How to Clean and Maintain Wood Floors?

Refinishing or installing wood floors is often one of the most transformative projects you can do in your home. Afterall floors are everywhere you go. You took your time researching and picking just right color and finish. And now floors look like a magazine picture. But how to take care of and protect your investment?

With proper cleaning and maintenance, hardwood floors can last for decades or even centuries, and still look beautiful.

Each floor gets a unique combination of traffic patterns, light it receives, and habits of people and pets who live in the house. For example a retired couple without pets will have very different needs compared to a family with 2 pets, and 3 kids who wear shoes in the house.

Try to develop a system and schedule that will work for your needs. But, most importantly it has to be a system you will have time and discipline to follow.

Basic Cleaning

Regular and proper cleaning can do miracles for longevity of you flooring. Floor finish is not just there to look shiny, it’s the only thing that protects the wood. Surface grit and dirt are the biggest enemies of the finish. These small particles dull and slowly wear off finish, until dreaded gray “wear” areas appear. That’s why it is important to clean floors as often as necessary to keep the clean and shiny.

Daily Sweeping or Vacuuming

Invest in a high-quality broom, micro-fiber dusting pad or vacuum with soft bristles that won’t scratch the flooring. Small dirt particles accumulate quickly and can cause damage to the floor finish. Daily sweeping or vacuuming can be your best weapon for keeping floors shiny and protected. If using vacuum check that it doesn’t have a beater bar, and wheels don’t scratch the floors.

A Dusting Pad for Wood Floors
This Dusting pad has a very wide surface allowing it to pick up dust and grit quick and easy.

Weekly Mopping

Do your regular dusting with more focus on areas that are hard to reach like room corners and space below furniture. Follow with thorough wet cleaning using either mop of a pad. When mopping use mop just damp enough to wipe off a dirt, but not enough to soak the floor. Leaving puddles on floors can make wood swell on the edges where wood is not sealed. Rinse mop often, otherwise you’ll end up spreading dirt across and not removing it.

Choose the Right Cleaning Product

Rule #1 is to never use vinegar, wax, soap and oil cleaners or steam cleaners on your wood floors. Vinegar is an acid. It will gradually damage the finish that seals and protects your floor, leading to premature wear. Cleaning products that contain soap, oil or wax will leave residue that will track dirt making floor look dull and unattractive. Steam mop will force moisture into wood open scratched areas on a board surface, and into wood in between the boards, causing long-term damage and premature finish wear. This could cause a delamination of the finish from the wood or damage to the wood itself. .

We also don’t recommend using acryllic floor polishes, as they tend to build up and sheen they provide is very short-term. They can also make it impossible to apply a maintenance coat in the future.

So what can you use? Use product recommended by a finish manufacturer. Most companies that produce floor finish, also sell cleaning products.

Annual Deep Cleaning

Sweeping and mopping will keep the surface clean and pleasant. But dirt and grim can find their way in crevices of your wood floors which may not be visible to the eye, but is sure to be there.

Famous finish maker, Bona US states:

Microfiber pads, mops and vacuums are great for daily maintenance, but the dirt buried deep within the spaces of your floors and the grime that has been ground into the would just can’t be removed with these basic tools.

To perform deep cleaning consider hiring a flooring professional who owns equipment with special brushes and suction system.

Other Considerations

Pets, Claws and Accidents

Trim your pet’s nails regularly. This will both help to protect your hardwood floors and will help your four-legged friend to feel less slippery. Water and food bowls should not be placed directly onto a wood floor. Dripped water and spills will find it’s way into wood crevices eventually and cause the protective finish layer to deteriorate quicker.

When pet accidents happen, clean them quickly. Pet urine should be wiped up immediately, followed by damp rag. Urine contains acid and bacteria which can permanently stain wood.

No-Shoe Policy

Hosting guests may be very fun and rewarding, but it can wreak havoc on floors. A simple act of removing shoes will make your floors stay clean longer thus saving you time on maintenance. Be proactive. Don’t feel comfortable asking your guests to walk barefoot? Have a pair of slippers ready for them.

Teach your children the habit of removing shoes at the doorway as soon as possible, this alone will extend life of your floors greatly. When your children are playing outside, you might experience them running inside repeatedly for snacks or trips to the bathroom. Each time your child enters and exits the house, they might track dirt or sand onto the floor, which can cause scuffing and dulling.

Area rugs and mat

One of easiest and quickest ways to protect your hardwood floors is to decorate it with an area rug. Area rugs can shield your floors from dog scratches in high-traffic areas and from moisture damage in a kitchen, and do it stylishly. If you resist our advice on no shoe policy, place a door mat by front door and encourage guests wipe their feet.

Choose a right rug. Rubber-backed or non-ventilated floor mats or rugs can harm your floor. Instead use floor mats or rugs made especially for hardwood floors and be sure to shake them out regularly.

Furniture Leg-Pads

Each time you sit down on a couch or a chair, it slides just a little bit, but enough to damage the floor. And over the time aggressive wear will show in a very visible areas. Furniture pads while very inexpensive solve this problem.