Design Dilemma: How to Care for Wooden Floors
There’s a great new novel out called “Care of Wooden Floors” written by British journalist Will Wiles. In the book, the main character agrees to house sit for an old college chum. He arrives at his friend’s chic, immaculate apartment (not dissimilar from the home pictured above) with miles of expensive but delicate French wooden floors. His friend, an extreme neat freak, also happens to be very particular about the care and upkeep of his floors. Well, as you might guess, a little accident happens, in the very wet form of red wine. The balance of the novel is a comic-tragic telling of how the poor house sitter attempts to clean up the mess, and what ensues afterward.
The book is a lot of fun, but it got us to thinking… how do you care for wooden floors?
The answer to that question depends on whether your wooden floors are treated or untreated. Treated wood floors are relatively easy to care for, as they don’t stain or wear as quickly as untreated floors might. Untreated floors can be more delicate, but if you know how to maintain them you’ll stay ahead of the game.
How to Maintain Untreated Wood Floors
Part of the specialness of untreated floors is the pockmarks and worn quality they will obtain with the passage of time. In the case of untreated floors, you have to give into the notion that your wood will show that patina of age. To help extend the life of your floors:
- Vacuum. Use a special soft-bristle brush to remove dirt sitting on the surface. DO NOT use a vacuum with a regular rotating brush, as this type of vacuum might leave your floor with scratch marks. If the idea of vacuuming makes you nervous, a good old-fashioned broom can work just as well.
- Barely wet a sponge. Use just enough water to dampen the sponge but you don’t want your sponge sopping wet. Add a bit of cleanser made for hardwood floors. Sponge mop your floors and if you’re doing it right, your floors should be dry within a minute. If any water pools, your sponge is too wet. Your goal: use just enough water to lift dirt, but no more.
- Do NOT use harsh chemicals to clean your untreated floor. Stay away from any cleaners containing ammonia or chlorine.
- Close your curtains. Sunlight can cause wood to discolor. So in order to protect your floors from UV rays, draw your blinds or curtains when strong direct sunlight is streaming indoors. Also, move around rugs and furniture to help your floor to wear more evenly.
- For tough stains seek professional help. Stains that don’t lift by using the damp mop method are best addressed by a person who works with wooden floors.
How to Maintain Finished Wood Floors
Finished wood floors are sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. If you’ve got finished wood floors you will discover that maintenance is a piece of cake.
- Use a barely wet damp mop to clean floors. Just a little water is all you really need to clean floors. Stay away from oil soaps and citrus soaps which can leave a dulling residue.
- Don’t wear shoes inside. High heels, for example, can scratch floors. Similarly, keep your pet’s nails trimmed and use rugs in high traffic areas to extend the life of your floor.
- For tough stains: If your floor has been finished with polyurethane, you will have few problems with stains. Substances cannot easily penetrate the coat of polyurethane to leave any lasting damage. However, if your floor has a wax finish, some stains may penetrate. Try rubbing off the stain with steel wool or cotton, working from the outside of the stain inwards. If that doesn’t work you may need to use very fine sandpaper and a floor cleanser. When the stain is removed, reapply the wax and polish. If you’ve used a floor cleanser, make sure you wash it off before waxing. Reapply the same finish originally used on the floor but only on the affected boards. Overlapping will give you an uneven finish.
- Avoid potential water damage. After a major spill, absorb as much moisture as you can with towels and dry the floor thoroughly. If you have portable fans, point them toward the affected area. Give the floor several months to dry out before attempting to correct a stain by any other method.
- Don’t use sticky and tacky rug mats and backers. They can attack and discolor the wood finish.
If you’ve got wood floors, you should revel in your good luck. Wood floors are beautiful, hard-wearing and relatively easy to keep clean and maintain. Enjoy them!