Home Care 101: Caring for Your Hardwood Floors

Dated: September 27 2020

Views: 432

Water or no water? Vinegar or Murphy's Oil? Ever since hardwood floors replaced shag carpets (and probably long before), homeowners have been asking how to care for their hardwood floors. In this Home Care 101 post, we'll share what we've learned. 


Hardwood floors and flooring that looks like hardwood have different care needs. The most important piece of advice we can give is:

Follow any care instructions provided by your flooring manufacturer/installer as well as any directions on any cleaning supplies you choose to use.


The Evils of Water

While water is recommended when cleaning hardwood floors, most hardwood and cleaning experts are adamant that homeowners and professional cleaners should keep standing water off hardwood floors. 

  • Never pour any water or cleaning solution directly onto a hardwood floor. 
  • Do not use a soaking-wet cloth on your hardwood flooring. 
  • Do not ever use wet or steam mops to clean your hardwood floors.
  • Clean up any spills or pet accidents immediately. 
  • During damp weather or after cleaning, do not let damp floor mats or area rugs sit on hardwood floors. Finding warped and discolored wood under a mat is always an unwelcome surprise. 

When cleaning floors, get a soft cloth or mop soaking wet with water or solution, but be sure to wring it out well so that it is merely damp while cleaning. 


Name Your Coating: Polyurethane vs. Wax Coating

How well do you know your flooring? Many homeowners are not aware of what kind of coating they have on their hardwood floors, especially if the floors were already installed when they moved in. First, check your paperwork to see if it notes how to care for your hardwood floors and/or contact the manufacturer/installer. If that doesn't work, try - just this once, you already know how we feel about standing water on hardwood - placing just a bit of water on your floor. What happens? 

  • If the water beads and stays on top of the floor, your flooring is most likely polyurethane.
  • If the water soaks on after a few minutes, you most likely have a wax coating. Still not sure? Dampen a rag with mineral spirits. It will develop a waxy feel after wiped on a floor if the floor has a wax coating. 

Cleaning Process

First, remove the dirt. Vacuum or dust with a dry or slightly damp, soft cloth.

Next, choose a cleaning solution depending on the coating on your flooring. 

  • Waxed floors: clean with a cleaning/waxing compound that lifts out dirt and adds a coat of fresh wax.
  • Polyurethane-coated floors: clean with 1 part vinegar to 10 parts warm water.

When choosing a cleaning solution, always try the gentlest solutions first, like gentle soap or white vinegar with water. If you choose to use a commercial solution like Bona or Murphy’s Oil Soap, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Saturate your rag or sponge mop with solution and wring out excess liquid. Mop or wipe down the floor. Do not leave too much solution/water on the floor. Rinse mop/rag with clean water, wring out excess moisture, and run damp mop or cloth over the floor to remove/rinse cleaner. Wipe up excess water. Leaving your floor wet will damage it.


Vacuum Tips
  • Dust or vacuum frequently to prevent dust from settling into the woodgrain and between floorboards and to keep crumbs and dirt from scratching the floors. If time doesn't allow for frequent dusting or vacuuming, consider an autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner like a Roomba. 
  • Use the hardwood-floor setting so your vacuum doesn't scratch the floor.
  • If your vacuum has attachments, use the floor-brush attachment. A beater-bar attachment can damage the floor. 


Protect, Protect, Protect!

Take a few simple steps to protect your hardwood floors from damage.

  1. Keep the temperature in your home between 60 and 80 degrees and between 30 to 50% humidity to avoid too much humidity level in the air. Excess humidity causes cupping, splitting, and gapping of wood.
  2. Use floor protectors on chairs, sofas, and tables.
  3. Use doormats inside and outside.
  4. Keep pets' nails trimmed.
  5. Leave shoes at the door, especially shoes with sharp, pointy heels. 


Try a Cuppa

Some experts believe that the tannic acid in tea creates a unique shine. Here's the process for both wood and engineered floors: Add two tea bags to boiling water and steep for a few minutes. Dip a rag or soft cloth in the tea and wring out the excess moisture. Do not dump tea or water directly on the floor. Wipe the floor. Rinse with warm water. Check with your installer/manufacturer/professional cleaner before trying this cleaning method, and always test solutions, including natural ones, on a small section of flooring. 



At LW Reedy, we care about your family and your home. If you have any questions about caring for your home or are considering buying or selling a home, contact your LW Reedy Realtor today. Do you have ideas for our Home Care 101 series? Email us at info@lwreedy.com or message us through Facebook. 

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