It is very important to clean and maintain your new hardwood floor to keep it looking good for many years after installation. With the proper care, your hardwood floor will remain just as beautiful as the day you install it for several decades to come. Although the type of wood used does affect how well it will hold up to day-to-say use, but it all comes down to how well you take care of your new hardwood floor.
Type of Finish
Cleaning and maintenance depends on the type of finish you have on your new hardwood floor, not the wood type. This is where many mistakes are made when choosing cleaning products to care for hardwood floors. Hardwood floor finishes fall into two different categories.
The predominant type of finish for hardwood floors is a surface-sealed finish, including:
- Poly acrylic (waterbase)
The other type of hardwood floor finish is penetrating seal-treated and oil-treated finishes, such as:
- Wax, which is not as common today
Technically, floors with surface-sealed finishes in urethane, polyurethane and polyacrylic are more resistant to spills than lacquer, varnish and shellac. Therefore, they should be cleaned in the same manner as oil-treated or penetrating seal-treated floors.
If you are not aware of the exact type of finish you have on your new hardwood floor, put a small amount of water on it and let it sit for about ten minutes. If the water leaves a spot, then your hardwood is most likely wax or oil-based. If there is no spot, your floor is probably finished in urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic.
Another test you can use to determine the type of finish you have on your hardwood floor is to run your finger across it. If your finger leaves a smudge, then it is finished with a penetrating sealer not a surface sealer.
Basic Care for All Hardwood Floors
One of the greatest advantages to a hardwood floor is that regardless of the finish, a number of cleaning and care techniques apply to all types. Here are a few simple everyday tips to keep your new hardwood floor beautiful for years to come:
- Doormats and Rugs
Shoes carry dirt particles that will scratch the surface of your hardwood floor and result in faster aging. Place a doormat by the main entrance so everyone can wipe his or her feet before stepping on your new floor. You can also place a storage bin or small bookcase near the door and require everyone to remove his or her shoes upon entry into your home. For the high traffic spots, use non-staining rugs to protect the surface of your new hardwood floor. Never place mats or rugs near your dishwasher or sink, as water may be an issue in these areas.
- Furniture Protectors
You should put furniture protectors (felt pads) on the legs of all furniture to prevent scratching when the furniture is moved across your floor. This is especially important if you have sectional furniture that is moved frequently.
- Regular Sweeping
Sweep your hardwood floors daily to remove dirt, dust and debris, minimizing damage to the surface. You can also use a vacuum as long as it does not have a beater bar.
Immediately wipe up spills as soon as they happen to avoid any excess moisture seeping into your floor. Never allow standing water to remain on your floor for any length of time.
Easy Steps to Cleaning Your Hardwood Floors
It is possible to clean your new hardwood floor with a surface-sealed finish in three quick and easy steps:
- Sweep with a broom or Swiffer to remove any dust and dirt particles.
- Mop carefully using a solution of water and dish detergent, or other solution made especially for surface-sealed hardwood floors. Remember never allow standing water to set on your floor.
- Buff your floor with a clean, soft towel until completely dry.
Cleaning hardwood floors with any other type of finish is just as easy:
- Sweep and vacuum to remove dust, dirt and debris.
- Use a soft, dry cloth to buff away any stains or scuffs.
- Use a liquid wax stripper designed for your particular finish, following the manufacturer's directions exactly. Then allow the floor to dry.
- Use a wax formula made especially for your finish type by applying a thin layer according to manufacturer's instructions. Allow time for the wax to dry, and then apply a second coat if necessary.
- Rent a buffing machine or use dry, soft towels to polish your floor to a nice shine.
- Do not use any kind of wax finish on any urethane floor finishes. Once wax is used it must remain wax unless refinished.
Depending on the type of stain to be removed, there are specific ways to protect your new hardwood floor:
- Water - use sand paper or steel wool to remove, and then refinish
- Cigarette Burns - dampen a piece of steel wool and use to remove stain
- Heel Marks - rub vigorously with steel wool to clean floor
- Ink - wash the area using steel wool and floor cleaner; if cleaning is unsuccessful, sand spot and refinish
- Gum - harden with ice until brittle, then break off; clean with a cloth to remove any gum that remains
It may seem like a rather daunting task to maintain your new hardwood floor, but your efforts are worth it to be able to enjoy your beautiful floor for many, many years.