Importance of Maintenance
Unlike most floor coverings, wood floors are a long-term investment, which if correctly maintained, will last as long as the home. Fortunately for consumers, today’s wood floors offer a wide spectrum of product options that are easy to maintain. Unlike olden days, when people had to get down on their knees to buff their wax floors, taking care of wood floors today requires little effort. The routine maintenance involves protecting the finish from scratches and moisture. If consumers avoid both of those things, they've got a handle on most of their wooden floor care.
All Wooden Floors Maintenance
While specific finish types may require different maintenance, some guidelines apply to the care of all wooden floors:
Floor protector pads should be installed on the bottom of all furniture legs before furniture is placed onto the wooden floor
• Place rugs at all entrances. They help trap grit and absorb moisture before either one has a chance to damage the finish. (Check with the finish manufacturer for when these can be placed—usually they should not go down on the floor for at least seven days, sometimes for even more than 21 days after the finish is applied)
• Rugs should be taken out, cleaned and thoroughly dried when they get wet.
• Take special precautions with non-skid pads that are frequently placed under area rugs. These pads may imprint their pattern onto the finish and/or wood floor. (Natural fibers may not transfer as much as synthetic pads)
• Be aware that area rugs often cause color differences in the floor due to differences in light exposure.
• Expect the floors to shrink and expand with changes in humidity, sometimes leaving small gaps between boards. To minimize changes, humidity control in the home is recommended.
• Routine basic maintenance includes sweeping, vacuuming and/or dust-mopping to remove dirt and grit. (Use only vacuums that have a hard-surface setting). The more that dirt and grit are allowed to accumulate, the more they will be tracked over the floor, leaving scratches. Floors should be cleaned immediately before and after a major event.
• Some manufacturers recommend lightly damp-mopping a floor, while others do not.
• Household dust treatments should never be used.
• All shoes, especially high heels, should be kept in good condition—if they lose their protective cap, they will dent the surface of any floor.
• Nails of your pets ought to be trimmed regularly.
• Be especially attentive to potential spill areas, such as dishwashers, sinks, ice makers and stove tops. Other potential problem spots include household plants and Christmas tree stands.
These are some of the basic guidelines for all wooden floors. For information specific to finish types, read the following sections.What to Use?It is important to educate the consumers on exactly which directions to follow and which products to use while caring for their wood floors. Although Mr. Smith may use cleaning product X, his floor may have a different finish from Mrs. Brown’s finish next door.
- For factory-finished wood floors, consumers should follow the directions of the flooring manufacturer as to which cleaning products to use. This is extremely important because not following those directions may void the manufacturer’s warranty of the wood floor.
- Consumers with floors that were finished at the job site should follow the maintenance directions of the floor finish manufacturer.
- Using a non-recommended product to clean the floor may ruin the appearance of the finish, and it also may cause problems down the road when it is time for the floor to be re-coated.
Maintenance tips specific to surface-type finishes (water-based urethane, oil-modified polyurethane, conversion varnish, moisture-cured urethane and the finishes on most factory-finished floors) include:
- As with any wooden floor, follow a program of sweeping and vacuuming to eliminate as much dirt and grit as possible, and remember that moisture should not come in contact with the floor. If it does, it should be wiped off immediately.
- Always use the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning products, which will not leave a contaminating residue on the floor. If you do not know the manufacturer of the wood floor or the finish, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner available from a local wood flooring professional.
- Most warranties from finish manufacturers and factory-finished wood flooring manufacturers are voided by the use of oil soap cleaners.
- Wipe up spills immediately with a lightly dampened cloth, and then use a recommended cleaning product.
- For stubborn stains, lightly dampen a soft cloth with a recommended hardwood floor cleaning product. Apply directly to the stain and repeat as necessary.
- Never use a wax finish on top of a surface finish.
- Using steam or excessive water may damage the wood floor.
- When the floor loses its luster, there are ways to revive the floor. A professional topcoat dressing may revive the floor’s appearance. However, that is not a substitute for a re-coat using a chemical or mechanical re-coating.