Hardwood Floor Care and Maintenance

dog laying under a table on hardwood flooring

Do you have hardwood floors in your home and not know how to maintain or clean them? You're not alone. Many people are left asking the question, "How do I keep my floors looking their best?" The answer is simple, although not necessarily obvious to most. While maintaining a wood floor might be a little more laborious than a vinyl or composite floor, the key is upkeep, namely cleaning your floor often and thoroughly - but not too thoroughly.

Many make the beginner’s mistake of cleaning their floor with agents that are too harsh, which can mar or damage a floor's finish. The result can be a nightmare. The use of harsh chemicals and abrasives can scuff, scratch, or even remove your floor's finish and gloss. When this occurs, the typical solution is to strip the floor of its remaining finish and resurface it, a process that is timely and somewhat costly. Instead, let's focus on some not-so-drastic hardwood floor care and maintenance procedures, things you can do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis to ensure the luster and beauty of your home's hardwood flooring surfaces.

1. Regular Cleaning

empty room with large windows and wood floor
Through your daily traffic in the house, you may notice that your flooring surfaces may begin to dull slightly. This is most likely as a result of residual dirt tracked into the house by your family or your pets. A good procedure to clean your floors in an efficient and proper manner is to initially sweep the area with a soft bristle broom. It is important to examine the broom's bristles before starting, as some brooms are not appropriate for some surface areas and can also scratch or mar the finish. It is best to try the broom on a small area of the floor first to ensure that it's not damaging the floor in any way.

Next, mix a solution of mild soap and water, preferably on the lighter side of the soap to ensure a non-slip surface is maintained. Using a soft sponge mop, evenly mop the entire surface area until clean, and then let the area air dry. If this procedure is maintained on a regular basis, you will certainly prolong the beauty of your floors for a very long time. Beyond this, there are other steps that can be taken less frequently that can add life and beauty to your floors, such as floor treatments.

2. Monthly Floor Treatment

Floor treatments are widely available cleaning products specifically designed to add luster and shine, all while conditioning your hardwood floors. While these products are excessive to use on a weekly basis, it is certainly reasonable to treat your floor to this process every month or so, depending on traffic, and the simple steps needed to do so are well worth the effort. Be sure to verify the contents and application procedures for your specific product, and should any questions arise, refer to your local home products retailer for further advice. Sometimes mixtures/concentrates can vary from brand to brand, so be sure to check the label for mixture directions.

Many conditioning products available today are offered in a full-strength version, which can be sprayed, either by aerosol or pump, directly onto your floor, then mopped dry with a clean dry rag or mop. It is typically in your best interest to follow your routine cleaning procedures prior to the application, to ensure that no foreign objects can be collected by the rag or mop and cause scratching or marring. Once the area is cleaned and prepped, spread the product evenly over the entire area. Work backward toward the opening of the room and gently buff the area clean. Doing this every month or so is perfectly safe for your floor's finish and will add that desired effect of longevity and beauty to your home.

3. Annual Floor Sealing

water droplets on a hardwood floor

Every year or so, it is a good idea to seal and condition your hardwood floors. This a simple procedure, completed with products that are also readily available and can be done in an afternoon. When shopping for a floor sealer, be sure to check the contents and verify there are no dyes contained in the product. While dyes may be appropriate for tinting a floor's finish, in this application, you want to retain the natural color of the floor and preserve the factory finish. Clean and prep the entire floor surface properly before getting started.

Begin sealing your floor by applying liberal amounts of bottled sealer to a localized area of the floor. With a clean mop or rag, begin brushing the sealer evenly one section at a time, and allow ample time for the sealer to dry. Once the sealer is dry, it's time to buff the area. This simple procedure consists of rubbing a clean, soft rag in a circular manner across the entire surface of the treated area. Take time during this process to step back, and try to align your sight evenly with the floor to verify that all the sealer has been properly removed and buffed out. If this is done properly, it should provide a clean, clear improvement on your floor's original finish.

Following these steps will drastically extend the life and beauty of your hardwood floor. Because every floor is different, it's always best to confer with your home improvement store professionals regarding product solutions that best fit your application. While general floor cleaner is appropriate in most cases, also be sure to check with the manufacturer of your floor’s finish before applying any chemical agents; failing to do so could adversely affect the condition and the life of the floor.

Sean O'Halloran worked for several years as a Tile and General Contractor throughout the tri-state area. After retiring from the industry, he now focuses on his professional writing career.