How to Protect Hardwood Floors
Hardwood floors are both beautiful and practical, providing a timeless look and relatively low maintenance. When properly maintained hardwood flooring can easily stay looking great for decades – but just like everything else they will suffer from abuse or neglect.
This article will explore the most important things to know to keep your hardwood floors looking great for many years to come. If your hardwood floors are already looking a bit worse for wear, our hardwood floor cleaning service will make them look like new again!
Why is maintaining wood floors important?
Your wood floors are just like every other element of your home: they are easier and cheaper to maintain than to repair or replace! A few months of inattention might not cause much visible damage, but over time the impact of neglect adds up.
Eventually your floors will lose their original luster and shine as scuffs, stains, and scratches accumulate. In severe cases floors may even begin to warp, crack, or bow – possibly requiring expensive replacement or refinishing.
On the other hand, well-maintained wooden floors can be one of the most durable elements of your home, outlasting HVACs, roofs, and appliances! Protecting your investment is simple and most of the following tips are easy for homeowners to implement.
Protect high traffic areas
Floors are meant to be walked on and hardwood floors are obviously no exception to this! However, certain areas of your home are subjected to much heavier use than others, and this can lead to accelerated wear.
Your home’s entryways are one of its most heavily trafficked areas and benefit greatly from a bit of extra protection. Use floor mats (ideally inside and outside of your doors!) to limit the impact of people tromping around in shoes and be sure to clean these mats regularly to prevent dirt from accumulating.
Speaking of shoes, it’s best to implement a “No Wearing Shoes In The House” policy, as trapped pebbles and debris can scratch floors. If going shoeless indoors is too big of an ask, at least limit the impact of shoes by avoiding wearing high heels, cleats, boots, or biking shoes inside. These types of shoes put an immense amount of pressure on a small area and can easily dent or gouge new floors.
As an added benefit, studies have shown that homes where occupants remove their shoes experience less build-up of toxic pesticides or other undesirable outdoor residues. Your floors will thank you and so will your health!
Be careful when cleaning wood floors with water
A quick check online and you’ll see that water is the mortal enemy of wood floors. While this is true, the risks of using water to clean wood floors are typically overstated and hyperbolic.
It is perfectly safe to mop polyurethane coated wood floors and engineered wood floors with water – just make sure not to use too much. Use a clean, lightly damp mop. The mop should be dry enough that it does not drip when held off the ground and should leave behind only a bare trace of moisture.
Quickly clean up pooled water
While a slightly damp mop is unlikely to cause any harm to your floors, a big spill is a different story. Any spills should be quickly absorbed with a dry towel or sucked up with a wet vac.
A severe leak like those caused by a burst pipe or flooded dishwasher is bad news for your flooring and your best bet is to contact a professional to get your home dried as quickly as possible. Failure to act fast can result in major damage to your floors, causing boards to warp and may even potentially lead to mold.
Protect wood floor from pets
People with large or energetic dogs need to take some steps to protect their wood floors from harm. Keeping your dog’s nails trimmed is essential, otherwise your floors will quickly become covered in scratches and gouges.
We recommend using a dremel-style nail file instead of nail clippers as a rotary file leaves behind a much smoother nail surface. You’re less likely to hit your dog’s nail’s quick (the vein inside each nail) when using a file, but you do need to take care not to burn your pup’s feet. Press lightly when using the rotary file and switch toes frequently to allow them to cool off.
While it should go without saying, just as pooled water is bad for your floors, urine and other dog messes need to be cleaned up quickly.
Regularly clean your floors
Accumulated dust and dirt not only make your floors unpleasant to walk on, but they lead to accelerated wear. The dirt acts as an abrasive, with each step grinding the grit into your floors and causing micro-scratches. Over time this will dull your floor’s finish and may even lead to deeper scratches.
Regularly sweep or vacuum your floors to remove surface debris and prevent this damage from taking place. The frequency with which you’ll need to clean your floors will vary depending on usage and your environment, but once or twice a week is generally sufficient.
You’ll want to make sure that your cleaning tools aren’t doing more harm than good. Dust mops should be cleaned or replaced frequently and you should check the condition of your vacuum’s beater brushes to ensure they are in good condition.
Use area rugs and runners
Area rugs and runners are a great way to protect high traffic areas while adding a splash of color to a room or hallway. We recommend using a high quality rug pad to keep your rug from sliding around. Also, be sure to clean your floors before putting down the rug, as any dirt trapped underneath your rug will act as like abrasive sandpaper!
Choose the right cleaning products
When it comes to cleaning hardwood floors, you should choose your cleaning products carefully. You can find high quality hardwood cleaning products at your local hardware store or even at online retailers like Amazon. Be sure to check the product’s reviews and test the cleaner on a small, unobtrusive spot before using it all over your floors.
We’ve already discussed the dangers of using too much water, so assuming you’re not over wetting your floors, here are common cleaners to avoid using on your floors:
Vinegar and other acidic cleaners
A common ingredient in DIY floor cleaners is white vinegar, and when used in extremely dilute amounts this is probably not going to be a problem. However, polyurethane is softened by acids and thus acidic cleaners can actually cause pitting!
Glass cleaner and ammonia-based cleaners
Windex makes for streak-free and shiny glass surfaces, so why not use it on your floors? Well, one obvious reason is that your floors aren’t made of glass and glass cleaner contains harsh chemicals which will damage your floors! Only use cleaners which are specifically designed for wood floors and avoid any DIY floor cleaner recipes that contain ammonia.
Bleach is a powerful cleaner and disinfectant, but it is a bad match for all types of wood floors. You should never use bleach, even in dilute amounts, on your wood floors as it may cause permanent discoloration and staining.
Murphy Oil Soap
While Murphy Oil Soap is touted as “safe for hardwoods,” many floor restoration companies can attest to the product’s incompatibility with polyurethane coated floors. Oil soaps (not just Murphy’s!) dull the finish of your floors and can give your floors an unpleasant tacky feel that is almost impossible to get rid of without refinishing the entire floor.
Prevent damage from furniture
A common, yet entirely preventable, source of damage to floors is furniture. Whether you’re rearranging the living room or just flopping into your favorite La-Z-Boy at the end of a long day, your furniture may be leaving behind deep and permanent scrapes!
The best way to prevent this is to use furniture pads or glides whenever you’re moving your furniture. Always clean your floors first to remove any dirt which may get ground into your floors as you slide your furniture around.
Additionally, you should place felt pads under heavy furniture like tables and couches, preventing them from leaving dents. While stick-on pads are the easiest to apply, nail-on pads are less prone to falling off.
Recoat wood floors regularly
Your wood floors are topped with a thin and durable coating, usually polyurethane, which wears thin over time. After 3 to 5 years this coating will have lost its luster and your floors will appear to have a matte finish. This coating is not just for looks and actually protects the underlying wood, so it needs to be reapplied to continue protecting your floors.
There are different methods of recoating floors and certain types of finish require special treatment. We recommend speaking with a flooring specialist before attempting this as a DIY project.
Refinish wood floors when needed
Unlike recoating, which needs to be done every few years, refinishing only needs to be done if your floors have been deeply scratched or damaged. Refinishing involves sanding off the top layer wood until a smooth and even surface is obtained. This surface is then resealed, leaving the floors good as new.
Refinishing is a relatively time consuming and expensive process and we recommend trying to protect your floors as much as possible to avoid needing to do so.
Wood floors can only be refinished a limited number of times. Solid hardwood floors can be sanded down 4 or more times while engineered hardwood floors may only be able to be refinished once or twice.
If you’re tired of your hardwood floors always looking dirty, getting a professional cleaning is a great way to turn back the clock. Our professional cleaners can restore your floor’s original shine without the need for sanding or refinishing.
Once your floors are in good condition again you’ll be able to follow the advice listed above and enjoy great looking hardwood floors for years to come!