How to Care for Hardwood Floors

By Ellen Gefen

No matter what your style is, hardwood floors go with any décor. They can be at once timeless and classic, or contemporary and chic. When you first glimpse a hardwood floor, you immediately sense its richness, warmth, and natural beauty. Once you live with your hardwood floors, you’ll get to know its distinctive personality – from its visual harmonies, to the traces of its history in the forest and now in your home.

Hardwood floors aren’t a one-size-fits-all purchase. You can choose from a wide variety of hardwood flooring, such as oak, maple, and cherry. These are the most popular types of wood to use for the simple reason that they are among the hardest woods. Other options include walnut, ash, mahogany, and even bamboo (even though it’s technically a grass), reported DIY Network. Typically, hardwood flooring is made from all wood (not compressed together like engineered hardwood floors), and comes in 5/8 to ¾ inches thick. Choosing a plank width is really a personal choice and depends on your style.

What’s great about hardwood floors is that, for the most part, they don’t require a lot of care, but offer a lifetime of value, beauty, and style for your home. Nature’s diversity lets you create dramatic looks with unique textures, colors, patterns and styles of hardwood flooring. So when you’re thinking about installing hardwood flooring, learn these tips to understanding and caring for your fabulous floors. 

1. Go With The Grain

A gorgeous grain can make or break your decision to purchase specific hardwood floors. According to Architectural Digest, logs are cut in three different patterns (plain-sawn, rift-sawn, and quarter-sawn), so you should look at all the patterns to determine which one you like the best. Maybe your taste leans towards a bold-textured oak, or a subdued maple or cherry. Look through some flooring design sites to see which style suits you.

2. Note Its Condition

Hardwood floors last for many years. That’s why you should check the condition of the wood and finish of an existing hardwood floor before you decide to purchase a new one. There might be signs of neglect that can be erased with some sanding and staining. Or perhaps you see a well-tended surface that needs just a light touch to maintain it.

3. Protect Your Solid Investment

Hardwood floors are among the easiest to keep clean. But first, be sure to know how to prevent damage to your hardwood floors with simple, everyday cleaning techniques that will preserve—and not damage—your floors.

4. Ditch The Dirt

Dirt, grit, and sand are your hardwood floors worst enemies. They can act like sandpaper on the finish, causing scratches, dents and dulling. To avoid bringing additional dirt and damaging agents into your home, place floor mats at entrances to trap dirt and prevent damage.

5. Watch The Water

Let’s say that you drop a glass of water on the floor. A quick cleanup won’t do any real damage to your floors—but standing water will. In fact, standing water can warp a poorly finished hardwood floor and can damage the finish. Simply wipe up all spills as they happen, and avoid allowing water to pool on your hardwoods, such as by plants that may be on the floor.

6. Be Careful With Cleaners

If possible, try to avoid oil soaps. They can cause a build up and create problems when it’s time to put a maintenance coat on the floor. Instead, neutral pH cleaners made specifically for wood floors are a safer option.

7. Avoid Dragging Furniture

If you thought that you could drag that couch across the floor without doing any damage, think again. Furniture that’s moved can create scratches and deep grooves that might be hard to fix. So if you want to shift the sofa to another location, lift it— and avoid dragging. If the piece of furniture is too heavy to lift, felt pads under the legs will help safely move it and prevent scratches.

8. Vacuum With Care

Although a good sweeping and mopping can keep your hardwood floors clean, you might opt to use a vacuum. If you do, vacuum with a brush attachment, which is kinder to your floors than vacuuming with the beater bars.

9. Stay Away From The Sun

Direct sun can brighten up any room, but it can also discolor your hardwood floor, too. If you know that a particular part of the house gets a lot of sun at certain times of the day, you can always close the curtains and blinds to protect from the sun’s intense UV rays. Not going to be home? Use sheer drapes to allow light in without warping the wood.

10. Commit To Regular Care

With proper care, your hardwood floors can offer many years of enjoyment. Start by sweeping them frequently. But be sure to use a broom with soft bristles that can trap dust and dirt but won’t run the risk of scratching them in the process. Again, canister vacuums with special bare floor attachments are the surest way to get rid of all the dirt and dust. Finally, use a good-quality dust mop — one with a 12- to 18- inch cotton head — and a special dust mop treatment. Spray the treatment onto the mop head 12 to 24 hours before dust mopping.

Hardwood floors are the most desirable type of high quality flooring.  You’ll enjoy your beautiful hardwood floors much longer by following these simple tips.