Hardwood Flooring Guide: Care & Maintenance
Natural and beautiful hardwood floors are a durable and timeless option for your home that offers lasting beauty for years. The pinnacle of luxury flooring, hardwood floors pair well with just about any décor scheme, from the traditional and contemporary to the ultra-modern. And while natural hardwood floors are near the upper end of flooring pricing, their price is justified by the aforementioned durability, life, and chameleon-like design flexibility.
All those great bonuses, however, often lead many homeowners to think their hardwood floors are like Superman: invincible and bulletproof. As if their obvious lack of a blue suit and a red cape wasn’t enough of a giveaway, hardwood floors are not the Man of Steel, and there is plenty of wood-flooring “Kryptonite” in your home, from daily dirt and scratches, to threaten their well-being.
So, let’s talk about how one keeps their hardwoods safe and maintains their durability to maximize their life, keeping them from the Legion of Doom comprised of dirt, water, dust, and mud. Ok, ok. We’ll leave the superhero metaphor behind for the rest of this piece, albeit begrudgingly.
Challenges for Hardwood Floor Care
So, despite their perceived invincibility, hardwood floors are vulnerable in a number of items that can greatly shorten their lifespan. However, as the legendary statesman and founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
That’s a great quote, but what did ole Ben really mean? And what does it have to do with hardwood floors? What it means, both in its own context and in the context of flooring in its most basic form is that if you maintain something, it will last longer. Seems so simple. Good luck with your floors, hope you enjoyed this piece, and have a good night!
Ok, not so fast. To end here would not be helpful, and we’re very helpful.
Be consistent with your preventative maintenance on those fine hardwood floors and you’ll help keep them longer. But should this really be under the heading of “Challenges”? Absolutely. Stop for a second and think about how excited you get to “maintain” anything. It’s not generally considered fun because what “maintain” really means is “clean”. And as all children learn, cleaning is a chore.
But in this case, a meaningful chore. Dirt, water, dust, and mud can be some of the most harmful things that come in contact with your floors. Through micro-scratches to the protective finish on your floors, these tiny antagonists cause damage to the wood itself, encouraging rot and even insect penetration. Put another way, they can turn even the sturdiest of wood floors into another home renovation project.
Clean Early, Clean Often
The number one way to deal with these challenges is to take up that maintenance chore and clean. Clean early, clean often. The best way to maintain your floors is to sweep and/or vacuum them daily. Cleaning up a little each day helps prevent large buildups of dirt, dust, or liquid sitting on your floors.
Additionally, you should mop your floor once or twice per week as needed. If you live in an area of the country with heavy moisture, snow in the winter, or other environmental factors, you may end up mopping more frequently to tackle the amount of dirt and liquid that could be tracked into the home.
We’ll get to more on mopping later, but as you clean early and often, it is important to clean early and often correctly. That means there is a right way and a wrong way to do this, and of course, there are “right” supplies to use and “wrong” supplies to use when cleaning your hardwood floors.
One often overlooked tool to do this correctly is information. You may need to know a bit of information about your floors. Can’t remember what you installed? Lost the paperwork? House had the floors when you bought it? Don’t worry, your flooring partners at The Good Guys can assist with a myriad of flooring questions and issues, so don’t hesitate to pick up that phone! We’ll get to how important this information is as we go through the tools of the cleaning trade.
Choose Your Tools Wisely
When planning or preparing any project, it’s a good idea to have all your supplies and tools lined up and ready. But as this is ongoing cleaning and maintenance, what are the tools and supplies?
Microfiber Dust Mop
The traditional hardwood floor cleaner tool everyone thinks of is the traditional bristle broom. Just sweep up the stuff and you’re done. But today’s technological advancements have even made the ole trusty broom less preferable than in the past. Your best weapon against the dust and grime? A microfiber broom or “dust mop”.
Similar to the big commercial dust mop your school janitor used when you were a kid, the new generation of dust mops come in home-use sizing and with efficient, tough, yet delicate microfiber dust pads for any hard surface floor, but especially great on hardwoods. And with washable and reusable dust pads, you can clean them, swap them out and not miss a day of cleaning.
The microfiber dust mop should be your day-to-day hardwood floor cleaner. It works on dust, dirt, and debris brought into or originating in your home, accumulating on your floors, and is probably the best floor cleaner in your arsenal.
Hard Surface Approved Vacuum
For a little more muscle, add some power and some suction. We’re talking vacuums, folks. Whether a traditional manual push, self-propelled, or even a floor robot, vacuums were once thought of as a tool only for carpeted floors. Not so today, a hardwood floor vacuum is becoming more and more popular as a daily cleaning tool for hardwood and other hard surface floorings.
But you should do your homework and think critically when selecting a vacuum. It is best to have a vacuum specifically for hardwood floors. Yes, this is a thing that exists. If you’re looking to use the same vacuum on your hardwood as on your carpeting, make sure you select a vacuum good for both hard and soft surfaces.
Hardwood flooring, while durable, can scratch. And often the biggest culprit is the vacuum – when used incorrectly or using the wrong model. Hardwood floor vacuums are specifically designed to eliminate the possibility of scratching the floor. Hardwood floor specific or safe vacuums have strong suction capability balanced against limited resistance. They have soft bristles or brushes in the suction head that won’t scratch floors and move freely over hardwood and other hard surface floorings – a key attribute for these vacuums. Hardwood floor vacuums do not have traditional “beater bars” or metal agitator bars, and they generally do not utilize stiff brush rolls that took the place of beater bars on many upright vacuums designed for carpet.
Additionally, hardwood floor vacuums have softer rubber or smooth plastic-coated wheels that won’t scuff or scratch. Not to be confused with the old hard plastic wheels from your mom’s scary upright vacuum. These are designed to roll easily on hard surfaces or transitions, without leaving any scratches at all. Many have the option to turn off roller brushes altogether.
Like your floors, hardwood floor vacuums will need some regular maintenance. Especially if you have pets. Pet hair consistently gets wrapped around roller brushes and in the process picks up debris and dirt that potentially could scratch the floors.
Hard Surface Approved Robot Vacuum
Another option that’s gaining popularity and one many people think is the best hardwood floor vacuum is the robot vacuum. There are several brands and great options on the market some just for hardwoods, some just for carpet, others designed for better treatment of both. There are even options that both vacuum and mop. All of these different types of robot vacuums work on similar principles. They are stored in a base that charges them while they aren’t vacuuming, then at a designated time they leave the base automatically and move around your floors, using sensors to cover the ground and avoid obstacles. In simplest terms, they vacuum for you.
Robot vacuums generally cost at minimum several hundred, and into the thousands of dollars, but they are a great option for many homeowners. One common complaint about robot vacuums, however, comes from pet owners. If the family pet has an accident on the floor, many robot vacuums cannot detect it. They roll over that mess – whether liquid or solid – and spread it throughout the room, creating more mess and odor, and potentially damaging the machine itself. All things to consider before purchasing a robot vacuum.
But when the family pet does make a mess, you’re going to need more than a dust mop or a vacuum. That’s when things get a little soapy, and hopefully a lot cleaner.
Microfiber Wet Mops
Whether it’s once or twice a week, or as a response to a mess from Fido, there’s a time when the trusty ole mop is still the best option to clean your wood floors. But while “mop” conjures mental images of yarn on a pole with a bucket full of dish soap for many people, like broom technology of the 21st century, mops have come a long way. But you need to select the right mop for your floors.
Much like bristle brooms or vacuums, mops must be hardwood floor friendly. Like their dust mop counterparts, microfiber is the leading mop material for hardwood floors. Microfiber doesn’t scratch, absorbs moisture, attracts and collects dust.
Wood Floor Cleaning Solutions
But once you have a hardwood floor friendly mop, you only have half the tools you need. You’re going to need some type of cleaning liquid, and generally speaking, anything is better than water. Water is the enemy of hardwood floors. It can rot, warp, and just plain destroy hardwood floors. So, clean up spills immediately, and if you absolutely have to use water to mop your hardwood floors, use it sparingly. Damp-mop only, not a wet mop.
But a better option is a cleaning solution and the best mop for hardwood floors. There are microfiber mops with built-in solution storage and spray dispensing options. These are great for day-to-day or weekly cleaning as well as for spot cleaning on an as-needed basis. Make sure you are using a hardwood floor friendly solution, preferably one recommended by your floor’s manufacturer.
Remember that necessary floor information we discussed earlier?! Here’s where it becomes handy. Any cleaning solution and product used incorrectly could potentially void your floor’s warranty. So, make sure you know all the information you can on your flooring – manufacturer’s warranty, date of manufacture, recommended cleaning products, chemicals that could void the warranty – anything that could potentially negatively impact your flooring or warranty. And if your flooring was finished independently of the manufacturing process, you’ll need to know the same information on the finish as you do for the flooring itself.
Additionally, if you’re looking for more natural floor cleaners there are many great options, again, if they work with your flooring per the manufacturer. Choose pH-neutral soap products or soap products that do not contain oil or other petroleum-based products. Avoid using waxes or dusting or furniture spray as these can contain chemicals and oils that will not only damage but can actually attract more dirt and debris to the floor. If you do have to use the old standby of dish soap, make sure it’s gentle, non-abrasive, and contains no chemicals that can damage the floor or the finish. And the same goes for polishing your floors! Stay away from the old standby “floor wax” and only use wood floor polish that is approved to work with your floors.
Protection from Scratches
Once you’re all clean and polished, it’s time to protect your floors. Don’t forget to take a few basic steps to protect your floors from other scratches. The main culprit in these types of scratch situations is something you probably use every day: your furniture.
Look at the bottom of any furniture leg, support, or rail that touches your floor and make sure it has a padded or scratch-resistant surface at the point of contact. Even if it is heavy and doesn’t typically move, a bump or push could cause a scratch to your floor.
If your furniture has casters or wheels, rubber caster cups can help minimize movement and prevent scratches to your floors.
Rubberized or plastic feet on chairs or couch bottoms should be checked to see if they’re scratch resistant and will work with the floor per the manufacturer. If not, felt or rubber pads can protect your flooring for years to come.
Should you encounter a scratch, look for manufacturer-recommended scratch repair pencils or even a color match scratch crayon. And remember, hardwood floors can always be refreshed and brought back to life with refinishing!
If in doubt, however, remember you always have a partner in The Good Guys to assist with all your flooring protection, cleaning, and refinishing questions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them to for all your flooring and home remodeling needs!
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