Hardwood floors are beautiful, but over time, they can easily become damaged and lose their illustrious shimmer. To keep your hardwood floors in top condition, they need regular protective maintenance, and just as different species of timber vary in hardness and colour, so do the recommended cleaning and maintenance processes.
In this article, we’ll show you how to protect hardwood floors from wear and tear, so that you can keep your flooring in great condition, and preserve the value of your property.
How to protect newly finished hardwood floors
When you’ve just had your floor sanded and polished, it’s more susceptible to scuffs and scratches. It may take several weeks for the coating system to harden, depending on its finish and the weather conditions at the time of application, which means you’ll need to take the following precautions.
In the immortal words of The Big Lebowski’s dude, a rug can really tie the room together. It also helps to protect your floor from scratches caused by over-energetic pets and children.
However, if you’ve just had your floor finished, rugs should not be laid until the finish has fully hardened. And if you have a rug with rubber backings, you might want to consider getting rid of it, because over time, they can stain and affect the coating of the flooring.
Light furniture can be placed on the floor, but felt pad protectors should be attached to the feet of tables and chairs, and chairs shouldn’t be slid across the floor. Caution should be taken with chairs that have castors as they can indent soft timbers and cause the premature wear of the coatings. Again, these should not be used until the finish has hardened. Heavy items like fridges should be carefully moved into position and never dragged over newly finished or even fully cured floors.
You should avoid walking on your wooden floors with high heels, cleats or sports shoes as this kind of impact will indent almost any floor surface. Ensure those entering the house remove their shoes first, which will also minimise the amount of dirt and grit that can damage your floors.
General protection for hardwood flooring
Regular cleaning and maintenance can keep timber floors looking their best, and a range of things affect how often this needs to be done. These include the degree of grit or dirt present, the types of interior and exterior matting used, and the level of foot traffic.
Spills and stains
Spills should be mopped up quickly, and leaks attended to immediately to prevent water damage. This is especially important if floors are laid over sheet flooring or adhered to a concrete slab.
Stubborn stains and scuff marks can be removed by gently rubbing floor cleaner into the area, however, a test should be done first to ensure its compatibility with the floor coating. You can find out more about the suggested cleaning products for different types of coatingshere.
Continually walking on a dirty timber floor will quickly damage its finish. In terms of how to protect hardwood floors, antistatic mops are an effective means of collecting grit and dirt. Floors can also be vacuumed, however the condition of the brushes should be checked first. If they have worn thin, the contact of the metal head on timber floors can result in scratching.
On a fortnightly to monthly basis, floors can also benefit from a (slightly) damp mopping. Providing the floor finish is in good condition, mopping will not affect either the timber or the finish. This process should be undertaken with a neutral pH wood floor cleaner or a product recommended by your floor finish manufacturer. Abrasive cleaners and harsh detergents should be avoided, as should a too-wet mop. A final once-over with a dry mop can be used to remove excess moisture. Protective furniture pads should also be checked periodically for grit build-up and wear and tear.
What will damage your hardwood flooring
Grit and dirt
Small particles of grit or sand brought into the house with footwear act like sandpaper and can result in scratches. Mats should be placed inside and outside exterior doors, and rugs and carpet runners placed in high-wear areas to minimise its impacts.
Try to minimise the amount of direct, intense sunlight reaching your floors. It can contribute to gapping and the possible ‘cupping’ of boards (when the edge of the board edges higher than its centre). It can also accelerate the process of ageing on timber floors prone to darkening.
Curtains, blinds and patio awnings can be an effective means of filtering out sunlight, but if this is not possible, consider using suitable floor rugs instead.
We have all seen advertising that shows steam cleaners magically disinfecting, cleaning and deodorising floors, including those made of timber. However, unless your timber floor or finish manufacturer approves this method, steam mops should be avoided. They can cause the finish on a timber floor to peel, or result in a whitening or clouding of the floor’s surface.