wood floors…
their proper care and feeding

Got wood floors? Everyone thinks a wood floor requires Herculean effort to maintain. The truth is—they’re actually one of the easiest-care surfaces around. Done right, they’re also an incredibly eco-friendly option—using reclaimed wood or sustainable plantation woods. If you’re ready to give up the delicate treatment, we’ve got some basic tips.

First, know your finish. If you have a new floor, and it’s coated in a polyurethane finish, it’s about as easy as it gets. Wax-finish floors take a bit more effort, so does a vintage floor with a shellac, lacquer or varnish finish. But for day-to-day care, they’re all the same.

Start with four basic rules for wood floors

  • Shoes off
  • Sweep and vacuum often
  • Attack spills/scuffs ASAP
  • Don’t overwet

Taking off your shoes helps eliminate tracked-in dirt and debris that can wreak havoc on your floor. That stuff is abrasive! Kick off your shoes (it keeps your home cleaner as well) and invest in slippers, or wear socks. Put a bench near your front door to make it easy.

Reach for the broom every chance you get. A good sweep with a soft broom helps keep dust, and dust bunnies, to a minimum. Vacuum on a regular basis (without the beater bar) to remove dirt and debris from all the nooks and cranies in your wood floor.

Spills happen, but on a wood floor, ignoring them can damage the finish. Wipe up spills immediately—first absorb the spill, then a quick wipe with a damp cloth, then dry the floor. It’s easy and fast. If you see light scuff marks, buff them out with a soft cloth.

If you’re following these rules, you may never need to actually mop your floor. If for some reason you do need to do more, keep it moist, not wet. Use a product appropriate to the type of finish on your floor (on some floors, that may mean just water), clean a small area at one time and don’t use too much water. Follow with a dry cloth to complete the cleaning.

Note: if your floors are waxed, you don’t want to wet-mop at all. You can use a nearly dry mop or cloth with plain water to get up any stubborn dirt—you’re essentially “dusting” the floor with a barely damp cloth.

Don’t know if your floors are waxed? Find an inconspicuous spot and drop a bit of water on it then wait. If the water leaves a dull white spot after 15 to 20 minutes, your floors have wax on them. For waxed floors, the only addition to these four rules is that you’ll want to reapply wax two or three times a year.

Vintage floor finishes can be treated with essentially the same techniques, though you won’t be able to buff out minor scuffs quite so readily.

One other thing you can do to help keep  your floors at their best is use area rugs in heavy traffic areas. They look good, help anchor your spaces and help prevent scuffs and scratches on your gorgeous wood floors.

No matter what type of finish, if you follow the four basic rules, you’ll keep your wood floors looking amazing, with minimal effort.

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