The Ultimate Guide to Hardwood Floor Cleaning & Maintenance

The ultimate guide for hardwood floor cleaning & maintenance is built for the two most common hardwood finishing types: Polyurethane and Oil.  While we have done our best to sort through manufacturer’s guides so you wouldn’t have to, it is always a good idea to double check with the manufacturer guide for recommendations and warranty information.

1. Maintenance

Daily Spot Cleaning:

Keep your floors clean from dirt and dust

Sweep up dry spills with a soft-bristled or even rubber broom. Tiny rocks and bits of dirt are abrasive and can leave scratches on your hardwood, so be sure to clean your floors often.

Use a dry microfiber mop to dust your hardwood flooring. Microfiber is gentle and won’t damage the hardwood. As an added bonus, static from the cloth will pick up the fine dirt particles that would otherwise scratch the floor. Be sure to launder your mops often!

Stay Away From Swiffer!

It is very important not to use any treated dust mops (such as Swiffer) because these contain chemicals that will leave a murky haze over your hardwood. It won’t happen all at once, but it is only a matter of time.

Removing Scuffs

It’s important to try to remove any scuffs without damaging the floor. Gently are best remove scuffs with soft, non-chemical household items such as a clean rubber eraser, or tennis ball.

If neither of those solutions work you could try baking soda mixed with a little water into a paste. Apply to the scuff and let it dry for several minutes before gently removing with a damp cloth.

Keep your floors dry

Water or other liquids can soak into the wood and cause damage. Clean up wet spills immediately. Much progress has been made in finishing technology but they can only do so much to protect your floors. Clean up any spills immediately or you will risk staining. Stains are difficult to remove without sanding and refinishing the floor. If the spill is sticky or will leave any residue, clean with soapy water or the cleaner recommended by the manufacturer. Once you’re done cleaning up the spill, use towel and wipe the hardwood dry.

2. Weekly Deep Cleaning

Vacuuming

Vacuums are a great way to keep your floors clean since they are very effective at sucking up any dust and dirt. Canister vacuums are ideal for hardwood floors, but any other vacuum will work well if you turn off the rotating brush since it can damage the finish over time.

Mopping

You wouldn’t use a sopping wet mop on a hardwood floor like you would with tile or vinyl. Since you’re trying to prevent water damage, use as little water as possible.  Use a spray bottle with one of the recommended solutions.

Only use Recommended Cleaning Products

Be careful about the cleaners you use. Most cleaners will leave residues on your hardwood. We recommend bona for most of our hardwoods, or NuOil cleaner for our hallmark oil-finished hardwoods.

Apply the cleaner by either spraying a light mist onto the floor or directly onto the microfiber mop. From there you can clean as usual.

Warning!

These products will either leave a residue on your floors or destroy the finish. For some manufacturers, they may even invalidate the warranty on your hardwood.

  1. Ammonia
  2. Oil Soaps
  3. Paste Wax
  4. Citrus Oils
  5. Tung Oils
  6. Cleaners containing Silicone.

3. Quarterly Cleaning

Use Polish to Make Your Floors Look as Good as New

For urethane-finished hardwoods:  Since most surface scratches on hardwood are only on the finish and do not penetrate into the hardwood, polish works great at filling in these gaps and restoring the shine to your floors. Bona floor polish (link) is a brand that we can recommend for most urethane-finished floors. Check with the hardwood manufacturer if there are any recommended products.

Applying Floor Polish

Liberally squirt the applicator on the floor in small sections and apply. It will be tempting to “polish” in the polish with force, but that will do more harm than good. Simply glide the applicator over the floor in the direction of the grain and allow the polish to dry.

Oil-Finished Hardwood

Oil-finished flooring (like the organic line from hallmark) uses a penetrating finish that goes deep into the wood and hardens. Aside from having a softer, more barnyard look

Be sure to dispose of oily rags properly! Oiled rag piles are famous for their ability to spontaneously combust.(Hyperlink that text to maybe Wikipedia) Leaving oily rags in a pile is a fire hazard. Lay the rags flat, in a single layer, and allow them to dry and harden before disposing.

4. Pets

Urine and Feces

Clean up any pet messes as soon as you can. Urine in particular is extremely harmful to your floors. As the urine sits it can burn through and discolor the wood all the way to the subfloor. This is a particular problem with dogs since they tend to urinate in the same spot multiple times.

In extreme cases where the urine has stained through the wood, you can try to sand and refinish the floor but it is very likely that the stained areas will need to be removed and replaced with new planks.

Claws

Claws and nails are very hard and can damage and dent hardwood even when dull. The bigger the dog, the greater the potential for damaging the floor.

It is best to keep your furry friend’s nails well-trimmed and their paws clean. If you want to go the extra mile for taking care of your hardwood, check your pet’s paws whenever they come inside.

Additional coats of hardwood finish (either polyurethane or oil, depending on your flooring) will help prevent scratches from appearing on the wood. You could just sand away the scratches, but adding coats of finish is simpler and less expensive.

Sanding the floors is an option as well, and makes for a great DIY project.  A word of caution, though:  evaluate your skills before you put the grinder to the grooves; an uneven sanding job can leave the floor in a worse state than your critter ever could.

Pet Hair

If your little critter sheds, then your floors can quickly become covered in hairs, to the point where no one will want to follow the “five second rule”. Try a broom with rubber bristles to clean up the pet hair.

5. Damage Prevention

Heels and Stilettos

As lovely as they look, heels and stilettos will put dime-sized dents all over your floors in no time. It is the equivalent of banging a hammer onto your floor.

Rugs and Mats

Place walk-off mats both outside and inside the exterior doors to prevent wear and damage. It is also a good idea to place floor mats at the kitchen sink. You could place area rugs in high-traffic living spaces, and it will help to preserve the floor, but are you going to buy nice hardwood just to put a rug on top of it? Use only rugs that have a natural backing. Plasticized grips, for example, can leave their pattern on the hardwood.

Sunlight

Sunlight can change and lighten the color of your flooring over time. The easiest way to prevent sunlight damage on your hardwood is to keep the blinds shut during the day to block out the sunlight.

Of course, no one wants to live in a dark cave, so the other option is to make sure your windows are protected with a low-e coating that prevents ultraviolet light from passing through and onto your floors. Check your window manufacturer to be sure.

Help your floors wear evenly

Having big pieces of furniture and rugs in the same spot year-round can cause uneven fading on the hardwood. Try to rearrange your furniture and rugs once a year to encourage even wearing.

Plant Damage

Having real plants in your home can be lovely, but a leaking potted plant can be dangerous to your floors. Always keep some sort of tray between the potted plant and the flooring. Check the pot after watering to be sure there are no leaks that could spill onto the floor.

Gaps & Cracks

Gapping occurs as a result of the wood planks losing moisture due to changes in relative humidity. Most homeowners will only see gaps in their flooring during the winter months when humidity is low. As your furnace heats your home, humidity levels are driven even lower. Most of our clients in the Portland/Vancouver area won’t experience any significant gapping in their hardwood.

If your floors are shrinking during the winters and causing gaps to appear, the simplest solution would be to use a furnace humidifier to try and bring back moisture into the home.