How to Care for and Protect Hardwood Floors

Posted November 1, 2019 by Katlyn Droke

Does the holiday season do a number on your floors every year? With the influx of foot traffic, your flooring may need a protective boost. Or maybe they just need a deep cleaning in preparation for eagle-eyed guests. Whichever it is, you’ll need to start by figuring out what kind of finish is on your floor. This makes a world of difference when it comes to cleaning, and the wrong cleaning method could damage your floor. Most flooring comes in one of two finishes: ‘surface’ or ‘penetrating’. We’re going to focus on surface finishes, as that’s how most flooring comes these days. Penetrating finishes are a little harder to work with, as the wax used can be finicky about cleaning products. But luckily, those finishes are not as common. 

Pick your current need below and get tips on how to approach it.

For a Deep Clean, follow these guidelines:

A clean kitchen floor ready for cleaning
Moving all objects to prep the kitchen for cleaning makes sure you’ll get every spot.

Get your kitchen ready for cleaning.

Clear out all movable objects, like chairs, tables, decorations, etc. to give yourself a full space to work with for a more complete clean. Then take a moment to prep your floor for maximal cleaning by sweeping or dusting first.  


A mop with a bucket full of cleaning supplies.
Choosing the right cleaning products and tools can help or harm the life of your floors. Make sure you choose wisely.
Image: A Cleaning Service

Choose your cleaning weapon(s).

Manufacturers will typically recommend a cleaning product that works best for their floors. If you can’t find that, look for a professional cleaning product that is safe for your type of floor. Avoid cleaners that double as tile or vinyl cleaners. And if you’re using a new cleaner, first test a spot to ensure that it won’t harm your finish or floor. Finally, make sure you have the right kind of mop because some are specific to wood floors. In fact, hardwood mops are usually microfiber rather than cotton or other materials.  


A microfiber cloth sweeping the floor of a modern designed room with a plant on the floor.
Ensure that your floors are fully clean by using a microfiber cloth to get the dirt and grim in those hidden places.
Image: Today

Clean in one fell swoop.

Don’t clean in batches or boxes. This will prevent streaking or a boxy, patchy look. Get it done in one go and you won’t have to re-do it sooner. You may also need to find a microfiber cloth and really get hands-on to dig into the corners and baseboards, ensuring a complete clean.  


A clean modern kitchen with gray cabinets and silver knobs and pulls.
It’s important to let the floors completely dry so make sure no one disturbs them.

Keep everyone out for several hours.

This is a phase that people tend to rush through. The kitchen is one of your most-used rooms in the house, after-all. But it’s worth making people wait. Make sure there is no standing water leftover after mopping, and then let your floors dry undisturbed so that feet or shoes don’t leave any new marks on the still-drying surface. Better yet, leave it clear overnight and by morning it’ll be good as new.


To Keep Them Clean, follow these guidelines:

Homeowners approach cleaning timeframes differently. For the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter whether you’re dusting or mopping once every 3 days, 7 days, or whenever. What we’re going to recommend is that you get into a repeatable routine that is easy to get into, be consistent with, and easily fit your life. 

A dusting mop sweeping the floor.
Makes your cleaning easier by sweeping the dirt and dust up before mopping.
Image: Home Quicks

Dust/Sweep

Do a quick, weekly once-over with a dust mop. Dust may seem harmless and annoying, but a build-up of it provides a foundation for dirt to gather on or stick to. The same goes for pet hair. Have pets? Dust more often to stay on top of the hair. Finally, try to make it feel less repetitive. Consider making dusting a game with the kiddos, or multi-tasking while cooking and waiting for food that’s safely tucked away in the oven cooking. 

  • Typical Routine: Every 3-7 days


String mop head mopping floor.
Moping the floor washes away the floor buildup use recommended cleaning products for the best clean.
Image: Organized Mom

Mop

For the grime that doesn’t come up with a regular dusting, take a mop to your floor (the right way). Use the manufacturer’s recommended product or a hardwood-safe option to wash away the buildup. Many homeowners swear by a simple mixture of dish soap and hot water, which is a cheap and eco-friendly option that’s safe for most floors.

  • Typical Routine: Every 7 days


Person deep cleaning a hard flooring with a scrub.
Deep clean your hard flooring with a scrub for a deeper clean.
Image: SF Gate

Scrub

By scrub, we mean something more than just sweeping a mop back and forth. A hard flooring cleaner can be rented from standard home improvement stores, and this can provide a stronger scrub than a hand-operated mop. But take caution with machine scrubbers and make sure it won’t be too rough on your floor by testing a small, hidden space. The benefit of a machine is that it scrubs and vacuums in one pass, making quick work of a deep clean. 

  • Typical Routine: Every 30-60 days.

At some point, you may find that consistent or deep cleaning is no longer doing the job. Your floor looks dirty, no matter how much you clean it. This will be many years into the ownership of your flooring, but it can happen. This means you might need to refinish your flooring in order to achieve the same clean look that you got before. But on the other hand, a little wear and tear adds character! 

These tips will get your floors ready and protected for whatever the holiday season brings, while also maintaining their shine and beauty for many years to come.