Cleaning and Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Oct. 1, 2008

Keep your hardwood floors beautiful with these quick tips

Keeping your building's hardwood floors looking beautiful is a lot easier than you might think. Today's hardwood floors can be cared for with minimal effort; in most cases, a little preventive maintenance will keep floors looking beautiful for many years to come.

All hardwood floors should be cleaned regularly. To accomplish this, simply sweep, dust mop, or vacuum the floors with the beater bar turned off to remove debris from between the floorboards. Avoid using a wet mop—it can dull the finish or damage the wood.

Place scatter rugs at all entrances, avoiding rugs with rubber backs, which can discolor your floors. Scatter rugs will help keep dirt and debris from scratching the floors. You can also prevent scratches by placing floor-protector pads on the bottoms of the legs of any furniture that comes into contact with wood floors.

When spills occur, be sure to clean them immediately with a dry or slightly damp cloth. Allowing spills to remain on wood floors could damage the finish and the wood. Avoid letting building tenants walk on floors with sports cleats or high-heeled shoes in disrepair. These things can scratch the finish of the floors, or even dent them.

It's important to know which type of finish has been used on your wood floors when it comes to other maintenance requirements. Different wood-flooring finishes require different kinds of care, and it's important to use the right maintenance products on your floors to protect them and prolong their life. Generally speaking, there are three types of finishes available: surface finishes, wax finishes, and acrylic impregnated finishes.

Surface finishes are durable and water resistant, and require minimal maintenance. To clean surface-finished floors, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner available from a local flooring store.

Wax finishes soak into the pores of the wood and harden to form a protective, penetrating seal. There are products available at flooring stores that can be used to clean wax-finished floors. You will need to follow the product's directions carefully to determine how long the cleaner should remain on the floor. Once the floor is cleaned, you'll need to apply a new coat of wax to the floor to restore luster.

Acrylic impregnated finishes are injected into the wood to create a super-hard, extremely durable floor. How to clean an acrylic impregnated floor will depend on the finish. If it has a urethane-based finish, follow the procedures for surface-finished floors. If your wood flooring has a non-urethane-based finish, use a spray and buff system as recommended by the manufacturer.

If in doubt about how to care for hardwood floors, you should contact a wood-flooring professional. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) can help you find a professional in your area. Simply visit the NWFA's website; click on the "Find a Professional or Product" link.

Ed Korczak is CEO/executive director at the Chesterfield, MO-based National Wood Flooring Association.

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