Home Cleaning Tips: How To Care For Wood Floors

Tips and techniques for protecting, cleaning, and waxing hardwood floors and how to make the finish last longer.

Nothing adds warmth and elegance to a home like hardwood floors. While they look lovely, they do require a little bit of maintenance. This shouldn't dissuade you from investing in a wood floor, however. Unlike carpet, wood floors don't need to be replaced every few years, and in fact, with proper attention, they will last as long as (if not longer than) your home.

There are many different types of wood finishes. Always be sure to follow instructions for caring for your particular type of wood floor or finish. What follows are general maintenance tips for all kinds of wooden floors and finishes.

Always install floor mats at entrances and exits to rooms with wooden floors, especially if they're high traffic areas. Be sure to clean under these mats often. Dirt and sand are abrasive to wood and will scratch and dull the surface. Make sure all shoes are be thoroughly wiped on a mat, or take shoes off before entering a room with a wooden floor. It's for this reason that a wood floor should be swept regularly. It's actually recommended that wood floors be dusted or swept every day to keep away any abrasive dirt or grit. Since this isn't possible for today's busy homeowners, once-a-week should be enough to keep your floor in good condition.

It's a good idea to place protective coverings under the legs of your furniture so they won't scratch the wood. You can buy rubber casters or use felt or plastic. Your local furniture store or hardware emporium is sure to have recommendations.

When moving furniture around, always lift. Never drag furniture on a wood floor, as scratches can be left behind. High heels and cleats can also cause damage to a wood floor. If you'll be wearing this type of shoe, do try to tread lightly. If the pads on your heels are starting to wear away, it's a good idea to remove your shoe before entering the room. It's also a good idea to keep pets' claws clipped so they don't scratch the floor every time they walk through the room.

Never use a wet mop on a wood floor since standing water will dull your finish, cause water marks, warping and other damage and discoloration. Use only a slightly damp mop on a wooden floor. Oil soaps will cause a build up on the surface of your floor. If you must use soap when damp mopping, use a neutral pH cleaner specifically formulated for a wood floor. A little vinegar in the water will also help your floors shine and will remove anything that can dull the finish.

If your kitchen has a wood floor, it's a good idea to lay mats in front of the areas housing the sink, stove, dishwasher and refrigerator to protect the wood from spills and moisture. Wipe up food, water or any other spilled items immediately to prevent staining or other damage.

Once or twice a year, it's a good idea to clean your floor with a professional wood cleaning material. To find the material best suited for your type of finish, contact the manufacturer. If you go it alone, you can void any warranty you may have on your floor.

The following products should never be used on a wood floor as they will cause damage or dull the finish: ammonia, dust cleaners (such as those touted to clean wood furniture) and other common household floor cleaning products.

A humidifier should be used in homes with dry heat to maintain the moisture in the wood and minimize the cracks between the boards.

It's not a good idea to use wax on certain finishes. Also, if you wax the floor too often, it can cause a buildup and dull the shine. If you'll be rewaxing the floor, buff first. Before waxing, however, it's a good idea to check with the manufacturer to be sure waxing won't damage your particular finish.

Sunlight can cause a wood floor to fade. It's a good idea to hang drapes, or at least sheer curtains, in rooms letting in direct sunlight. Once the sun shines directly onto another area of the house, you can open your curtains again.

Do not place heaters directly onto wood floors. The heat can cause the wood to dry out. Also, if the heater is turned up too high, it can burn the floor.

Having a wood floor adds beauty and class to any home. While it does require a bit of maintenance, it doesn't require much of your time. Consider any upkeep as protecting your investment, which, with luck, will last a very long time.

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