8 Must-Know Tricks for Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are more complicated to keep in tact than you may have thought. Use these tips to keep them looking polished for years.

Vacuum your floor every week

vacuumiStock/South_agencyYou probably do this already, but it always bears repeating. The reason: Underfoot, the fine grit in dust is just like sandpaper and will slowly but surely wear through your wood floor’s finish. So a good vacuuming protects the finish as well as keeps up its appearance. Use an attachment with a brush or a felt surface that runs along the floor. Attachments with rotating brushes or a beater bar can scratch the finish. Disengage the beater bar on an upright. If you don’t feel like hauling out the vacuum, a dust mop or one of the newer microfiber sweepers (such as Swiffer) will work just as well. Try these unexpected ways you never thought to use a vacuum cleaner.

Watch the hairspray and the furniture polish

furniture-polishiStock/MarkPiovesanBoth of them can cloud your floor’s finish. Wipe them up immediately with a damp cloth. For a more thorough cleanup, spray with non-ammonia window cleaner.

Keep out the rain

rainy-windowiStock/kkayWater doesn't only ruin the finish on a hardwood floor but also can penetrate deep into the wood and stain it. Close windows when you’re expecting rain. Put trays under potted plants and, of course, immediately wipe up any water you see.

Remove residue with no-wax wood floor cleaner

wood-floor-cleaneriStock/FonrimsoKeep it in the hall closet or another convenient location so that you can get to it quickly to clean up small problems before they become big ones. Wipe up spills and dirt immediately; then use the cleaner to remove the residue. Dirt can damage the finish or get ground in. Liquids can damage the finish or stain the floor. It's important to clean spills on wood floor quickly, but make sure you're not over-cleaning these other areas of your house.

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Know the rules about using waxes and restorers

waxiStock/akurtzYou can rejuvenate a wax finish with more wax. But never use wax on a surface finish such as shellac, varnish, or polyurethane. It not only makes the floor far too slippery, it also interferes with subsequent finishes. If the finish is polyurethane, use a polish made for polyurethane. If it’s another type of surface finish, get a general-purpose floor restorer; test the restorer on an inconspicuous area to make sure it won’t peel off.

Use an extra-long “walk-off ” doormat

welcome-matiStock/courtneykIdeally, people should always remove their shoes when they come inside. This way, dirt, water, and salt and ice won’t be trekked onto the wood floors. But, since shoes don’t always get removed, doormats, inside and out, earn their keep and then some. While vacuuming and spot cleaning they are great, and keeping the dirt out in the first place is even better. Get a 4- to 6-foot-long “walk-off ” mat for the front door. The longer the mat leading up to the door, the more people will rub dirt and moisture off their shoes as they walk in, even if they don’t stop to wipe them.

Protect high-traffic zones with area rugs

area-rugiStock/irina88wWalking across an area several times a day eventually wears down a wood floor’s finish. Nice-looking throw rugs are the easiest way to reduce the wear. But make sure they don’t have a backing. Vinyl or rubber backing traps humidity, which can ruin your floor’s finish and stain or damage the wood. To find the perfect area rug, make sure you first know these tricks that interior decorators would never tell you for free.

Invest in furniture pads

padsiStock/m-imagephotographyEven if you don’t rearrange your furniture around a lot, constant use will cause the legs of your furniture to scratch the wood floor. Put furniture pads on all the legs of your furniture to keep your wood floors looking new. Also, adding pads makes moving your furniture much easier.

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