DIY & Apartment Hacks

How to Maintain Hardwood Floors

How to Maintain Hardwood Floors Expand options

Ever since the first person covered a dirt floor with hardwood planks the world has been modifying and learning how to maintain hardwood floors. 

Around 1600, some of the first wooden floorings were created. Baroque era hardwood flooring became the flooring we recognize today. 

Elaborate, geometric parquetry and beautiful marquetry, detailed inlay work and simple plank-style hardwood floors all have care and maintenance in common. 

Find your finish

A spacious room covered with clean oak hardwood floors


The method you choose to maintain your hardwood floors will vary depending on the type of finish that has been applied to the wood. Find out what the finish is before applying a cleaning solution. 

Try this test to ascertain whether you have a polyurethane or wax finish. Place a few drops of water on the surface, if the water beads up it is most likely polyurethane. If the water is absorbed in a few minutes, it is probably a wax coating.

Clean with the appropriate product

Different finishes require different products for routine cleaning and deep cleaning. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. Many heavy-duty chemicals can cause hazing on your floor’s finish. 

Waxed floors should be cleaned with a compound that lifts dirt and applies a fresh coat of wax. Polyurethane floors should be cleaned on a regular basis with plain water, or water with a small amount of dish soap and rubbing alcohol. Vinegar can dull a floor coated with polyurethane.

Everyday maintenance

A green mop cleaning hardwood floors


The most important thing you can do to maintain hardwood floors is to dust mop or vacuum daily. If you choose to vacuum, make sure your machine is made for hardwood flooring to avoid scratches from a rotating vacuum head. The dirt that is tracked in, even tiny bits, acts the same way sandpaper does. It scratches and scrapes the finish of the floor. 

Microfiber dusters are perfect for trapping small particles of dirt and sand. If a sticky spill happens, use paper toweling or a soft rag dampened with water to clean up. Avoid using chemical cleaners.

How much is too much?

Linoleum and other sheet goods can be doused with a lot of cleaning solution/liquid and then mopped up, but wood floors can be damaged by excess moisture. Try to limit the amount of liquid on a hardwood floor. 

Use a spray bottle instead. Spray a three- or four-foot square area and mop it quickly, then move on to another area. 

This technique works well because the wood does not have a chance to absorb the liquid nor can it seep into the areas between the slats. This technique also works nicely if you are cleaning while kids or pets are in the house, because you can control the damp areas.

Do not steam clean

Whether you live in a small urban apartment in Chicago or a suburban home, we can all agree that cleaning floors is a tedious chore. Steam mops may be fun to use but do not use them on hardwoods. Though the amount of steam produced may seem minimal, the lasting effects of steam placed on a wooden floor on a regular basis can be devastating. Steam seeps into the spaces between the boards and causes the wood to swell. Damp-mop instead to avoid potentially having to replace portions of your floor. 

Keep your floors beautiful

Clean, hardwood floors


Use doormats at all exterior entryways to minimize the amount of gritty dirt brought into your home. Area rugs help protect floors in heavily trafficked areas like kitchens and hallways. Use furniture pads on all pieces of furniture that get moved frequently, like kitchen or dining room chairs. Replace pads as they wear down or fall off. 

Checking felt pads occasionally will prevent that “Oh no!” moment when someone pushes a chair away from the table and you hear the sound of your floor being scratched. 

Finally, do not ever use heavy-duty machinery to clean a wood floor or you risk damage to the protective coating and ultimately to the wood itself.

Wood flooring is warm to the touch, inviting to look at and can last for generations with a little maintenance and care.


Sam is an author at ABODO, an online apartment marketplace that helps renters find apartments all across the country. ABODO reports on rent rates, the changing of real estate markets and trends within the real estate industry.

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