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Hardwood Care and Cleaning

By Michael Hilton

Hardwood has undergone an amazing transformation over the past few years with regard to durability and protection of surface finishes, but they still require proper care and cleaning to maintain that newly installed hardwood "look". Because of the variety of hardwood surface finishes used by various hardwood manufacturers, you should carefully follow the hardwood cleaning instructions provided by the hardwood manufacturer. A hardwood care procedure recommended by one hardwood manufacturer may damage the protection surface finish of another manufacturer. Regular cleaning of hardwood floors is recommended by all hardwood manufacturers. The following general hardwood care and cleaning recommendations are suggested by the majority of hardwood wholesalers and manufacturers.

Daily Hardwood Floor Care

  1. Use entry mats at doorways to limit the amount of sand, pebbles, and other debris from being tracked onto your new hardwood floor. This debris can scratch the protective finish of your new hardwood and shorten the life of you new flooring. Vacuum these entry mats often. Once they become filled with soil, they then become a source for sand and other debris
  2. Sweep hardwood floors often with a fine, soft bristle broom to remove debris. Allowing this debris to remain on the hardwood surface finish can etch or scar the protective surface finish.
  3. Damp mop 1-2 times weekly with a very dry mop. Remember, excessive exposure to water can damage your hardwood floor. If water is allowed to penetrate the seams in excessive amount, the interior of the hardwood can begin to swell and lift from the floor.
  4. Wet spills should be attended to quickly to limit the amount of moisture that is allowed to penetrate the seams.
  5. Vacuum weekly to remove dust and debris not removed through regular sweeping. Often, sweeping will remove the majority of larger, damaging dry soil from the surface finish, but vacuuming in conjunction with very dry damp mopping can provide optimal protection for the finish. If vacuuming is your worst nightmare, there are a number of robotic vacuum cleaners marketed through Home Depot that is a wife (or husband) saver. I would never have purchased a hardwood floor without purchasing one of these vacuum cleaners. Simply push the "clean" button and walk away. The robotic vacuum will automatically calculate room size, vacuum the area, and park itself back in the docking station to recharge. If only they could add a program to automatically push the "clean" button at the same time each day, my life would be complete.
  6. Use carpet runners or area rugs over high traffic areas to protect the hardwood finish from excessive traffic. Vacuum these area rugs often or utilize the robotic vacuum cleaner do-hickey.
  7. Use chair glides or mats under chairs with castors and never drag furniture or appliances over your hardwood floor! Also, remove high-heeled shoes before walking across your new hardwood. I remember a vinyl flooring display from many years ago which showed an elephant, a woman with high-heels shoes, and an automobile (or something else) with a caption that asked which provide a heavier weight in pounds per square foot (or which would damage the floor more quickly). The answer was (as you might have guessed) the woman in high heels. You should install felt pads on the bottom of any furniture that you move often. For furniture, such as a piano, in which much of the weight of the object is placed on a concentrated area, it a wise decision to purchase a flooring protector that distributes weight over a larger surface area.
  8. Never use oil-based soaps, such as Murphy's oil soap on your new hardwood flooring surface. These oil soaps may leave a slippery surface and create a slip hazard. Other oil soaps may not be compatible with the protective surface finish and may cloud the finish of your hardwood floor.
  9. Follow the hardwood manufacturers recommendations, precisely, for repairing scratches, dents, or areas where the finish has been damaged.
  10. Some floors may require periodic waxing and buffing, while others should never be waxed or buffed. Wax and furniture polish may damage some urethane finishes. Some waxes may attract soil and debris and encourage damage to the surface finish. Also, for hardwood floors that require regular refinishing, the build-up of waxes may prevent the restorative finish from bonding to the original finish.

Since various hardwood manufacturers recommend various hardwood care and cleaning requirements, always obtain hardwood care instructions from the hardwood wholesaler. The hardwood manufacturers care recommendations should always supersede any conflicting information provided above.

About the Author
Michael Hilton was the original creator of Carpet Buyers Handbook. Having owned and operated a carpet wholesale company, Hilton has a vast knowledge about all-things carpet related as well as other types of flooring.

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