How to Care For Hardwood Floors

Properly caring for your hardwood floors ensures they look great and last for years.
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
Hardwood floors can give your house a more modern look. Plus, they are an attractive alternative to carpet, linoleum, or tile. But in order to protect the hardwood floors in your home, you must care for them properly. This means dusting and sweeping regularly, as well as performing other maintenance tasks, including
mopping, polishing
, and refinishing your hardwood floors throughout the year.

Daily hardwood floor care

Materials Needed
  • Dustpan
  • Hand broom
  • Microfiber mop or broom
Cleaning your hardwood floors on a daily basis ensures that you keep them dirt-free throughout the weeks and months ahead. Sweeping daily also allows you to minimize dirt and dust, making it easier to clean more completely later on.
When sweeping your floors each day, you have one of two options for removing dirt, including:
  • Microfiber mop: The first option is a microfiber mop. Using static electricity to attract dirt particles, a microfiber mop keeps your floors scratch free as it traps the dirt within the folds of the cleaning pads.
  • Broom: While not as efficient as a microfiber mop, a broom can also keep your hardwood floors clean of dirt and other debris. But, a broom tends to push the dirt around on the floor, with you still needing to remove it using a dustpan and a hand broom.

Weekly hardwood floor care

Materials Needed
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Mop
  • Vacuum
You should vacuum and mop your hardwood floors at least once a week. This helps remove dirt and debris, as well as allows you to get into hard-to-reach corners. The following section walks you through the steps of vacuuming and mopping your floors.
Step 1: Move the furniture. Start by moving any furniture, such as tables, chairs, and other items, out of the area you want to clean.
You might consider cleaning your hardwood floors one area at a time, especially if you need to move a lot of furniture around. In addition, get furniture pads to place underneath the feet of your heavier furniture to make it easier to move without scuffing the floor.
Step 2: Vacuum the floor. Next, vacuum the floor to get rid of any dirt or larger debris.
Be careful when using the vacuum so that you don't damage the floor with the wheels of the vacuum. Also, you should get a vacuum without a beater bar to prevent damage to your hardwood floor. The beater bar is the bristled roller that you find at the bottom front of many vacuums.
Step 3: Mop the floor. Finally, using a hardwood floor cleaner, mop the floor using a mop.
Avoid oversaturation of the mop head, as too much water could damage your floors. To avoid this, make sure to wring out any excess moisture before mopping your floor.

Monthly hardwood floor care

Materials Needed
  • Hardwood floor polish
  • Polish applicator or roller
About once a month, you need to polish your hardwood floors. Applying polish to your floors seals them and fills in any cracks and scratches that develop in your floors over time. To polish your hardwood floors, follow the steps below.
Step 1: Apply polish. Start in a far corner of the room, and work your way out.
Smooth out the polish along the grain of the wood of the floors, working in small sections.
Step 2: Move from section to section. As you move from one section to the next, feather out the polish to create a smooth transition.
Continue this technique until you have completely polished the area of hardwood floor.
Step 3: Plan an exit. As you apply the polish, make sure that you plan how you are going to apply it so that you don't literally paint yourself into a corner.
You need to plan it so that you finish at one of the room’s exits, or at least at another area you plan on applying polish to later.
Step 4: Allow the floor to dry. Allow the polish to dry thoroughly, at least one hour, before moving any furniture back into place.

Long-term hardwood floor care

Materials Needed
  • Buffer scuffing pads (usually maroon in color)
  • Cone filter
  • Dust mask
  • Floor buffer
  • Hardwood floor cleaner
  • Microfiber mop
  • Paint brush
  • Plastic watering can
  • Polyurethane finish
  • Protective gear (shoe coverings, respirator)
  • Long-handled roller (with a 1/4-inch nap cover)
  • Sandpaper (180-grit)
  • Small plastic container
  • Vacuum
At least once every three to five years you should consider refinishing your hardwood floors. This maintenance process removes the old finish and replaces it with a new one, making your floors look as good as new. Refinishing your hardwood floors also allows you to remove most scratching and gouging from the floor's surface.
Before starting, make sure you can even refinish your hardwood floors. Hardwood floors that are only 1/4-inch thick are not thick enough for refinishing. The section below talks about how to refinish your hardwood floors.
Step 1: Clean the floor. Start by removing all of the furniture and cleaning the floor using a microfiber mop and a hardwood floor cleaner.
Step 2: Sand the perimeter. Using 180-grit sandpaper, sand around the perimeter of the room.
Sand about four to six inches away from the baseboards, leaving a dull finish.
Step 3: Scuff-sand the floor. Use the buffer and a scuffing pad to remove the finish on the remaining hardwood flooring.
When using the buffer, make sure to wear a dust mask to avoid inhaling the residue produced from the scuffing process.
Move the buffer from side-to-side in the direction of the grain. Make sure to overlap each pass by at least six inches.
Stop every five minutes to vacuum the pad and keep it free of dust.
Step 4: Vacuum the floor. Once you have removed the finish from the floor, allow the dust from the finish settle for 10 to 15 minutes before vacuuming.
Make sure to change the filter in the vacuum before sweeping the floor using a felt-bottomed attachment.
Vacuum along the direction of the boards to remove the majority of the dust. Then finish by vacuuming across the boards to get any dust between.
Before proceeding to the next step, dry tack the floor using microfiber cloth pushed along the grain.
Step 5: Apply finish to edges. Before applying finish to the floor, apply it to the outside edges first.
Make sure to wear the appropriate protective wear, including booties for your shoes and a respirator, with organic vapor canisters, for your nose and mouth.
You also need to strain the finish before using a paintbrush to apply it. You can strain the finish by filtering it through a cone filter into a clean plastic watering can. Remove the watering can's sprinkler head, and pour the strained finish into a small plastic container.
Using a paint brush, apply a three-inch strip around the outer edge of the room near the baseboards, making sure to start at a point farthest from your exit door.
In order to avoid leaving lap marks, stop applying the finish to the edges after 10 minutes and proceed to the next step.
You will come back to finish the rest of the edges at a later point.
Step 6: Apply finish to rest of floor. For the rest of the floor, you need to work in sections while applying the finish.
Pour out a 1-inch-wide strip of finish, making sure it is in line with the grain of the wood. You also need to only pour out as much finish as you can spread in a 10-minute time span.
Once you have poured out the finish, use the long-handled roller to roll it out along the grain of the wood. Follow this up by then rolling the finish across the grain.
Make sure to overlap each pass, as this allows you to keep a wet edge as you work.
After 10 minutes of spreading the finish on the main part of the floor, return to working on the edges for another 10 minutes. Switch back and forth between working on the edges and the main part of the floor until the whole area is coated. If you calculated correctly, you should finish up at your exit door, allowing you to exit the room until the finish has dried.
Step 7: Recoat the floor. Once coated, allow the floor to dry for three hours before applying another coat using the steps outlined above.
Step 8: Allow it to dry. Once you have applied all of the coats, allow the hardwood floors to dry for at least one week before replacing the furniture.
By properly maintaining and caring for hardwood floors in your house, you can enjoy the feel and look they bring for many years. Keep in mind that if you adhere to a regular cleaning schedule, you can make it easier to clean your hardwood floors during the maintenance steps outlined above.
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