We'll always choose wooden flooring over carpeting whenever possible: You simply can't beat the rich warmness of natural wood. Plus, cleaning up stains and spillages is a breeze, compared to sprinkling baking soda all over your carpet and hoping for the best.
However, hardwood floors are also delicate creatures prone to wear and tear if you don't know how to properly maintain the finishing, and this can result in an expensive round of reflooring down the line.
To help you lay the groundwork correctly, we've invited Jack White, vice president of technical services at Rainbow International — a company specializing in household restoration services — to share his top do's and don'ts for hardwood surface upkeep. Thank us later for your scratch-free and good-as-new floors.
DO: Use Vinegar Over Soap
Soap may be the way to go for most cleaning chores, but White advises against using a bucket of sudsy water to mop hardwood floors. "This method is fine for linoleum tile and laminate flooring, but it could permanently damage wooden floors," he says. Instead, mop with a mixture of 1/2 to 1 cup white vinegar and one gallon warm water. Work in small sections, wiping the floor with a slightly damp cleaning cloth and drying it immediately with a cotton towel. You can also use a wood floor specific cleaner if the smell of vinegar bothers you.
DO: Clean Often
Dirt and dust show up faster on hardwood than on carpet, so you’ll need to frequently sweep and dry mop to keep the floor looking clean. Shoes, furniture, and rambunctious kids and pets can also scratch the floor, forcing you to eventually refinish it. "We always recommend keeping a mat at the entrance to your home and asking guests to remove their shoes to keep dirt to a minimum," says White. "You should also vacuum and sweep the floor every now and then to prevent dirt from building up and scratching the wood."
DON'T: Overdo The Water
Avoid soaking your hardwood floor with water or cleaning solutions, as this could cause the wood to warp. Also, make sure to always wipe up any water or cleaner immediately to prevent water spots.
DON'T: Use Oil Or Wax
You should also never apply oil, wood polish or wax to floors with Swedish finish — an alcohol-based varnish that gives the wood a glossy look. "The top coat epoxy resin that don’t benefit from these cleaning products," says White. "In fact, applying oil, polish or wax could make your floors dangerously slippery and possibly even harm the wood surface, depending on the chemicals found in the cleaning product."
DO: Give Your Old Floors Some TLC
Century-old homes often still have the original hardwood floors intact, and they can be restored to their former glory with just a little sanding and refinishing. "You can always buff bare hardwood floors with a waxed or epoxy finish to bring back the wood’s natural luster," says White. If buffing doesn’t work, apply a wood cleaner like Murphy’s oil soap cleaner and a liquid wax made specifically for wood floors. That said, it’s also always a good idea to contact a professional hardwood finishing company to reapply the Swedish finish when the floor starts to significantly lose its shine.