In the winter, hardwood floor care is particularly important and particularly challenging, especially for anyone facing a fierce winter where temperature fluctuations, snow and rock salt all make the task that much more difficult. The challenges of winter can cause scratches, stains, cracked floorboards and more on even the best-maintained wood floors.
Dave Murphy, national technical director for wood refinishing company N-Hance Wood Refinishing, shared five easy steps with us that can prevent season-specific damage to hardwood floors. Follow these wood floor tips to keep hardwood floors in great shape, even as temperatures drop.
1. Prevent damage from rock salt.
In snowy areas, rock salt helps people and cars avoid slipping on slick patches; but rock salt can also leave stains on hardwood floors. The rough crystals can also scratch floors if tracked inside. Murphy advises against using vinegar to remove stains, a common trick, and instead suggests placing rugs and mats in high-traffic areas to protect floors. Encourage household members and visitors to take shoes and boots off before entering the home to limit how much rock salt gets tracked inside.
2. Watch heat levels.
Setting the thermostat or radiator at a high temperature may feel great, but it can also dry out hardwood floors, causing shrinkage and even cracked floorboards. If possible, keep the temperature moderate and run a humidifier to keep moisture in the air.
3. Don’t wait on spills.
Be diligent about cleaning up spills on hardwood floors immediately, especially during large gatherings. Even a small spill can leave long-term damage on the surface of floors, so have a damp cloth tucked away for a quick cleanup. This is especially true when it comes to pet damage; and, let’s face it, it’s harder to walk the dogs when it’s freezing cold outside. Be on alert, because potty-training mishaps can wreak havoc on a wood floor if not immediately addressed.
4. Practice routine maintenance.
Following hardwood floor care guidelines all year long can give floors a good baseline before winter really begins, Murphy says. Regularly sweep, dust or mop to prevent particle and salt buildup before and during winter, and always be sure to mop with the wood grain, not against it.
5. Do an end-of-season checkup.
Despite your best efforts, some winter-induced damage to hardwood floors may be unpreventable. Check for stains, scratches or water damage at the end of every season; major issues may mean it’s time to call in a professional to refinish the floors before the next winter.
(Real Simple magazine provides smart, realistic solutions to everyday challenges. Online at www.realsimple.com.)