Hardwood Floor Maintenance Guide

protect-hardwood-floorAfter your new floors have been installed, follow these hardwood floor maintenance tips to keep them looking new for many years. Well maintained floors can stay beautiful for 10 or 20 years, though some very high traffic areas may require refinishing in 4 or 5 years. The key is to avoid abrasions on the floor by regular cleaning & preventative care.

Avoid Scratches

One of the first items is to make sure there are felt or flannel pads attached on the bottom of all furniture legs and bottom surfaces. This will allow furniture to glide across the floor easily without scratching the floor. It will also prevent indentations from furniture. It’s always best when moving furniture to fully pick it up off the floor if possible. If furniture must be pushed or pulled be sure there are felt protectors in place. Also avoid walking on the floor with high heels or cleated shoes. Be sure that any pets have trimmed nails to avoid scratching as well.

area-rug-on-woodfloorUse mats & area rugs

Avoid bringing in dirt & grit by placing floor mats or throw rugs at entrances. Removing shoes inside is ideal but at least there should be mats where shoes can be wiped off before entering. Shake out the mats regularly. If possible use breathable mats made particularly for wood floors. Avoid any that have a plastic or rubber bottom as these could discolor the floor.

Clean with proper equipment

Sweeping should be done regularly with a high quality soft broom. You may also use a microfiber dust pad. Vacuum with the hose and wand or soft bristle attachments. Avoid vacuuming with the vacuum cleaner directly as the rotating bristles on grit may scuff the floor. For mopping use a cloth or flathead mop only slightly damp. Do not over wet the mop because you want to avoid too much water on the floor as far as possible.

Avoid excess water on floor

Too much water on the floor can cause wood to warp and other issues like discoloring. So always avoid getting water on the floor. Wipe up spills immediately. And again, never wet mop your floor, only slightly dampen a mop. Clean sticky spots with a lightly damp cloth. Never use a steam cleaner on your wood floor.

Use proper cleaning products

Bona-floor-careBe sure to use products which are made for hardwood floors. These products are designed to maintain the floors’ polyurethane finish. Wood and varnish manufacturers like Armstrong & Bona have specific products which they recommend for use with their flooring materials. These can be purchased at most home supply stores. Using the wrong cleaners can dull the finish or discolor the floor. We’ve heard recommendations for using water and vinegar on wood floors, but we do not at all recommended this. The acidity of vinegar can wear down the varnish on your floor. Water and vinegar may work great on counter tops, but never use it on your floor. Also never use liquid & powder soaps, oil soaps, bleach, ammonia, scowering agents, wax products or polish. Use only floor cleaners designed particularly for hardwood floors. These are usually spray on products where you clean one section at a time without using much water. Ideally they are applied with a microfiber mop.

wood-warpingAvoid shading and warping

These may be the least easy to avoid – discoloring caused by the sunlight’s UV rays and warping caused by changes in temperature & humidity. These changes are possible but usually take many years. If for example a rug lies in a sunny area for years, the area around the rug may eventually become a lighter shade noticeable when the rug is removed. The only way to keep the floor an even shade is by using window treatments, window shades and by moving around floor coverings and furniture. Then to avoid the possibilty of warping you need to maintain a constant indoor temperature and keep humidity between 35-55%.


When the finish on your floor eventually wears down and loses it’s sheen, you may consider having it refinished. If there are not any deep scratches or damages to the wood, then you may be able to screen the surface and recoat. That would involve sanding down only the urethane and then recoating. Otherwise it would be necessary to sand down to the wood to smooth out the scratches, etc, and then recoat.

As you can see, hardwood floor maintenance is not too difficult. By following the above tips you will be sure to enjoy a beautiful floor looking good as new for many years.

The Floor Master
Hardwood flooring expert for over 30 years, serving in the NYC area.

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