This is How to Care for Hardwood Floors & Make Them Last

Not all of us are contractors or have the ever convenient hardwood flooring expert cousin or friend of a friend. And, for those of us who own homes, we would love to magically have a few of those skills sets now and then. We need to know how to care for hardwood floors.

From major disasters (like not knowing what to do about your foundation being rotted out by termites) to smaller issues (like how to turn off the water when leaving the house for your much earned month-long vacation) knowing how to care for your home is critical. Unfortunately, hardwood flooring care is not always as “common sense” as we might like to think.

Here, we are hoping to make caring for your home a little bit easier with some helpful tips and small things you can do to ensure the quality of your hardwood flooring remains long after the kids are grown up and the dogs have gone to heaven. So if you are wondering how to care for hardwood flooring, from pine to beech to oak, this article is for you.

In most cases with caring for hardwood flooring, the little things to ensure longevity pertain to proper cleaning and regular maintenance of your home. Here are some tips to keep your hardwood floors pristine.

1. Keep Your Hardwood Floors Dry

Keep Your Hardwood Floors Dry Like the Desert

If you think you can slop water mixed with pine-sol onto your hardwood flooring when you need to clean up the dried mud stain in the living room like you are high school janitor think again. The wood will absorb the water, and you will drastically decrease the quality of your flooring when the wood begins to warp and cup or depending on the conditions possibly rot.

Instead of Mopping, Try This:

Try to stick to sweeping hardwood floors when they begin to get dirty. In high traffic areas that are at risk of getting dirty from muddy shoes or accidentally have a sticky drink spilled, get creative with your decor and put down rugs and mats in those areas. Place a rubber lattice mat underneath to avoid slipping or the rug moving out of place. If you must use a little moisture to get up a mess, use a cleaner that is formulated for hardwood and mists onto the surface, using a slightly dampened rag to help get up more stubborn messes.

While we’re on the subject, other cleaning products to avoid cleaning hardwood flooring with are:

  • Soap-Based Detergents
  • Wax-Based Detergents

These products do nothing but cloud your finish and create build up on the surface of the wood.

2. Wood Floors Require a Gentle Touch

Be Gentle With Your Hardwood Floors

Perhaps you do not enjoy mopping anyway and were planning on getting the vacuum as your cleaning implement of choice. Sure we’ve fixed the moisture issue, but most traditional vacuums have metallic elements that can easily scratch right through the finish and eventually start damaging the hardwood itself.

Instead of Vacuums and Steam Cleaners, Try This:

Invest in a microfiber cloth; it will easily attract and pick up dirt, allows access to hard to reach nooks and crannies when cleaning hardwood floors. They are wonderfully washable, so if you encounter something particularly nasty no cleaning out a vacuum bag for you, chuck it in the wash and let the bad memory of that dead beetle covered in cobwebs behind the sofa wash away too. And, most robotic vacuum cleaners are gentle enough for wood floors, so don’t be scared if this is what you’re using.

3. Get to Polishin’ Your Floors!

Polishing may sound like something you would need to call an expert in for, but nay my fellow it is simple. Just follow the instructions below and watch your hardwood flooring shine again.

How to Polish Hardwood Floors:

Think of it like when you are painting a room, except you are trying to get it on the floor.

  • Remove all the furniture in the room.
  • Give it a good cleaning just before applying the polish
  • Apply the polish with an applicator – both polish and applicator are typically readily available in most stores (polish cans give directions for what kind of applicator
  • Allow the polish to set, if there is a lot of traffic in the area plan to leave the polish to set for at least a day undisturbed before returning it to use. Places that are less frequented can be back in use typically in an hour or two.

Tips for Technique:

  • Don’t pin yourself into a corner: Make sure you are working towards the exit, not away from it.
  • To ensure evenness in the polish make sure you apply in strokes that are feathered (crisscrossed, for us non-painters). This technique also guarantees no spaces are left bald.

Polishing fills in all the cracks and scrapes from the regular wear and tear of life. Polishing hardwood floors can be done every few months or so depending on how much wear and tear the area experiences.

Strip it and Refinish it

As you learn to care for hardwood floors, one day, you may need to ask, ‘Should I refinish or replace my floors?‘ Refinishing hardwood flooring is the biggest job of our short list of little tips. But, it’s easier than replacing them.

The process of refinishing hardwood flooring isn’t impossible. Some determination, a little elbow grease, and a Saturday should get the job done.

Now, you don’t technically have to strip off the existing finish to refinish hardwood flooring, roughing it with sanding will allow the new coat to stick just fine to the existing finish. Products like polyurethane work very well for this project, though in older homes some of the waxes and finishes used won’t work with modern finishes. In that case, you are probably better off stripping it off and completely replacing it. If you are comfortable with power tools, an electric sander will be your ally in this project.

Refinishing floors yourself follows the same process as polishing does, with the addition of the sanding or stripping, depending on your needs before applying the fresh layer. Refinishing hardwood flooring only needs to be done every few years, rather than every few months.

Find out how to select the best hardwood floors for any home.