Tips for Cleaning and Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors add warmth and elegance to a home. Their timeless beauty is a major selling point for buyers and homeowners, but these beautiful floors often come with hands-on maintenance. This comprehensive guide covers all aspects of cleaning hardwood floors properly as well as maintaining hardwood floors to keep them looking fantastic.

Table of Contents

Dust Mopping

Dust Mopping

Dust-mopping is a crucial step in maintaining the beauty and integrity of hardwood floors. Even tiny particles of dirt, grit, and debris can act like sandpaper, gradually scratching and dulling the floor’s finish with foot traffic over time. Dust-mopping picks up this abrasive sediment before it can cause damage. 

For homes with light foot traffic, weekly dust-mopping is recommended. But in high-traffic areas or homes with pets or children that can track in more dirt, you’ll want to dust-mop more frequently – potentially every couple of days. Getting into this regular habit is key to preventing scratches, keeping floors spotless between full cleanings, and extending the lifespan of your hardwood floors.

For dust-mopping, opt for a professional microfiber mop treated with a dusting agent or liquid to help attract and trap dirt, dust, and hair. Avoid cotton mops that can grind particles into the floor.

The key to dust mopping properly is to work in sections, going over the floor with the microfiber dust mop using straight, overlapping strokes. Be sure to rinse or replace the mop head frequently when it becomes soiled to prevent redistributing dirty residue back onto floors

Regular light dust-mopping is much easier than periodic heavy-duty cleaning. Using the proper tools and maintaining this simple routine is key for retaining your hardwood’s elegant look long-term.

Cleaning

While dust-mopping removes surface debris, periodic deep cleaning with a hardwood floor cleaning solution is necessary to dissolve stuck-on grime and restore shine. For lightly-used floors, a thorough cleaning every 1-2 months should suffice. In high-traffic homes, cleaning with a hardwood floor cleaner monthly or even bi-weekly may be required.

For a deep clean, start by thoroughly dust-mopping or vacuuming up any loose debris. Then, use a hardwood floor cleaning product specifically formulated to be gentle yet effective.

Dip a cloth or flat mop head into the cleaning solution and wring out well, so it’s just damp – not sopping wet. Working in sections, mop the floor using long, overlapping strokes and rinse the mop frequently in clean solution.

Allow the floor to fully air dry before walking on it. Never let puddles or excessive moisture remain, as this can seep between planks and cause warping and discoloration. With the right cleaning solution and moist-only application, your hardwoods will be left sparkling clean and revived.

Polishing

Regularly polishing hardwood floors helps restore their vibrant shine and protective seal over time. For high-traffic areas, polishing every 6 months is recommended. Lighter-use rooms may only require an annual polishing. This crucial step buffs away microscopic scratches and replenishes the wood’s luster for enduring beauty.

Shiny Wood Floor

After thoroughly cleaning the floor, allow it to fully dry. Then, using a microfiber mop, apply a thin, even coat of hardwood floor polish in overlapping sections. Allow 5-10 minutes for the polish to partially cure.

Next, buff the floor using a high-speed floor buffer fitted with a polishing pad attachment. Work in the direction of the wood grain using firm, overlapping strokes. The friction will heat and bond the polish, filling in microscratches.

Once buffed, the floors will have a rich, renewed luster. Avoid walking on the polished area for at least 8 hours to allow it to fully cure. Routine polishing every 6-12 months, depending on use, will keep hardwoods spotless.

For best results, use a polish formulated specifically for hardwood floors that contains polyurethane to revive the protective topcoat.

Refinishing

Hardwood floors will inevitably become worn and dull over years of use, no matter how well maintained. Refinishing involves sanding down to bare wood and applying new stain and protective sealants. This restores hardwoods to a beautiful like-new condition when cleaning and polishing no longer revive the floors.

Whether or not you can refinish a floor at all depends on the thickness of hardwood planks. Solid hardwood floors have a thick wear layer, typically allowing for refinishing 4-5 times before the wood becomes too thin. Engineered hardwood with a thin veneer layer may only permit 1-2 refinishings before replacement is necessary.  Thus, refinishing can only be done a limited number of times.

While refinishing hardwood floors yourself is possible, it’s usually best left to professionals. The process involves renting heavy equipment, skillful sanding to an even level, proper stain application, and multiple coats of durable sealant. Hiring experienced floor refinishers ensures the job is done efficiently with long-lasting results and no damage to the wood.

What to Avoid:

Wood floors are susceptible to various forms of degradation.  Being careful about what you put on your floor is a vital part of maintaining hardwood floors.  Here are some potentially damaging elements for your wood floor.

Water Exposure

Water On Floor

Water damage is one of the biggest threats to hardwood floors. Even small amounts of moisture can seep between planks and cause disastrous effects like cupping, crowning, buckling, and discoloration. Water exposure often comes from spills that aren’t cleaned up promptly, humid conditions, leaks from appliances or plumbing, or improper cleaning with excessive water.

Common signs of water damage include raised planks, white hazing on the finish, dark stains, and a general warped or bubbled appearance. If left unchecked, the wood can rot, grow mold and mildew, and may require costly repairs or replacement. That’s why it’s crucial to wipe up spills immediately, maintain proper home humidity levels, identify and fix any leaks, and always use hardwood-approved cleaning methods that avoid over-wetting the floors. Preventative measures go a long way in protecting this precious investment.

Here are some cleaning practices that can potentially damage hardwood floors due to excess water:

  • Using a traditional mop and bucket with standing water
  • Applying too much cleaning solution that puddles on the floors
  • Steam cleaning or using a steam mop
  • Using a wet rag or cloth that leaves the floors overly saturated
  • Improper rinsing that leaves floors soaked
  • Cleaning floors with excessive amounts of water

Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals like ammonia, bleach, and multi-purpose cleaners can wreak havoc on hardwood floors. These products can dull finishes, remove protective sealants, and even discolor the wood itself over time. Sticking to specialized hardwood floor cleaners with safer, wood-friendly ingredients is crucial to maintaining floors in pristine condition.

Sunlight

Excessive direct sunlight exposure can cause hardwood floors to fade, discolor, or develop unsightly dry, bleached spots over time. Using window coverings during peak sun hours and rearranging furniture periodically can help prevent this type of UV damage.

Pet Mischief

Pets can take a toll on hardwood floors through scratches from nails, stains from accidents, and ground-in dirt and hair. Keeping nails trimmed, using puppy pads and rugs, and frequent cleaning help minimize damage. Placing felt pads on furniture legs also prevents additional scratches.

Tracked Dirt

Dirt, debris and small rocks tracked in from outside can do serious long-term damage to hardwood floors. This gritty sediment acts like sandpaper as it’s ground into the wood with foot traffic, gradually scratching and dulling even the hardest finish coatings over months and years of wear.

Protecting Hardwood From Deterioration

Protecting hardwood floors from dirt, moisture, sunlight and other hazards is essential for preserving their beauty. Start by using door mats and area rugs in entryways and high-traffic zones to trap dirt and grit. Rearrange furniture periodically to prevent sun fading. Use felt pads under chairs and furniture legs to avoid dents and scratches.  For pets, keep nails trimmed and use training pads.  Be diligent about dust mopping regularly as well.

When it comes to moisture, it’s crucial to wipe up spills immediately, maintain proper home humidity levels, identify and fix any leaks, and always use hardwood-approved cleaning methods that avoid over-wetting the floors.

With some basic preventative steps and good cleaning habits, hardwood floors can maintain their stunning looks for decades. It’s a small effort for protecting such a valuable investment.

By following the proper cleaning routines, maintenance strategies, and preventative measures outlined in this guide, your hardwood floors will retain their gorgeous looks for years to come. With some diligent yet simple care, you can preserve the warmth, elegance, and value that hardwood floors bring to a home. Invest the small effort for stunning, long-lasting results.

Visit the AAA+ Flooring Booth!

AAA+ Flooring will be at the following fine home shows in the north-west valley this weekend! Come out and see us!

SCW Market Place
13724 W. Meeker Blvd Sun City West, AZ 85375

Friday, December 8⋅10:00am – 2:00pm

Trilogy at Vistancia Market Place
27980 N Trilogy Blvd, Peoria, AZ 85383

Saturday, December 9⋅10:00am – 1:00pm
Westbrook Village Second Sundays Marketplace
19251 N Westbrook Parkway Peoria, AZ 85382

Sunday, December 10⋅9:00am – 1:00pm
Home Show Booth

Visit the AAA+ Flooring Booth!

Come out and visit with the AAA+ Flooring Crew, in the big tent, just inside the North Entrance!

Explore flooring styles, and materials, as well as full bath renovations!  We’ll see you there!