Hardwood floors look beautiful, but with that beauty comes with a bit of work and maintenance. Because carpets and rugs hide dirt and grime, many people seem to think that hardwood floor maintenance is, well, hard. In fact, the opposite is true. With basic maintenance and an occasional deep cleaning, your hardwood floors will stand the test of time. Especially with newer homes, floor cleaning is now much easier than cleaning older, more traditional hardwood floors with soft oil-finishes. Most new home floors are sealed with urethane, polyurethane, or polyacrylic seals, which require less upkeep.
So let's get down and dirty on how to care for your sealed hardwood floors; keeping them clean and gleaming for the long haul.
There's no better way to cut down on cleaning time than preventing dirt and grime from building up in the first place. To trap dirt at the onset, place floor mats inside and outside your exterior doors. If you have a mud room, install a boot removal area. It'll prevent residual water or deicing fluid on shoes from damaging the wood.
For prevention inside the house, place floor protectors under furniture and a rug in the play area (for children) to ensure scratches aren't commonplace. Scratches aren't the only enemy against hardwood. Spills happen every day. Just make sure to wipe them up immediately to prevent liquids from damaging and dulling your finish.
Of course, preventative maintenance alone isn't enough proper care. Before the dirt, dust, and pet hair scratches your floor's surface, use a microfiber mop to dust daily, especially in high traffic areas. When using the microfiber pad, avoid lifting it up off the floor to keep the dirt trapped under the pad. During deep-cleans, use a vacuum with a floor-brush attachment; never use a vacuum with a beater-bar. The rotating brush can scratch the floor's finish.
For an even deeper clean, give your hardwood floor a good mopping. Many people are afraid of mopping because standing water and hardwood floors are mortal enemies. Even sealed floors cannot protect themselves against excessive water, so make sure you wring out your mop to get as much liquid out as possible. Use a diluted wood-cleaning product when mopping; do not use vinegar since it can eat away at the finish. Afterwards, rinse the floor with a clean mop. If you've gotten your floors too wet, use a ceiling fan or air conditioner for faster drying.
For stains on sealed floors, wipe them with a soft and clean cloth. That's all you need. No matter how bad the stain, never use sandpaper or steel wool because they can damage the finish. Tempted to use a steam cleaner? Don't. They use excessive water and heat which can lead to cupping in hardwood floors.