How to clean and care for hardwood floors

How to clean and care for hardwood floors

These days, there are many types of wood floors, including traditional strips of natural wood with interlocking tongue-and-groove edges, and manufactured planks that have a thin layer of natural wood on top of particleboard. But regardless of the type, wood floors share the same basic needs: removing grit promptly, even daily; cleaning less frequently, maybe monthly; and recoating or spot-repairing as needed. Plus, all types of wood floors last longer when homeowners take care to avoid stains and scratches. Wood — whether in natural boards or in manufactured planks made of glued-together fibers — expands when it absorbs moisture, either from vapor in the air or in liquid form.

Fluctuating humidity, which is affected by temperature, can cause wood flooring to cup or crack, so avoiding extremes is important. The National Wood Flooring Association recommends keeping a home with wood floors between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and between 30 and 50 percent relative humidity year-round. And you never want to clean a wood floor by wet-mopping it, because that could slosh around enough water to warp the floor. Steam-mopping is also out. It’s also important to recognize that, when you clean a wood floor, you’re really cleaning the finish, provided it’s intact. That’s why grit, which acts as sandpaper when people track it around on the soles of their shoes or drag it across the floor under chair legs, is a wood floor’s biggest enemy: Too much sanding via grit wears through the finish.

The flooring association recommends sweeping or dust-mopping every day and vacuuming once a week with a hard-floor attachment. But the best cleaning tool and how often you use it really depends on how much traffic there is and how you like to clean. Vacuuming works best, because it removes the grit on contact, while sweeping and dust-mopping move it around. But pulling out a vacuum is more trouble, so people tend to put that off. Thus the recommendation to dust-mop or sweep daily, at least in high-traffic areas.

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