Within your home, the floors are one of your biggest investments. Whether it’s carpet, tile or hardwood floors, the impact of properly maintaining them can be dramatic. Today, we’ll focus on the hardwood floors in your home.
Protect Your Hardwood Investment:
Before you can adequately maintain & protect your floors, you need to know what type of flooring material you have and the type of surface coating. This little knowledge will greatly assist you in fighting the 5 biggest enemies that cause premature and possibly permanent damage to your beautiful floors.
- Is the hardwood a solid wood material, engineered flooring, or laminate?
- Is the top finish urethane, oil based, waxed, or photo/laminate?
It’s not exciting. You may not want to spend time researching it, but spending a few minutes to read the manufacturers warnings and maintenance guidelines is critical. This will give you understanding of warranties, guarantees, and limits of liability. If you don’t have the owner’s manuals, contact the installation contractor or retail store that you worked with when buying your floor, or ask Diablo Carpet and Flooring Restoration for help.
Your Floor has 5 Natural Enemies
Foot traffic is how dirt gets on flooring. Limit dirt by using area rugs, walk-off mats, and vacuuming regularly. Microfiber mop/dusting will also reduce the likelihood of dirt abrasions, scratching and premature wear in high traffic areas. Yes, dirt is just like tiny sand. It’s abrasive and damages floors.
It’s not possible to prevent floors from getting dusty. If you have animals, it’s worse. It’s an appearance issue, but can become a health issue for people with allergies too. Regularly vacuuming and dusting the floors and changing HVAC filters is a must. Area rugs, runners and walk-off mats help with trapping dust and dirt.
Spills are inevitable. The quicker you absorb or remove them, the less likely they’ll cause damage. Hot drinks and pet urine/feces are especially damaging. Spills can cause discoloring or heat damage that affect surface appearances. The first step is to immediately absorb or remove the spilled solution with a clean damp cloth. Then, depending on the size of the spill, you may need to contact a professional cleaner to clean or treat the affected area.
Like any liquid, water can cause damage to hardwood floors. This is especially true in high water exposure areas like bathrooms and kitchens. Moisture can cause floor boards to swell, cup and contract. If you have pets, periodic inspection of litter boxes, area rugs, runners, mats, and other pet favorite areas is a good idea. Water damage can be very expensive to correct, so prevention is key. Regularly check under area rugs, mats and runners to ensure there’s no moisture present.
If parts of the hardwood floor are consistently exposed to sunlight, they can become discolored. To protect your hardwood from sunlight, use drapes or blinds on windows. Cover areas of the floors that get exposed to sunlight with rugs, mats or even furniture.
Protect Your Hardwood Floors
Now you’ve identified the type of hardwood floor material and the manufactures recommendation for regular cleaning and maintaining, right? If you haven’t yet, spend a minute reading the manufacturer’s and installer’s recommendations. There is normally a “curing” period for new hardwood floor installations that can take upward of three months. Once you know about all that, we’re ready to begin good maintenance practices.
The Cleaning Kit to get you started:
We recommend the following supplies for your basic hardwood floor maintenance:
- Bona- Bona has a series of supply kits and cleaning supplies to help you with all of your hard floor maintenance. Many of these can be purchased either through Amazon or at your local home store retailer. If difficult to find, contact a local floor cleaning company for more information. We recommend:
- The Professional Bona Hardwood Floor Care Kit. This package has a mop handle for micro fiber products, micro fiber mop, Micro fiber Duster, and Bona Hard floor cleaner.
- If you have Oiled or Wax sealed floors you will want to use a cleaning solution designed for this surface. Behlen products are designed for the cleaning and protection of sealed and oiled wood flooring.
- Costco distributes a Whole Home Surface Protection Kit, that includes felt pads and furniture movers. This is a wonderful and affordable 268 piece kit.
Regular Cleaning Goes a Long Way
A light wiping of the floors with a microfiber duster or mop is the easiest and best way to maintain the cleanliness of the floor without damaging the wood surface.
Weekly vacuuming, with a non-beater bar style vacuum, goes a long way for the removal of dust and dirt.
Inspecting rugs for moisture related damage, such as pet urine or spills is also wise. Sneaky moisture can be deposited on are area rug or mat and unknowingly leak to the underlying floor. The sooner you find the damage, the less costly the repair.
A note of caution: when applying a cleaning or “spotting” solution to an area rug place a piece of plastic or cloth between the rug/runner/mat and the hard wood floor. Do not trust that a rug pad will shield the moisture from the hard floor. It won’t.
Aside from dragging furniture across our floors, our four legged friends can be the next biggest culprit in scratching hardwood floors. Keeping their nails clipped short and filed smooth will reduce the likelihood of deep scratches. Their claws can really ding up wood floors, especially if it’s a large or heavy breed dog. Cat claws can cause damage to your flooring as well, so consider using claw caps to prevent this from happening. This protects your furniture too.
Placing felt pads on the bottom of chairs, sofas, and tables will also help. This prevents scratches and scuffs that happen when furniture is moved or shifts. Felt pads are available in stick-on versions or tap-in style, and they are an easy and inexpensive way to protect your floors. When moving furniture, try to lift up to move instead of pushing or dragging. This prevents deep scratches.
If it’s too late and the scratch has happened, you can try commercially available color-match pens or crayons. For people who are a little more risk-averse, allow professional flooring restorers to handle it.
Choose the Proper Vacuum for Hardwood Floors
Choosing a vacuum designed with a feature for cleaning hardwood floors is essential. There are some vacuums on the market that do a good job cleaning carpet and hard surfaces. Carefully check the specifications and features of any vacuum cleaner you consider, especially the safety features provided to prevent damage through scratching. Consider vacuums that come with attachments for cleaning underneath furniture. This minimizes the need to move furniture, minimizing scratch risks, too.
Choose Cleaning Products Carefully
When cleaning your hardwood floors, you’re not actually cleaning the wood, but the top coat of finish on the wood. Remember that you can’t permanently change the wood’s top coat appearance through maintenance processes. Waxing, top refresher coats, and other promoted chemical coats are at best a temporary solution. It we want more or less luster or shine, you should consider sanding and refinishing.
What to Avoid:
- Stay away from vinegar, even if it’s diluted with water. Vinegar is an acid and can etch the top coating of your hardwood.
- Avoid use of vacuums with beater bars.
- Don’t use oil-based cleansers.
- Don’t use wax, polish or strong ammoniated products, which can dull your floor’s finish.
- Stay away from steel wool, scouring powders or other abrasive cleaners, which can scratch or damage your floor’s finish.
- Avoid washing or wet-mopping the floors with soap, water, detergent oil-soap, or any other liquid cleaning material. This can cause swelling, warping, delamination and joint-line separation. The residual of water/moisture will damage the surface and edges of the wood and likely leave water spotting and a dull hazy finish.
- Don’t use of any type of buffing or polishing machine.
To Successfully Maintain Hardwood Floors:
- Use a soft cloth to blot spills and spots as soon as they happen. Always avoid allowing liquids to stand on your hardwood floor.
- Sweep, dust or vacuum the floor regularly. If vacuuming, use a hard floor attachment to avoid scratching or dulling your floor’s finish
- Only use cleaning products that are recommended by the manufacturer or installer. Know for sure what cleaners are safe for your floors, or contact a floor cleaning professional in your area to get help and advice on what kind of cleaners would be best for your home.
- It’s important to always be cautious about what cleaners are used on your wood floors. There are a number of products that claim to be safe for hardwood floors, but can actually damage floors instead, by stripping off the finish and dulling the shine of your hardwood.
Implement a Maintenance Schedule
Wood floors need regular maintenance to keep their luster, shine, and durability. Aside from cleaning hardwood regularly and properly, you should also plan on lightly sanding and recoating floors with an additional layer of finish every 5 to 7 years. Hardwood floors with a protective layer of wax will likely need to be stripped and a new layer of wax applied once a year or so.
When cared for properly, hardwood floors can last for generations as a beautiful addition to the home. If a house cleaning service is used, make sure they’re provided with instructions and products to properly clean and maintain our floors. Being cautious about how we clean our floors, careful about how we treat them day-to-day, and consistent with a cleaning maintenance schedule can help prolong the life of our floors and keep them looking bright and new.
Whenever you’re not sure what to do to care for your floors, contact Diablo Carpet and Flooring Restoration for help.