Wood floors, properly finished, are the easiest of all floor surfaces to keep clean and new looking unlike
carpeted or resilient floors that show wear regardless of care. Wood floors can be kept looking like
new, year after year, with minimum care. Since the overwhelming majority of wood floors and are
composed of solid hardwood, this care guide applies specifically to this type of flooring.
What is minimum care? A good rule of thumb is to vacuum and/or dust mop weekly. A damp mop can
be used for spills, and when necessary general cleanup on floors which have non-waxed polyurethane
or a similar surface finish. When traffic areas of surface finishes begin to show significant wear,
screening and re-coating an entire floor is the least involved choice for maintenance.
Wood and water don’t mix. No matter what finish your wood floor has, NORMA recommends never pour
water onto the floor. While a damp mop may be used on polyurethane and other surface finishes in
good condition, excessive amounts of water seep between the boards and into small scratches causing
deterioration of finishes. Wax-coated finishes should NEVER be cleaned or maintained with water, not
even a damp mop.
Read the label. The recommendation made here are not intended to endorse specific products or
brands but to serve as general guidelines in the selection and use of floor maintenance materials.
Always follow label directions for maintenance products, except for directions which call for using water
on wood. And always use only products specifically designed for wood floors.
Preventative maintenance is a term more common to industry than to residential or office floor care, but
its importance cannot be over-emphasized. Good preventative maintenance lengthens the intervals
between the major renovation operations such as re-coating, re-waxing, and refinishing. Here are some
basic rules that apply to all types of floor finishes.
Keep grit off the floor. Use dirt-trapping, walk-off mats at all exterior doors to help prevent dirt,
grit and sand from getting inside the building. Throw-rugs or small sections of carpet just inside
the entrances are also recommended. Dirt and grit are any flooring’s worst enemy and that
includes carpets and vinyls as well as hardwoods. Keep door mats clean.
• In kitchens, use area rugs at high spill locations and at work stations-stove, sink, and
refrigerator. Cotton is generally the best fabric since it is easily washed. Mats with a smooth
backing, i.e. rubber or vinyl, may trap water beneath.
• Finishes and certain chemicals in wood oxidize and are affected by ultra violet light sources
causing the wood and finish to change color and develop a patina or age. To avoid uneven
appearance, move area rugs occasionally and drape or shade large windows.
• Put fabric glides on the legs of your furniture; they allow furniture to be moved easily without
scuffing the floor. Clean the glides regularly since grit can become embedded in them. Some
furniture may require barrel type roller casters as ball type casters may cause damage. Grey,
non-marking rubber casters are the best. Avoid casters made of hard materials like metals or
• Vacuum regularly, as often as you vacuum carpets; a brush attachment works beautifully.
Sweep or use a dust mop daily or as needed, but do not use a household dust treatment as this
may cause your floor to become slick, dull finish, or interfere with re-coating.
• Wipe up food and other spills promptly with a dry cloth or paper towel. Use a slightly moistened
cloth for sticky spills if necessary. Then wipe the floor dry with another cloth or paper towel.
• Keep heels on shoes in good repair, especially high heels. Heels worn away exposing the steel
support rod will dent any floor surface, even concrete.
• By observing these simple suggestions you’ll go a long way toward keeping your hardwood
floors beautiful and making their care easier.
What type of finish do your floors have?
There are two principal types of finishes used on wood floors—penetrating seals and surface finishes.
Each requires about the same care; but when it comes to removing stains or restoring the finish in
heavy traffic areas, methods vary.
It is important for you to know how your floors were finished so you can decide on the proper floor care
product. Your builder, realtor or flooring installer/finisher should be able to tell you what type of finish
It will also be helpful to know the brand names of the finishing products, particularly the final finish coat.
If your floors are factory finished note the name of the manufacturer. Keep this information in your
household data file to help you determine the proper floor care products.
As a general rule you can be sure your plank or strip floor was finished at the factory if it has V-shaped
grooves or bevels along the edges where the boards join and sometimes where the ends butt.This may
be only a slightly rolled edge, or a healthy bevel. NOTE: Plank flooring which has been custom finished
at the job may have beveled/grooved edges.
If the floor has no bevels, it probably was custom finished on site after installation. To determine what
kind of finishing was used, call the builder or floor finisher, if possible. When in doubt, try smudging the
finish with a finger or scraping the finish with a fingernail or sharp instrument in a hidden area or corner
of the room. If the smudge is noticeable or no clear finish material is scraped up, the floors have likely
been waxed and maintenance should follow the guideline for penetrating sealer with wax.
If no noticeable smudge is evident and/or clear finish was scraped up, follow the maintenance
procedure for a surface finish.
Polyurethane,Moisture cure urethane, and Water-based urethanes, to name a few,
are blends of synthetic resins, plasticizers, and other film-forming ingredients which remain on and
protect the surface of the wood. All are durable moisture-resistant finishes. These finishes are generally
available in high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin and matte, except moisture-cured urethane. Any one of the
above surface finishes is a good choice. They are recommended finish for kitchens or similar areas
where there is exposure to water splashing or spills.
NOTE: Penetrating sealers may have been used as an undercoat for surface finishes.
• “Polyurethane,” oil modified polyurethane, is generally the most common surface finish. The
finish tends to amber slightly as it ages.
• “Water-based finishes” are urethanes or blends of acrylics and urethanes that are fast drying,
moisture resistant, durable, and resist yellowing. As the name implies the vehicular component
is water. Most manufacturers of surface finishes recommend no waxing. Wax will, in most
cases, be slippery. Once waxed, the floor may not be successful re-coated to rejuvenate it, but
will have to be completely sanded down to raw wood to restore the finish.
• “Varnish, Shellac and Lacquer finishes” These are surface finishes rarely used today, and
generally are not considered as durable as the more modern finishes. Shellacs are the softest
and show water spots. Varnishes are harder but not to the extent of modern finishes and will
show more ambering over time. Lacquers are hard and brittle and scratch easily (very flammable when applied).
Don’t damp mop shellacs because of water spotting. You can use a
slightly damp mop on the others if not previously waxed. For finishes which have been
previously waxed, maintain by waxing occasionally. When traffic wear is noticeable, complete
refinishing and changing to a newer finish is most often the preferred choice for repair.
• “Polymer finishes” –There is a third classification of finishes known as acrylic impregnated or an
irradiated polymer. This is used primarily in commercial applications. Each brand of flooring
using a polymer or acrylic impregnated finish have specific maintenance procedures which
should be obtained form the manufacturer.
Caring for Surface Finishes on Your Floors
All hardwood floors regardless of how the floor has been finished, there are certain steps that must be taken
to maintain the beauty of the hardwood floor.
Every floor must be dust mopped, vacuumed or swept with a soft bristle broom daily, or as often as necessary,
to remove grit and dust from the surface. Walking on dusty or dirty floor is the fastest way to damage a finish.
Place walk off mats ( carpet runners ) at all exterior entrances. This will capture much of the harmful dirt before
it even reaches the hardwood floor. Shake out , wash or vacuum mats and area rugs frequently.
Floor protector pads of soft felt or similar material should be placed on the bottoms of the legs of the furniture.
Floor protectors must be kept clean of grit and periodically replaced.
Keep high heels in good repairs. An unprotected tip will dent any hardwood floor.
Kitchen floors experience the most traffic in a home. To prevent premature wear of the finish, place an area rug
in front of the sink and stove area. Shake out or vacuum the rugs frequently.
Finally, using a humidifier in conjunction with a furnace or air conditioning system to maintain relative humidity
in the home at 30% to 50% will maintain the moisture in the wood floor and minimize cracks between the boards.
Urethane finishes routine cleaning - Use a cleaner that will not leave a residue that would inhibit bonding and
re-coating. Never wax a urethane finish. Do not generally wet a wood floor with water. When using any
wood floor cleaner which requires mixing with with water, follow mixing directions precisely.
A cloth wetted with water and squeezed dry may be used to wipe up food stuffs and other spills, provided the
area is buffed dry immediately. Heel or scuff marks and stubborn stains may be removed by lightly rubbing with
a cloth and a wood floor cleaner.
Long - term maintenance -Re coating surface finishes - urethane finishes eventually will show wear patterns
from surface scratching. When high traffic area begin to look dull, it is the time to recoat or restore the finish.
Screening ( light sanding ) and recoating with some finish every 2-3 years will help maintain your wood floor
for years to come. Make sure no oil soaps, and other "contaminates" have been used on the floor, intentionally
Never use sheet vinyl or tile floor care products on wood floors. Self-polishing acrylic waxes cause wood
to become slippery and appear dull quickly. The only remedy in this situation is to sand and refinish the floor.
Thank you for reading this guide, we hope you can learn something about your wood floors.
The wood floors are beautiful and natural part of your home, take care.