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Maintaining Hardwood Flooring

maintaining your hardwood floorsIf you have invested in hardwood flooring for your home, you will need to know how to properly maintain it in order to protect your investment. The first place to seek advice would be from the manufacturer of your flooring so as not to void any warranties associated with the flooring materials. The next place would be from professionals who supply and install flooring products.

Learn more about how to maintain all types of flooring from our professionals by clicking here!

There are various methods to clean and preserve the look of your hardwood floors. Before you choose one, it is important that you know what type of flooring you have and its finish if your home came with it previously installed. Most floors will either have a shellac, varnish, urethane, polyurethane, or wax finish that will require different methods of cleaning.

Protecting Your Investment

maintaining the hardwood flooringAccording to World Floor Covering Association, you must be willing to accept the responsibility of maintaining your floor and taking measures to prevent damage to it once you have it installed, or risk losing its original beauty. You will want to invest in a good quality broom to use for regular sweeping of dust and dirt.

Another cleaning tool to consider purchasing is a vacuum cleaner that does not have a beater bar that could damage the floor. You will want to vacuum your floor to pick up any dirt or dust that works its way between the boards.

One important proactive step to take is to place floor mats near your entryways to catch any dirt or sand that your family or guests may track in. According to DIY Life, floor mats or runners can collect up to 80% of all the dirt that is tracked into your home. Sand and dirt are enemies of hardwood flooring and can scratch your floor up in the same manner as sandpaper.

You will also want to place mats near sink areas to protect your hardwood from water splashes and to quickly clean up any spills, as water is also an enemy to this flooring. Be sure to purchase mats that are made specifically for hardwood floors and to take them outside to shake out any accumulated dirt and sand on a regular basis so that they do not work its way down to the floor.

General Hardwood Floor Maintenance

maintaining your hardwood flooringFor most hardwood flooring, the regular maintenance you will need to perform is daily sweeping or vacuuming if possible. If you have purchased your flooring from a supplier or have had it installed, you will want to check with them to see what cleaning products would be best to use on your floor for more heavy-duty cleaning. If you are unable to obtain the specific cleaner or are concerned about the cost, there are very easy and affordable options depending on the type of finish on your floor.

If you are unsure of the type of finish your floor has, FoxNews offers a few tips on how to determine the finish with a few quick tests on an area of the floor that is not visible:

  • Take a few drops of rubbing alcohol and apply to the finish. If it gets soft and sticky, the finish is shellac.
  • Try to scratch the finish–if it flakes up it is shellacked or varnished, and if it crumbles it is urethane or polyurethane finished.
  • Put a little paint remover on the floor and if the finish bubbles up, it is urethane finished.
  • To test for a wax finish, put two drops of water on the floor. If you see white spots on the floor within a few minutes, then you have a wax finish.

An alternate method to determine a wax finish is to put a drop of mineral oil on a rag and wipe a small area to see if a yellowish-brown stain appears on the rag.

Cleaning Floors with a Surface-Sealed Finish

For floors with a sealed finish such as urethane or polyurethane, you will want to avoid cleaning products that are oil-based or wax-based, as they will leave residue. Using furniture sprays meant for wood furniture will make your floor too slippery and dangerous to walk on.

A sealed floor is much easier to maintain than other types of finished floors and are usually stain and water resistant.

maintaining the hardwood floorsYou will want to avoid cleaners that are abrasive or have a high content of ammonia. Keep in mind that plain water or a mixture of vinegar and water will not work effectively to dissolve dirt and will instead dull your floors prematurely. Your best bet is to use a mixture of mild or pH-neutral soap and water to mop your floor at least once a week.

You can use a mild dishwashing soap or a natural plant-based cleaner such as a soap that contains a low level of oil.

Use a micro-fiber mop or a well-wrung sponge mop to apply the solution to the floor in the direction of the grain of the wood. Be sure to dump your bucket and mix up a new batch of cleaning solution when you see that the water looks dirty.

Cleaning Floors with a Wax, Oil-Treated, Shellac, or Untreated Finish

maintaining hardwood floorsFor floors that are not sealed with polyurethane or urethane, you will want to avoid using any cleaners that are water- or acrylic-based waxes. These types of cleaners will turn your floor’s finish white. Products that claim to be one-step waxes are also harmful for these types of finishes, as they will seal in any dirt that is on your floor. You will also want to avoid any soaps or cleaners that contain ammonia or oils such as lemon or tungsten.

Most of the regular cleaning for these finishes will be sweeping and vacuuming. However, you should plan to strip the wax on your floor at least once or twice a year, depending on the volume of traffic, when it appears dull. Check with the floor’s manufacturer for the recommended stripping product or use mineral spirits.

After stripping, you will need to apply a fresh coat of wax as recommended by the manufacturer. If you find areas are becoming dull between these scheduled strippings and waxings, you can spot treat these areas.

Quick Fixes for Uh-Oh’s

If you find scuffmarks on your sealed floors, you can easily remove them by sprinkling baking soda on a damp sponge and rubbing the scuff out. This method works similarly to an eraser.

If you find that your floor has developed hairline cracks over the dry winter months, you can use a humidifier to help minimize this. These cracks will normally close up on their own once humidity returns during the summer.

maintaining hardwood flooringTo keep your non-surface-sealed floors free of water spots or shoe scuffs, it is advised to keep extra-fine steel wool on hand. Dampened with a little bit of mineral spirits, carefully rub the water spot in a circular motion to remove. For shoe scuffs, apply a little wax to the area with the steel wool in a circular motion. Food stains can be easily removed with a damp rag and then rubbed dry. You will then need to reapply wax in that area working from the outside edge in.

If you find your floors squeaking, you can temporarily fix this by sprinkling some talcum powder in between the boards. The squeaking can be caused by changes in temperature and humidity; however, if this becomes bothersome, you may want to contact your installer to discuss repairing the floor.

How to Keep Your Floors Looking Good

As recommended on, try to keep the temperature in your home between 60 degrees and 80 degrees with a relative humidity of 35% to 55% to prolong the life of your floors. Avoid exposing your flooring to excessive sunlight by protecting it with area rugs and window treatments.

UV exposure can discolor your flooring and prematurely age exposed areas.

maintaining all your hardwood flooringDents and scratches caused by high-heeled shoes are another danger to hardwood flooring. You will want to avoid any kind of footwear such as golf shoes with spikes that can also damage your floor. Be sure to also keep your dog’s and cat’s claws trimmed to avoid scratches to your floor.

Use felt pads under the legs of your furniture to protect your hardwood flooring. Avoid dragging your furniture across the floor by using furniture slides or dollies when you need to move your furniture.

When to Refinish

Even with your best efforts to prolong the life of your hardwood flooring’s finish, there may come a time when you find that your flooring will require additional care. This is especially true for those areas that are exposed to more traffic than others. The processes known as screening and recoating will return your hardwood floor to their original shiny look in most cases. Screening involves removing the floor’s finish through an abrasive process and then the floor is recoated with new layers of finish.

In cases of severe damage, it may be advisable to contact a professional to sand and refinish your floor. If the damage is confined to a small area, it may be possible just to replace the flooring in that area if you have saved extra floorboards from the installation or if you are able to obtain them from the flooring manufacturer.

By properly maintaining your hardwood flooring, you will not only have years of continued enjoyment of your floors, but you will prolong the life of your flooring. Taking steps to proactively avoid damage to your floors now will add years to their usefulness.

For more FREE helpful advice on how to care for your hardwood floors, be sure to read through our website!

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