yourself, it’s often faster and easier to hire a professional flooring company for this.

Refinishing typically consists of sanding off a small portion of the floor’s surface, which also removes any scratches, dents,  discoloration, scuffs, or other surface damage. Refinishing then concludes with applying one from a variety of finishes so it’s like new in the end.

Generally, you know you’re due for a refinishing when regular cleaning and polishing doesn’t bring your floor back to its original beauty.

While refinishing can be performed on a majority of hardwood floors, make sure you know your hardwood before it’s carried out. This is because certain floors may consist of thin hardwood or prefinished materials, and regular sanding and refinishing can strip away the floor material and do more harm than good.