Wood Floor Care - Polish Your Skills
28 Jun 2012
Wood floors are some of the hardest-working parts of our home. They endure our constant traipsing, and sometimes we do the unthinkable: We stride on them with our stiletto heels and drag our furniture across their beautiful surfaces.
Feil Wood Flooring's Andrea Feil thinks that keeping wood surfaces clean isn't really as difficult as one might think. She says that the main advice she gives all of her clients is to keep their cleaning and maintenance methods simple. "No intensive, professional service is needed to keep your floors looking great — as long as you keep up on the maintenance," says Feil.
Here's how to keep a variety of wood floor environments clean and stain free.
Untreated Hardwood Floors
These reclaimed antique heart pine floors have a worn character that ups the appeal of this dining area; you wouldn't want to remove any of the marks, because that would take away part of the appeal.
For maintenance of untreated wood floors, Feil recommends the following steps:
-First vacuum floors with a special soft-bristle, nonmarking brush to remove dirt sitting on the surface.
-Wet a microfiber pad with just a little bit of water — enough to dampen the pad, but not so much that it is soaking — and a cleanser made for hardwood surfaces.
-Wring out the microfiber pad. When you're cleaning, the floor should dry within a minute. If water pools up or stays on the floor longer than a minute, the pad should be wrung out more first.
For tough stains: "You should really talk to your hardwood floor installer for care and maintenance issues, especially for major stains and chips that require professional help," says Feil. "But for weekly maintenance, surface scratches and worn floors can be renewed with the Bona Hardwood Refresher. Bona is nontoxic, nonflammable and doesn't leave a dull residue."
Stay away from: All-purpose cleansers that contain ammonia and chlorine, as well as vacuum brushes that rotate. Rotating vacuum brushes scratch wood surfaces.
Wood Floors Exposed to Sunlight
Just like our skin, wood surfaces are sensitive to ultraviolet light and heat, causing the wood to change color or develop an undesirable patina.
For discoloration stains: Move area rugs periodically and draw curtains over large windows to avoid obvious, undesirable discolorations. Before leaving the house, make sure to close your shades or blinds; doing so not only will ensure that your house will be cooler when you return, but will help protect your wood floors from UV damage.
Stay away from: Continued and direct sunlight exposure. To counter daily and constant UV damage, regularly shift your area rugs and furniture in the exposed areas so that your flooring can age evenly throughout the year. This is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to help your floors keep their character and appeal.
Finished Wood Floors
Most new wood floors are surface sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. Most surface-sealed floors are stain- and water-damage resistant and easy to care for and clean.
For tough stains: Your floor's finish will affect how you treat stains. As a general guide, if your floor has a wax finish, rub off the stain with steel wool or cotton, working from the outside of the stain inwards; for even tougher stains, you may need to use fine sandpaper and a floor cleanser. When the stain is removed, reapply the wax and polish. If you've used a floor cleanser, make sure you wash it off the wood surface before waxing.
Also, if your floor has a surface finish, you will need to treat the whole affected area to maintain color consistency. Reapply the same finish that was originally on the floor to the affected boards. Make sure you don’t overlap on the adjacent boards, or the finish will be uneven. When in doubt, consult a flooring professional for assistance.
Stay away from: Oil soaps and citrus oils, which can leave a dull surface residue.
Wood Floors in High-Traffic Areas
This jute runner protects the old red oak floors in this high-traffic area.
A stairway runner and a welcome mat protect this high-traffic stairway and foyer.
For tough nicks and scratches: Aside from spot-treating scratches in high-traffic areas, caring for wood floors that get a lot of traffic is really about prevention. If you have wood floors in the house, keep shoes and high heels in good repair. You know your favorite pair of cowboy boots, the one with the uneven heel and a nail sticking out? Those boots are serious surface scratchers.
Stay away from: Long pet nails, in addition to old footwear. Pets' nails should be trimmed regularly to avoid deep scratches.
Engineered wood is typically a composite of hardwoods and softwoods, with the topmost layer being the most durable (and usually prettiest) wood layer. Engineered wood is 100 percent wood, and it's more heat and moisture resistant than solid hardwood. This moisture resistance makes it a good alternative to hardwood floors, especially when it comes to the bathroom and kitchen.
We Love Your Wood Floors proprietor Heidi Nyhoff says, "Although I don't recommend it, some people choose to have wood floors in their bathrooms. If this is the case, then engineered floors are ideal because they endure the moisture-intensive environment much better than hardwood floors."
Nyhoff also recommends using engineered floors in low-traffic bathrooms, like in the guest room or powder room. "Make sure to have something like a standard fan handy and access to an open window so that there's always a way to take the moisture out of the room," says Nyhoff.
For tough stains: Engineered wood floors are prefinished and more resistant to stains. Nyhoff says that a cleanser that's specifically made for wood floors is fine to use.
Stay away from: Cleansers that have oils or that will leave a residue.
Wood Floors in the Kitchen
General contractor Kenny Grono says that wood floors are a fine choice for kitchen flooring and powder rooms. "But in both of these spots you're exposing the wood to water, so you'll need to clean up spills right away," he says.
For tough stains and spills: In the event of a leaky dishwasher or a major spill, absorb as much moisture as you can with towels and dry the floor thoroughly. If you have portable fans, point them toward the affected area. Grono says, "Don't try to sand down the surface to correct the problem. It may take several months, but given enough time to dry out, the wood floor should return to normal."
For small and localized stains, like those from tomato sauce and soup, dab the area with a soft cloth (cloth diapers are great) dipped in mild dish soap and water. Be careful not to wet the area too much, or the floors will warp.
This kitchen setup shows one of the best ways to counter tough stains in high-spill areas of the kitchen: an area runner. Cotton rugs are generally best in this area because they can be washed and dried easily.
If your wood floors have been significantly water damaged, call a wood flooring professional.
Stay away from: Large amounts of water. No matter where your wood floor is in the house, never pour large amounts of water on your ﬂoor directly. While a slightly dampened mop may be used on polyurethane and other surface-sealed wood floors that are in good condition, even small amounts of water can cause the deterioration of ﬁnishes and warp the underlying wood.
Also avoid sticky and tacky rug mats and backers, which can attack and discolor the wood finish.
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