Hardwood floors can add charm to any home providing a richness and natural beauty that carpet just cannot match. Wood floors are durable and will last a long time with a minimal amount of care given to keep the floors in good condition. When cleaning hardwood floors, remember that care can be broken down into three types: daily care, quarterly care, and preventative maintenance. You do not have to spend hours cleaning your hardwood floors each day – with a cleaning schedule you can provide yourself a set of guidelines to follow to ensure the best life for your floors, and allow yourself to concentrate on the other important things that must get done every day (dinner, laundry, etc).
Each day, dirt, grit, and sand are brought into the home on the bottoms of shoes, and then scattered throughout the house by normal activity. For large families, the amount of dirt and grime is greater, and is most often deposited in high-traffic areas (such as the kitchen or entryway). This grit will scratch a hardwood floor, dulling the finish. To remove the dirt and sand, sweep the floors with a soft broom about three times per week (everyday works if you’re up for it!), and vacuum regularly using the soft-bristled hose attachment. Even if your vacuum can be set for hardwood floors, the spinning bristles on an upright may damage the floor, so using the hose attachment with the soft brush is best. To catch the dirt and grime on the way in, put rugs or mats in entryways and hallways, and vacuum those regularly as well. A major enemy of hardwood floors is water, so if a beverage is spilled on the floor or a child tracks snow in, make sure to wipe up the moisture immediately (this will probably require more work during the winter months). If the beverage is sticky or sugary, wipe up the spill with a damp towel, and then dry the area with a clean cloth. If the liquid is left on the hardwood floor for a long enough time, it can seep between the floorboards and cause warping.
Unfortunately, regular sweeping still does not prevent grease and dirt build-up on a hardwood floor, so a deeper cleaning should be done every three months. Any cleaning product used on hardwoods should have a neutral pH, and one specifically formulated for wood floors is the best choice. Follow the instructions on the cleaning label, use a soft mop, and apply the cleaner/water solution sparingly. If after cleaning the wood floors feel sticky or like there is a residue, use a vinegar rinse with ¼ cup white or cider vinegar to 1 gallon of water. Mopping with regular detergents or any cleaner with ammonia can strip the finish of the floors, so carefully read labels before applying any cleaner to your hardwood floors. Floors with a wax finish (most new floors and many older do not require this because they have a polyurethane coating) will require buffing approximately twice a year; follow manufacturer recommendations on waxing and buffing. If you happen to find a spot of floor with a stain, clean with your chosen wood cleaner, rinse with the vinegar solution, and then dry with a clean towel. Rub fine-grain sand paper along the wood (following the grain) until the stain is no longer apparent. Buff with a cloth, and then apply wax or finish to protect the area.
Though daily and quarterly cleaning of hardwood floors is very important, preventative maintenance is the only way to avoid major floor issues. Hardwood floors can be dented and gouged by heavy items, so try to protect the floors from hard contact. Use felt pads under table and chair legs so that the chairs can be slid easily without scratching the floors. Never drag furniture across the wood, always pick it up instead. Also, women can dent floors with their high heels so avoid wearing shoes with a spiky or narrow heel on hardwood floors. When throwing a party, ask guests to remove their shoes. Well placed area rugs and runners can also help to protect the floor from dings and dents from routine activity. Sunlight can also damage wood floors by discoloration; if your floors are exposed to south or west facing windows, consider closing the blinds or drapes when the sun shines brightly.
With a little extra care every now and then, your hardwood floors can maintain their high quality, looking new for many years to come. With some well placed rugs, a light sweep every couple days, and a good scrub every three months, cleaning hardwood floors can be simple, and you will even have enough time to enjoy their rich beauty everyday.