Hardwood Floor Maintenance

Common Maintenance Questions for Hardwood Floors

Q: Can I use one of those steam cleaners advertised on TV on my wood floor?

Everyone has seen the commercials or home show vendors demonstrating a steam cleaner magically sanitizing, disinfecting, deodorizing, and cleaning a wood floor. But that doesn’t mean that wood flooring manufacturers or finish manufacturers think steam cleaners are appropriate for a wood floor; in fact, some have begun to specifically mention steam cleaners in their list of don’ts.

Inspectors are also starting to come across floors that appear to have been destroyed by repeated steam cleaner use. Peeling finish, whitening finish and cloudy finish are just some of the side effects being reported by people looking at floors after steam cleaning. In general, the oft-repeated industry saying “Water and wood don’t mix” holds true. Unless the wood flooring or finish manufacturer says it’s OK, it’s safest to assume steam cleaning is a no-no on a wood floor.

Q: I read that a good wood floor cleaner is vinegar with water; is that OK?

Vinegar and water used to be a typical recommendation for cleaning wood floors with a urethane type of finish. These days, however, most manufacturers recommend cleaners that are specifically formulated for wood floor finishes; in fact, vinegar is acidic, and using too much could damage the finish. People who insist on still using vinegar should use plain vinegar—not apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar or any other type, which could leave a sticky residue on the floor.

Q: I’ve been using a product on my wood floor that says it is a wood polish/conditioner.

Now it seems like my floor has a sticky film all over it, and I can see footprints in it. How do I get this residue off? Unfortunately, many home owners are surprised to discover that, although the product they used said on the label it was for wood floors, it wasn’t really recommended for wood floor finishes … and now they have a big mess on their hands. Some of these products seem to leave a film on the floor that is very difficult to remove. Others may not leave a sticky film but may cause contamination problems down the road when the floor needs to be refinished. If you know the manufacturer of the wood floor or the finish on the floor, call and ask for their recommendation as to what to do. If you don’t know, call our wood flooring professionals, we can review and recommend a product specifically designed for stripping such residue off a floor. If not, the floor will probably require re-sanding.

Q: Can I vacuum my wood floors?

Vacuuming wood floors is a great idea. Dirt and particles that are left on the floor act like an abrasive when people walk on them, so vacuuming them as often as possible will prolong the life of the finish. Couple caveats: Don’t use a vacuum with a beater bar, which can damage the finish. Also make sure the wheels are in good condition and roll easy.

Maintenance Mantras

These guidelines apply to any wood floor. Following them will help your floor go longer between recoating and re-sanding:

  • Sweep and/or vacuum the floor as often as possible.

  • Never, ever wet-mop a floor.

  • Only use cleaners that are recommended by major wood floor finish or wood floor manufacturers.

  • Use walk-off mats and area rugs at all doorways.

  • Put floor protectors on the bottom of all furniture and anything else (baby exercisers, toys, etc.) that might rub on the wood floor.

  • Wipe up all spills immediately. Products such as Kool-Aid will stain most finishes if left on the floor.

  • Keep pet nails trimmed. Know that dogs running through the house will scratch any finish.

  • Consider using runner/area rugs in high-traffic areas.

  • Keep your home at normal living conditions for your area—no extremes of humidity or temperature.