How to Properly Care for Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are a great addition to your home. With a long lifespan and hardy nature, these floors can last for generations when properly cared for. However, you might not know how to take care of your flooring—where do you begin?

Luckily, there are some easy steps to maintain your hardwood floors for years to come. Read on for 10 tips on how to properly care for your hardwood floors!

1. Avoid Damage

The first step to a lovely set of hardwood floors that will last for years is to avoid damage. You can accomplish this by following a few easy tips that will help prevent scratches or dents from forming, including the following:

  • Apply maintenance oils or lacquer protection often.
  • Check your shoes for metal spikes or damaging heel pieces before walking on hardwood floors.
  • Ensure that all furniture items have felt pads or protective tips attached where the unit makes contact with the hardwood floor
  • Lift furniture items instead of dragging them across the floor.
  • Remove shoes when entering the house, storing them away from the hardwood or within plastic shoe trays to contain debris and scratchy materials.
  • Use abrasive mats at all exterior doors to remove excess debris from the bottom of your shoes.
2. Keep Them Dry

Never let your hardwood floors remain wet for any period, whether due to weather, spills, or cleaning products. Soaking hardwood floors will cause the wood to swell and become deformed.

Keep your floors clean and dry as much as possible, and avoid extensive drying processes like steam that can further damage the floorboards and underlying structure. 

A common mistake in hardwood maintenance is leaving spills to dry on the floor. Instead of cleaning up messes later, make sure to clean spills immediately.

Use a dry or damp cloth to wipe up the substances, and avoid very wet cloths or mops that will cause the wood to swell and become damaged. This is especially important if the spill is a stainable substance!

3. Sweep Daily

Hardwood floors will last for decades when properly cared for, and that includes daily ministrations. You should carry out certain tasks every day to ensure your flooring remains in great condition and not damaged. 

Sweep or dust your hardwood daily. Regardless of whether you and your family wear shoes inside the house, you will find that dust forms and settles everywhere, not to mention if you have pets that shed!

Make sure that you give your floors at least a quick sweep every day to prevent the buildup of dust that can settle in cracks and cause warping or coat the hardwood surface and cause stains and other visible issues.

4. Vacuum Frequently

Weekly vacuuming is often what flooring experts recommend to keep your hardwood looking and feeling great. Make sure that you devote one afternoon per week to vacuuming all the hardwood floors in your house.

Not only will this assist with any dust-borne allergens that can plague household members, but you will cut back on the risk of scratching your hardwood floors by any hard debris or small stones being left on the surface.

5. Recognize the Warning Signs

Your hardwood floors will provide warning signs when the household environment is not conducive to healthy wood. Knowing how to spot these signs is essential to fast and proactive remedies!

If your wood floors begin to cup or bend at the edges, there is too much moisture around the wood. You will need to eliminate the source of this water to prevent severe damage. Be sure to check the humidity levels and look for leaks that are spreading water.

Alternatively, if your floors begin to show signs of splitting, cracking, or excessive gaps between the boards, it is a sign of dry conditions in the home. Try adding a humidifier that will provide moisture in the air and help your hardwood’s dryness settle out.

6. Keep Heat & Humidity In Check

Having stable conditions for your hardwood floors is important for their health and longevity, including heat and humidity in the home environment. Rooms with hardwood should be kept between 60-82℉ to avoid overexpansion of the wood slats.

Additionally, humidity in a hardwood floored home should be kept between 30-50% RH, creating a warm, dry space for you and your furnishings. If you have concerns about the humidity percentage in your home, you can measure it with a hygrometer.

7. Use the Proper Products

While cleaning your hardwood floors is crucial, cleaning the right way is even more critical. If you use improper tools to clean hardwood floors, it can lead to damage and ongoing issues with the quality and appearance of the wood.

One of the most important aspects of caring for your hardwood floors is choosing the appropriate products for cleaning and maintenance. Different finishes will need different treatments and supplies, so you should determine your hardwood type first.

There are some general rules for selecting cleaning products for hardwood floors. Never use harsh chemicals or incredibly abrasive supplies on wood—chemicals can leave a haze or vaguely gummy residue or even scald more delicate wood types.

You should try to use only hardwood cleaners on such surfaces, as the formula is specially designed to promote hardwood floors’ health and longevity. Never use vinyl or tile floor cleaners on your hardwood floors. 

If you have engineered hardwood in your home, select cleaning products especially for that flooring. Laminate cleaners can be used on engineered floors but can cause damage if used wrong.

Or, you can even make your own cleaners for an organic option. Water and lemon juice can be successful cleaning agents that will leave behind a lovely scent, or a mixture of water and vinegar can be used to scrub stains as a natural cleaner.

No matter what products you use, be careful. Avoid using a significant amount of water or other liquid on your hardwood floors during cleaning, as this can lead to over-saturation and warping. Damp-mopping with diluted cleaning products is just fine, but make sure you dry the surface after cleaning it.

8. Recoat or Refinish the Floors

Once you notice hardwood floors beginning to wear down, you should act quickly and recoat them. Luckily, you don’t need to sand down your floors to recoat them—simply add a coat of finish to clean floors and protect them for another few years!

Sometimes recoating is not an option or will not give you your desired look—that is where refinishing floors come in. It may seem like a daunting task, but you can refinish hardwood floors yourself over a weekend! Evaluate the condition of your floors, and if they need to be sanded or buffed, you can easily rent this equipment at a local hardware store and refinish the surfaces.

9. Fix Scratches & Grooves With Wood Repair Kits

Floors are in use daily, and scratches or light damage can be inevitable. But you can take steps to mitigate the damage and treat surface scratches as they appear to improve the health and appearance of your hardwood floors.

If your hardwood floors do become marred, it’s not the end of the world! Invest in wood repair kits that will help you fix the damage that occurs to your flooring. These kits use filler to repair any grooves or deep scratches, topped with wax to match the floor color.

10. Remove Stains

Even if your floor appears to be stained, you can fix their appearance yourself. If the stain is on the surface, wiping it away with proper cleaning products should be sufficient, but if it has permeated deeper, you will need a more potent remedy, like the following:

  • Dark Spots or Pet Stains—Rub gently with No. 002 steel wool and light floor wax, and if the stain persists, try a mixture of bleach or vinegar with water and allow it to soak for an hour before removing with a damp cloth.
  • Heel Marks—Rub gently with very fine steel wool until the scuff has been buffed away.
  • Oil-Based Stains—Apply dish detergent to the stain and rub with a soft cloth before rinsing down with clean water. Repeat until the stain is gone, and then smooth out with light sandpaper once dry.
  • Watermarks or White Stains—Gently apply No. 000 steel wool and floor wax to the area to remove the stain, and if it persists, use fine sandpaper to remove the top layer and clean it with mineral spirits.

Properly caring for your hardwood floors may seem tedious, but it will be worth it in the end when you have stunning floors for years to come.

For more helpful tips on how to properly care for your home, check out simple roof repair tips.

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