How to Take Care of Hardwood Floors

Person using an orange microfiber cloth to wipe down wood floor

After putting in brand-new hardwood floors, you can expect years of use out of them before worrying about refinishing or replacement. However, there are still plenty of basic maintenance and cleaning tasks recommended to keep the wood as beautiful as possible over the years of use. With the right care routine for your hardwood floors, they may still be in use 50 years from now with only minimal wear and tear. Some of these tips involve changing your use of the floor, while others are more traditional cleaning and maintenance chores.

Control Tracked-in Dirt and Moisture

Focus on the front doormat looking into an open front door and hallway with wood floors

Keeping dirt out of the house and off of the hardwood floors is one of the best preventative practices. Each grain of sand, tiny bit of rock, or dirt particle that gets tracked in slowly wears away the surface of the wood. This removes the protective sealant layer and allows the wood to become scratched and worn-looking. Many people who are obsessive about watching out for pet claws, sharp kids’ toys, and furniture without pads miss out on the risk of scratching from plain dirt. Implementing a shoes-off policy for the house and putting floor mats down around exits and entrances go a long way in protecting hardwood floors.

Deal with Spills Without Delay

A bowl of spilled cereal all over wooden floor with bowl overturned

Hardwood floors aren’t the most moisture-sensitive flooring options, but spills even of pure water should be dried up as soon as possible. Letting any moisture stand on the floor runs the risk of discoloration, warping, and long-term damage. Colored liquids like soda, wine, or tomato sauce can permanently stain the wood in a way that is hard to remove, even with refinishing. Even if the sealant product used on the wood claims to be stain-blocking, make sure to remove all spilled liquids as quickly as possible.

Sweep or Dry-mop Daily

Person crouched using a handheld brush to sweep up dust bunnies into a small dust pan

Whether you prefer to vacuum, sweep, or use a dry-mop to pick up dust and dirt, try to do it on a daily basis. Grabbing a cleaning tool and spending a few minutes removing as much dirt as possible help reduce wear and tear on the floor to keep it looking good for years. Even when properly sealed, wood has grain and pores that pick up dirt over time. Footsteps push this dirt down into the grain and grooves of the wood, making it appear dirty even after mopping and cleaning until only refinishing fixes the problem. Committing to daily sweeping or vacuuming in at least the highest traffic areas will make a big difference in the floor’s condition and appearance between refinishing. Spare rooms and other rarely used areas won’t need that much attention, only cleaning when used or at least once a month.

Mop at Least Once a Year

Mop with wet wooden floors

Some hardwood floor owners believe they need to mop weekly or monthly to keep dirt from discoloring their floors, but this may be too much moisture exposure for most varieties of wood. In contrast, some people are too afraid to ever wet-mop wood. Yet, it’s not a problem when used occasionally for almost any type of solid hardwood flooring. Daily sweeping or vacuuming means that most hardwood floors will only need full mopping once a year or so. Homes with kids and pets may benefit from being mopped twice a year. As long as you time the chore for a dry period of the year and use a hardwood-approved cleaning fluid with the right amount of water, there should be no chance of damage from mopping at least once a year to pick up the dirt that makes it into the grain of the wood.

Refinish Regularly

Refinishing harwood floors with a push brush with a stain sponge on the end

Don’t just recoat with sealant or wax over and over again without a deeper refinishing effort. Failure to remove the existing coatings and to sand the boards will only leave a layer of dirt and debris trapped between the grain of the wood. There’s no need to deeply or completely refinish; just focus the buffing and sanding on high traffic spots that are showing age, wear, or stains. Aim to refinish the floors every 5 to 10 years, depending on the material installed and the traffic in the home. Waiting longer than 10 years to refinish the wood will only leave it looking permanently worn as the damage spreads beyond just the surface.

With care, high-quality hardwood flooring can last through multiple generations of a family. Even softer woods like pine can last over a decade while looking great with the right care. Make sure to invest in tools for caring for your hardwood floor and refinishing it regularly, such as orbital sanders, floor polishers, and durable sealants.

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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