Whether you’ve just installed brand-new hardwood floors or are looking for ways to make your existing floors sparkle and shine for the long-run, it helps if you know a little bit about how to care for them. One of the most wonderful things about hardwood floors is that they can last for decades and can be revamped, refinished and revitalized a dozen times even if they’ve become scratched, dull or dingy. In fact, the world’s oldest wood floor, located in the basement of a YMCA in Paris, is 125 years old! If you want your flooring to rival the Parisian Y, follow these tips to make your hardwood floors last!
What You Need for Hardwood Floor Maintenance
- A microfiber mop that won’t scratch the surface or damage the finish
- A good-quality, multi-surface vacuum cleaner with a hard-surface attachment
- A floor cleaner recommended for your specific type of hardwood, like Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner
- A hardwood scratch filler in case you need to fill deep scratches and dents
- Furniture floor protectors and rugs to prevent scratches
- A floor polish recommended by your flooring manufacturer or installer
Cleaning, Maintenance and Refinishing Hardwood
One of the key things to know about how to make hardwood last is that it requires a bit of maintenance. You should create (and follow) a hardwood maintenance schedule based on the type of wood and the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Vacuuming several times a week, mopping once a week and addressing scuffs and spills will help lengthen the life of your floors.
1. Cleaning Hardwood Floors
A good-quality hardwood floor cleaner applied weekly with a microfiber mop coupled with regular sweeping with a multi-surface vacuum, such as the Miele vacuum cleaner, makes for a good foundation for your hardwood maintenance program. Be sure to only apply cleaners to your floor that are safe for your specific wood type and finish and vacuum up any loose debris that could grind into the floor and scratch the finish. Because standing water can be detrimental to hardwood, always wipe up spills immediately and do not let liquid accumulate on the floor.
2. Fixing Scratches and Dents
Did you know that you can actually fix some hardwood scratches, even the deep ones, without performing a full re-sand and refinish? There are several products on the market, called wood fillers, designed specifically for filling in deep hardwood scratches and dents. Have one of these on hand for the occasional deep scratch fix. If things are too far gone for this approach, you can always have your floors refinished.
3. Restoring Luster
One of the downfalls of hardwood compared to other types of flooring is that it will lose its luster over time. If you prefer the high- or medium-gloss finish, you may have to refinish your floors occasionally—the wood might last almost forever, but the finish does not. With that being said, you can prevent your floors from losing their luster, and revitalize them to a certain degree, with shine-boosting products and polishes. Sometimes floors become dull because cleaners and waxes accumulate, so you may need to use a wax remover to see a significant improvement.
4. Waxing Your Floor
Certain hardwood floor types can be occasionally waxed with the appropriate products to protect your flooring and improve the appearance of the finish. Waxing increases stain resistance, minimizes imperfections and enhances beauty, effectively lengthening the life of your hardwood floors. Due to the fact that wax can build up and cause a dull appearance, you should only wax your hardwood floors once or twice a year.
5. Preventing Floor Damage
The enemies of long-lasting hardwood floors are standing moisture, deep scratches and faded finishes. The good news is that you can effectively prevent some of these issues with a few floor-protecting tools, such as felt pads that stick to the bottom of your furniture so they don’t scratch the hardwood when moved. Be sure that you’re also protecting your hardwood with rugs (always use non-slip pads or backing to prevent accidents) and doormats that collect dirt that could cause permanent damage to the wood.
6. Polishing Hardwood
Contrary to popular belief, polishing your hardwood is actually relatively simple and a great way to prolong the life of your floors. Unlike refinishing, polishing leaves the existing finish intact but helps to even out the appearance and fill in microscopic imperfections. Floor polishes have their own finishes—you will find them in finishes ranging from matte to high-gloss—so they are excellent at reviving dull floors that have lost their glossy sheen over time. Pick a floor polish recommended by your flooring manufacturer or installer and apply with a foam roller or applicator pad.
7. Refinishing Hardwood
As previously mentioned, one of the best things about hardwood is that it can be revitalized a thousand times over through refinishing. If you have stains, scratches, dullness or patchiness that cleaning and routine maintenance just don’t help, it’s time to refinish. While we recommend enlisting the help of a professional, you can certainly refinish your floors yourself for a lower price. You’ll have to pay for the finish and supplies, including the rental of sanders, and be warned: it’s not exactly the easiest job. Be sure to take extra care in choosing your new finish. Modern finishes have amazing technologies that give your floors high levels of protection so they’re more durable.
Protecting Your Flooring Investment
The great thing about hardwood floors is that, by their very nature, they’re made to last. With that being said, you can certainly lengthen their life with the right cleaning and maintenance program, the right preventative tools and the occasional polish and wax. If your floors are beyond repair, remember: they’re probably not! There’s a really good chance you’ll be able to save your hardwood through refinishing. When you follow these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy your hardwood floors in all of their beauty and glory for decades— and maybe even centuries!— to come.