No matter what the setting, the good looks and durability of hardwood floors can be maintained with minimal effort. It's simply a matter of proper care and maintenance.
The American Hardwood Information Center, in conjunction with the National Wood Flooring Association suggest the following care and maintenance guidelines to keep hardwood floors looking beautiful today, and for years to come. Here's how to begin.
All hardwood floors should be cleaned regularly to remove dirt and grit from between the floor boards. Avoid using a wet mop which can dull the finish. Instead, sweep with either a dust mop or broom that features exploded tips, or vacuum the floors using a vacuum with special hardwood floor attachments or one with the beater bar turned off.
Wipe up any spills immediately, using a soft, dry or slightly damp cloth, starting at the edges of the spill and working toward the center. Allowing spills to remain on hardwood floors could damage the finish, as well as the wood.
Avoid walking on hardwood floors with sports cleats or high heel shoes in disrepair. These can scratch the finish, or even dent the floor. Placing felt pads on the bottom of furniture legs will also minimize scratches.
Further minimize scratches by placing scatter rugs at all entrances to help keep small stones and debris out. But choose wisely. Scatter rugs with rubber backs can discolor wood floors. Special rug mats can be purchased from a wood flooring retailer that will protect the floors from discoloration.
Knowing which type of finish applied to protect the hardwood floor is important. Different flooring finishes require different kinds of care, so if or when in doubt, contact the flooring manufacturer or a wood flooring professional in your area.
There are three major types of wood flooring finishes available - surface finishes, wax, and acrylic impregnated - and the experts at the National Wood Flooring Association, www.woodfloors.org, stress that using the right maintenance products will protect and prolong the life of the floor.
Surface finishes, also referred to as urethanes or polyurethanes, are practical and very popular. They remain on the surface of the wood and form a protective coating that is water-resistant, durable and requires minimal maintenance.
For cleaning purposes, use products recommended by the flooring manufacturer. If the floors were finished or refinished on site, contact the installer. If neither is known, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner which can be purchased at a retail flooring store. Never use wax-based or petroleum-based products on a surface finish floor, as they will damage the finish.
Wax finishes soak into the wood, harden to form a protective penetrating seal, and when needed, are maintained with additional thin applications of wax. Only solvent-based waxes, buffing pastes or cleaning liquids made specifically for wax-finished wood floors should be used.
Use cleaning products, available at retail flooring stores, made specifically for wax finishes. Follow the directions carefully to determine how long the cleaner should remain on the floor. Once the floor is clean, apply a new coat of wax to restore luster.
Acrylic impregnated finishes are injected into the wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. These finishes most often are used in high traffic areas of malls, restaurants and other commercial settings.
Cleaning an acrylic impregnated floor depends on the finish. If the floor has a urethane-based finish, follow the same procedures suggested for surface finished floors. If the floor has a nonurethane-based finish, use a spray and buff system, as recommended by the manufacturer.
Don't hesitate to investigate
It pays to be knowledgeable. Proper care and maintenance will protect and prolong the performance of hardwood flooring for a lifetime, and even longer.