Caring for polyurethane and other wood floor surface finishes

Surface finishes like polyurethane are easy to care for, with only regular sweeping or vacuuming required.  Be sure you note the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions when installing your floors.  Floors should shine for several years with only a regular sweep up of dirt and debris.  Eventually the shine may wear down, at which point you will need to recoat the floor with surface finish.  How frequently this will need to be done depends on the amount of traffic the floor gets.  Never wax a surface finished floor.  Also, do not use vinyl or tile floor cleaning and care products on any wood floor.

Maintaining wax and penetrating-stain finishes

how to clean hardwood floors

Sweeping once or twice a week and picking up spills will keep floors looking new for years.

In addition to regular sweeping or vacuuming, you can use a buffer to maintain the shine on a waxed or penetrating stain finished floor.  Rewax when buffing no longer restores the shine, using only a cleaner and liquid wax specifically for wood floors. Apply the wax evenly over the floor, then buff to desired luster after the applied wax is fully dry.  For low to moderately trafficked areas, waxing should be a once or twice yearly job.  High traffic areas many need waxing up to once a month.  Be careful not to over-wax a hardwood floor.  Buffing may be all that is needed to restore shine.  To avoid wax buildup in areas that do not receive traffic, such as under furniture, only wax these spots every other time you wax the floor.

Cleaning a discolored or soiled wax finish

A solvent based combination liquid cleaner/wax made specifically for wood floors can be used to remove and replace a dirty or discolored wax finish.  Using a cloth or a fine steel wool, carefully spread the liquid cleaner/wax and rub gently to remove old wax and grime. Wipe clean and let it dry for about 20 minutes before buffing back to restored luster.

How NOT to care for wood floors – Things to avoid

Never use self polishing acrylic waxes, sheet vinyl or tile care products on your hardwood floors.  Self polishing acrylic waxes can cause wood to become slippery and dull, which will require sanding and refinishing to fix.  Never use a vinegar solution either as the acids will eat away at the polyurethane coating.

Refrain from wet mopping a wood floor.  For surface finished floors, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.  A dampened mop is usually ok, but excessive moisture should be avoided as it can damage the wood, causing warping, a dull finish and discoloration.  Immediately clean up any liquid spills that fall on your wood or surface finished floor.

Preventing scratches on wood flooring

Most scratches on wood floors come from dirt being ground into the surface of the floor.  Keeping the floor clean will help reduce scratches over time.  Put down mats and throw rugs in doorways and runners in hallways to help protect high traffic ares from grit, dirt and sand. Felt pads under furniture legs keeps furniture from leaving scratches in the floor.

Other tips for cleaning wood floors

hardwood floors cleaning tips

The fringe on this dustmop will trap scratching debris where it won’t be pushed into the floor’s surface.

Black shoe scuff marks can be cleaned up with a simple home product you probably have in your pantry.  A baking soda paste made by mixing baking soda with a little water can be rubbed gently over any black shoe scuffs with a damp sponge.  It should pull them right up.

A soft microfiber dusting pad with fringe is a great tool for daily or weekly sweeping.  Run it under baseboards and furniture without ever lifting off the floor.  Then run it around the room, again without lifting off the floor.  This keeps the dirt and debris in the fringed portion, not allowing it to get trapped underneath the dustmop where it can potentially scratch the floor’s surface.