11 Tried-and-True Ways to Care for Hardwood Floors

By design, our floors will see some of the most wear and tear of any of the fixtures in our home. Even if you’re normally careful with your floors, life happens. Wood floors in particular require extra special attention to keep them looking nice. So, it’s important to learn how to clean and care for them the right way. Harsh cleansers can damage the boards and pet stains can mar your finish. Don’t even mention moving day—improperly moved furniture accounts for plenty of the damage hardwood floors can sustain.

Having a regular maintenance routine is key. Keep your wood floors clean by vacuuming them regularly with the hardwood attachments of your vacuum. Eliminating excess dust and dirt will keep you one step ahead. Then, use the mildest cleaning solution recommended for your floor type with a mop or rag that is just barely damp. Remember, water is a wood floor’s worst enemy. Make sure any moisture you apply is dried immediately and completely.

But there’s so much more to caring for wood floors than just cleaning. From what you wear on your feet, to your pet care routine. No matter how you live, you can take some simple precautions to protect your wood floors so they will stay in great shape for years to come.

  1. Choose the Right Vacuum

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    Choose the Right Vacuum

    Yes, you can vacuum your hardwood floors. In fact, doing so can grab dust that's hiding between floor boards. Choose a vacuum that works well on wood floors. There are lots of options from a Dyson to a Roomba.


    Related: Why I Love My Central Vac

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  2. Less is More

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    Less is More

    If your floors are really dirty, you want to use more cleanser, right? Wrong! Too much of a harsh product isn't good for them. Instead, thoroughly sweep or vacuum first. Then use a moderate amount of cleanser to wipe them clean. Read the labels to make sure you're using a product that's safe for your floor type.


    Related: Rx for Hardwood Floors

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  3. Gentle Cleansers

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    Gentle Cleansers

    A good rule of thumb for cleaning floors is to use the gentlest cleansers first, then up the ante if you need something more powerful. Gentle soap or white vinegar and water are good for starters. Whichever you choose, don't dump anything straight on the floors. Use a mop or a soft cloth to clean.


    Related: How To Clean EVERYTHING

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  4. Take Care with Furniture

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    Take Care with Furniture

    Moving furniture is one of the fastest ways to damage perfectly good floors. When rearranging your space, pick up bookshelves or couches instead of pushing or pulling. Otherwise, it might be time to start shopping for rugs to cover those unsightly scratches.


    Related: Moving 101—Easy Ways to Make the Most of Any Move

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  5. Furniture Pads

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    Furniture Pads

    Even when you're not moving into a new place, furniture can still hurt your floors. Installing furniture pads on chair or table legs can keep your floors from getting scratched.


    Related:  What Would Bob Do? Fixing Scratches on Wood Floors

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  6. Check High Heels at the Door

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    Check High Heels at the Door

    The click-clack of stilettos on hardwood floors is a death knell. Keep your floors dent-free by wearing indoor-friendly flats or slippers.


    Related: 17 Design Inspirations for Mudrooms and Entryways

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  7. Fixing Dents

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    Fixing Dents

    A dented floor board may need to be replaced, but that can be a big project. For smaller dents, a steam iron might do the trick. Test the iron in a corner or hidden spot – some finishes can discolor with steam treatment. Then, wet the area and place a wet towel over it. Apply a heated iron to the cloth and wait for a few minutes. The heat should help the compressed fibers to get back in shape.

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  8. Pet Care

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    Pet Care

    Keeping your pets comfortable will help your floors, too. Keep their nails trimmed and clean up any accidental mishaps as soon as possible to prevent lasting damage.


    Related: 10 Over-the-Top Ways to Pamper Your Pet

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  9. Caffeinated Floors

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    Caffeinated Floors

    Give dull hardwood floors a little pick-me-up with a tea treatment. Boil 5 or 6 tea bags in 5 cups of water and allow to cool. Using a mop, apply the tea to your floors for a temporary shine that's faster than refinishing.


    Related: Parquet You Say! 10 Stunning Wood Floor Patterns

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  10. Refinishing

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    Refinishing

    If you choose to refinish your own floors, try a random orbital sander and use sandpaper that's fine enough not to damage them. Move the sander across your floor boards as if you're mowing the lawn, row by row, for an even look. When applying the stain, be sure to test it in an inconspicuous spot in case the hue isn't what you had in mind.


    Related: Project Guide—Refinishing Hardwood Floors

  11. Squeaky Floors

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    Squeaky Floors

    If your hardwood floors are squeaking, putting nails through your boards probably isn't going to stop the sound and it certainly won't look nice. Instead, check your floors from underneath. The problem might be the subfloor and the joists rubbing together. If that's the case, you'll want to pull the two together with metal hold-down brackets or drywall screws.


    Related: Unsound Sounds—7 Noises You Don’t Want to Hear From Your House

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  12. For more...

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