Hardwood floors are an excellent investment for any home, promoting resale value and interior warmth. However, if the floors are not properly cared for, this investment won’t yield as well. Hardwood floors are not hard to maintain, and compared with carpet and other surfaces that are more difficult to clean or require replacement, hardwood floors can be considered relatively low maintenance. But proper care is essential to keep the floors in good shape, and to give them a nice shine.
As with all flooring, hardwood floors must be cleaned, but they must be cleaned correctly. The correct way to clean urethane-stained floors is to mop them with a damp mop. Using vacuum and bristle brooms daily will help keep the floor clean. But when it comes time to really clean the floor, use a damp mop. Allowing dirt and grime to collect on the floor, and walking on this grime over as period of time can damage the finish. Using a small amount of water shouldn’t hurt the finished wood, but don’t pour out water and mop it like you would with kitchen tile. A damp mop or dust rag is all that should be needed, and it should be light enough in water that it will dry in minutes. Be sure to understand what type of finish your floor has, and what the suggested cleaning methods are. Using soaps and oils can void manufacturer warranties on many floors.
Another way to protect hardwood floors is to use throw rugs or walk-off mats in areas of high traffic. For example, in the entry way where people come in through the house, the traffic is likely to be greater in an isolated spot, and thus the floors will wear unevenly in this spot. This would make a great place for an area rug. Watch your floors over time, and consider putting some sort of rug or other type of protection on areas that receive more wear. It is especially important to use rugs on wood floors in kitchens in front of sinks and stoves.
Floor protectors on the bottom of furniture is highly recommended. You will want to pay special attention to rolling chairs with rubber wheels like those often found in offices. These chairs have a tendency to leave rubber trails on the wood floors. If you have such a chair, consider putting a rug underneath it.
There are two primary finishes on hardwood floors: urethane finishes and wax. You should never wax a urethane finished floor. If your urethane floor is extremely worn, you may need to refinish it which will involve sanding and applying sealer. However, if you clean the floor regularly, using only soaps recommended by the manufacturer, and you protect problem areas, you should avoid needing to refinish the floor for many years.
Wax floors require occasional waxing. It really isn’t a lot different than cleaning and waxing your car. You will need to clean the floors first, and buff areas that are worn with high traffic. Occasionally, you will need to buff on additional wax in the worn areas. With wax finished, just as with urethane finishes, you should know the manufacturers recommended care procedures.
With proper maintenance, your hardwood floors should last for the lifetime of your house, and look shiny and new for many years.