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How to Maintain and Clean Hardwood Floors, Part Two: Flooring DOs

I didn't expect Part One of this series, our biggest Flooring DONTs, to garner nearly as much interest as it did. A lot of you told me you had cleaned your hardwood floors with at least one of the products we mentioned and were clamoring to know what to replace them with. (One of you even called me because I wasn't quick enough with this follow-up post!)

Let's go ahead and get down to the nitty gritty so you can start taking care of your hardwood floors correctly!. First I'll go over some maintenance tips, then I'll show you the best way to clean hardwood floors.

Clean up spills immediately!

Everyone knows water damages hardwood floors, but most people think it takes a burst pipe or a full-fledged flood to ruin them. The truth is that even a small amount of water or other liquid can damage your floor. The liquid seeps into the spaces between boards and wreaks havoc, not to mention the fact that if allowed to sit it can damage the finish on top.

If someone in your house spills a drink or other liquid onto your hardwood floor, ask them to clean it up immediately. If they answer with the standard "I will in a minute," explain that they're ruining the floor simply because they won't do what you asked when you asked them to do it. We take no responsibility for the frustrated sighs and angry confrontation that follow.

Place felt pads on the bottoms of all your furniture pieces to prevent scratches on your hardwood floor.

This is especially important for chairs, barstools, and any other pieces that move around. It doesn't matter what material the furniture is made out of; you need to place a buffer between the furniture's feet and the floor to prevent scratches.

We also recommend replacing metal or plastic casters with soft rubber ones. Most casters that come on office chairs or other furniture are made of nylon, which don't actually roll. They slide across the floor, which scratches and mars the finish.

Place mats and rugs in high traffic areas.

Shoes track in dirt and grit that can scratch hardwood floors and dull their finish. At least place mats around entry areas, where you can scrape dirt and grime off your shoes before you walk on the floor. Area rugs in other high traffic areas also help prevent accelerated wear and tear. Do not use rubber backed mats or rugs. Over time they can discolor hardwood floors. (The rubber casters mentioned are very small and do not remain stationary, so they won't cause discoloration.)

Take off the high heels, ladies!

I love a good stiletto. They're awful for your back, hurt your feet, and are a risky proposition for anyone even remotely clumsy. But nothing else makes legs look as good as they do in a 4-inch heel. Especially if you're all of 5 feet tall like yours truly.

Unfortunately, high heels are bad news for your floors as well as your body. They are the number one cause of dents in hardwood floors, because high heels, especially stilettos, transmit a large amount of pressure in a very small area. In fact, a 100 pound woman in high heels exerts more pressure per square inch than a 6,000 pound elephant standing on all fours. Need I say more?

Photo: Southern Oaks Flooring, Nashville, TN

Clip your pets' nails or take them to the salon to get acrylic ones.

Ok, so the last part of this tip could be a little confusing. If you can't clip your pet's nails, like we suggest in this blog post on pet-friendly flooring, there is an alternative.

A company called Soft Paws makes nail caps for cats and dogs that protect doors, walls, furniture, and hardwood flooring. They're safe, humane, and painless; despite all this, your cat will probably still hate you for making them wear acrylic nails. But if you can't dress up your pets in ridiculous outfits and outlandishly colored nails, what are they there for?

Also, we have no connection with Soft Paws. I'm sure there are plenty of other products that promise to protect hardwood floors from pets. But do they come in colors called Pink Passion and Hot Topic? That is the question.

The last maintenance tip is to just use common sense. If a high heel or dog's paw can damage hardwood floors, you can imagine what heavier and sharper objects can do. Remember: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! (And an ounce of pretention is worth a pound of manure, Steel Magnolia fans.)

Now that you know preventative measures, let's move on to cleaning hardwood floors.

First and foremost, follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Every box of flooring (or finish, if you're starting with untreated wood) comes with specific cleaning instructions issued directly by the manufacturer. The best advice we have is to follow those instructions! If you long ago discarded that information, don't worry. The vast majority of hardwood flooring requires the same basic care.

Manufacturers' instructions also include information on the wrong way to clean their products, and they often VOID YOUR WARRANTY if you damage the hardwood using improper cleaning products. Don't remember what those products are? Read Part One of How to Maintain and Clean Your Hardwood Floors.

Dust mop or vacuum your floors regularly.

That means at least weekly. Most people end up doing this every day or every other day, depending on the size of the area they have to clean. If you use a vacuum, use the bare floor setting. This pulls up the beater bar, which can damage the floor.

Dust mops work just as well as vacuums, and a lot of our customers prefer them. Look for cotton or microfiber; they can both be washed in most washing machines. Microfiber tends to last longer and dust clings more readily to it, so that's what we recommend.

Many manufacturers now make dust mops that bend to allow you to clean baseboards at the same time as the floor. Inventions that help you spend less time cleaning are tops in my book. This one is from Rubbermaid, but there are plenty out there to choose from.

Flooring Brentwood TN

Photo: Southern Oaks Flooring, Nashville, TN

Clean the floor using a good quality hardwood floor cleaner.

Good quality are the operative words here. Many manufacturers recommend two products: Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner or Bruce Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaner. Numerous cleaners are available, but we recommend these two because they are easy to use and everyone in the professional flooring industry trusts them. Simply spray the floor and clean using a soft mop. Most dust mops come with two heads, so you can use one for dry dusting and one for mopping with the cleaner.

We also recommend these products because they're readily avilable at Home Depot or Lowes. That's a bonus for our customers who don't like to spend their free time scouring the internet for specialty floor cleaners.

(If you have an oil finished floor, buy Bona's hardwood cleaner for oil finished floors or the one recommended by the finish manufacturer.)

Flooring Nashville

Flooring Nashville

After you clean with Bona or Bruce hardwood floor cleaner, do a couple cartwheels and pat yourself on the back. You're done! (If I knew how to do a cartwheel, that's exactly what I'd do now that I'm finished writing a two-part blog post on cleaning floors!) As always, if you have any questions leave comments here on the blog or on our Facebook page; we're happy to help in any way we can!

Think you need to replace your hardwood flooring? Brentwood, Nashville, and other middle Tennessee residents are welcome to call us at (615) 416-9039 to schedule a free inspection and consultation. Your floors might just need a little TLC to bring them back to life!

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