Hardwood is still the homeowner’s favorite choice of flooring and caring for it takes minimal effort. Unlike laminate or engineered wood, hardwood can be refinished many times, and will add years of beauty and warmth to your home, as well as increase its value and speed its resale. Ongoing floor care is needed to keep your hardwood stairs looking its best, however, and there are four major aspects of hardwood floor care:
1. Hardwood floor cleaning
2. Hardwood floor repair
3. Hardwood floor refinishing
4. Hardwood floor protection
Clean Your Hardwood Regularly
Knowing how to clean hardwood floors is important because the bane of hardwood is dirt and grit, which will scratch and mark the floor if not removed promptly. As well, dust is seen more easily on wood floors than it is on linoleum or on carpet, especially in the sunlight and especially if the floor has a dark stain. Hardwood floor care, therefore, means sweeping and dusting regularly – once a week, at least, and after any event that leaves dirt and grit behind. Regular household dusting and cleaning products will cause damage, however, and you must use only products specifically designed for hardwood. Vacuuming is preferable to sweeping because it allows the dirt and dust to be pulled from between the boards, but use a vacuum with a bare floor attachment, not a beater bar, which can damage the wood.
When a more in-depth cleaning is required, use a cleaning method appropriate to the finish on your floor. If your floor has a glossy finish, it means that polyurethane, or a water-based urethane, or a similar finish has been used to form a protective barrier over the hardwood. If it has a matte finish, it means that the floor is protected with a penetrating seal of oil and/or wax. On neither of these finishes is water an acceptable cleaning agent, but both of them can accept a surface, damp-mop cleaning, which means the mop is not wet but only damp to the touch. You are cleaning only the surface and not using enough water to penetrate even the oiled-and-waxed hardwood. When using a damp mop on oil and waxed hardwood, you can add a little neutral ph hardwood floor cleaner to the water before dipping the mop into it. A floor with a protective glossy barrier can accept a generic hardwood floor cleaner providing it doesn’t contain any wax or oil.
The don’ts are every bit as important as the do’s in hardwood floor care;
1. Don’t use ammonia, regular floor cleaners, household cleaners, or dusting products on hardwood.
2. Never use wax on a floor with a urethane or other glossy finish.
3. Never wash hardwood; use only a slightly damp mop.
Repair Any Damage to Your Floors as Soon as Possible
In most cases, when your oil and waxed hardwood floors have suffered surface damage, you have to remove the finish with a wax or oil stripper before dealing with the damage. After completing the repair, you then re-wax or re-oil the area. Surface damage occurs less often on hardwood protected by polyurethane or a similar type of sealer, and when it does, the damage is not as obvious. When repairing floors with such finishes, strip the finish from the entire board or boards where the damage has occurred. Make your repairs and then apply a finishing product to those boards that is consistent with the rest of the floor.
1. Water marks: Remove the protective finish, rub the marks with fine grade steel wool. Repeat if necessary, clean, and then refinish.
2. Burn marks: Lightly sand the area, use a damp cloth to pick up the grit, and then refinish as desired.
3. Scratches and gouges: Conceal shallow scratches with matching wood putty or a putty stick. After the area is dry, sand and refinish.
Refinishing Your Worn Hardwood Floors Will Recapture Their Original Beauty and Value
In a home with shabby hardwood floors, the biggest improvement you can make is to refinish the floors. Begin by making any necessary repairs, and then removing all the furniture and drapes and sealing the vents and registers in the room so that you won’t spread dust throughout the house. Sanding floors is easiest to do with a drum sander and an edging machine for the sides and corners of the room. You can rent these machines, and it is a good idea to rent a buffer or floor polisher at the same time. Plan to make three passes with your sanding equipment, using increasingly finer sandpaper each time. Vacuum carefully and pick up every bit of fine dust and grit with tacking cloths. All dust and dirt must be removed. You can now apply a stain if you wish or you can leave the natural color and design of the wood – such as the popular oak, maple, or cherry – to be displayed.