Hardwood floors bring a beautiful aesthetic to any room. Today’s floors can also offer an artistic feel with dark colors, wide planks, unique textures and even patterns. Maintaining the look of hardwood floors all depends on the history of the surface and a gentle cleaning routine. 

New Installation

For newly installed floors, understand the type of finish used on the wood. Most new floors are sealed with a polyurethane finish. However, there are other finishing methods, like natural penetrating oil, that may require a different kind of care. Consider a regular routine to keep floors looking great.

  • Dust: Dusting floors with a microfiber mop or cloth is the best daily defense against scratches and surface damage. Microfiber cleaning pads use static electricity to trap dirt, particles and other household allergens, keeping floors healthy and clean. 
  • Mop: A microfiber mop specifically designed for hardwood floors will keep floors clean and dirt-free. Consider a cleaning solution specifically made for your hardwood floor finish. Many DIY cleaners like vinegar and water can damage floors over time, while oil-based cleaners can leave a residue (or even slippery) layer on the floors. Also, avoid putting excess liquid on your floor. A light mist and a gentle touch go a long way. Finally, be sure to use a microfiber pad designed to lift and trap dirt and debris.
  • Polish: Many floors look fantastic with a simple routine of dusting and mopping. However, depending on the level of foot traffic, a hardwood floor polish can make sense. A wood floor polish (used mostly for polyurethane finishes) fills in microscopic scratches and can offer a protective layer on the floor surface. Note the type of polish sheen used on the floor. Avoid a shiny polish if your aesthetic is a satin or matte finish. 

Older or Existing Hardwood Floors

If cleaning just won’t cut it, consider restoring or refinishing the hardwood floors. If the hardwood floor finish has stains, deep scratches or clearly visible wear patterns, a sand and finish of the surface will bring old floors back to life. 

  • Restore: If the floor has lighter wear patterns or scratches, sometimes a simple restoration process will do the trick. The floor is first buffed to scuff or lightly abrade the existing layer of finish. Then, a new layer of finish that best mimics the existing floor is applied. Occasionally, a second coat of finish may be used to truly bring the floor back to life. The restore process is ideal for floors where the general color or texture isn’t changing, and wear and tear is minimal with no major damage.
  • Refinish: Refinishing a floor completely removes the old protective finish and replaces it. For floors with visible damage or wear, or for homes that are looking to change the color of the floors, a refinish will totally revitalize the hardwood. First, the wood is sanded to remove all the old finish. Then, a stain, sealer or natural penetrating oil might be applied, followed by finish layer. Note that when refinishing a floor, this is the perfect time to consider the design and aesthetic of the room and look at textures, colors and sheen.

Whether it’s a restore or refinish, be sure to use a certified hardwood floor craftsman who offers dust containment systems. Long gone are the days of dusty, messy refinishing projects. Also, be sure to request a healthier (and durable) waterborne finish to keep the VOCs low.

More Tips

From maintaining existing floors or embarking on a refinish, consider these last few tips to keep floors looking beautiful.

  • Use floor mats and area rugs to protect high traffic areas. If using mats and rugs, try to get rugs and mats with a natural rubber backing since some materials can discolor floors after extended use.
  • Protect floors from sun damage. Rearrange furniture or use curtains to protect floors from fading and UV damage.
  • Protect furniture legs with appropriate pads and covers. Felt or rubber pads can help avoid scratches from accidental dragging of furniture on your floors.