How to Care for Hardwood Floors Properly

Flooring and housing trends come and go, but it seems that classic hardwood never goes out of style. Hardwood is cost-effective, long-wearing, and improves the value of your home. These floors also offer aesthetic, health, and even acoustic benefits.

The one perceived downside to hardwood floors is upkeep. Many homeowners forgo hardwood out of fear that it will be time-consuming and difficult to maintain. The truth is, while hardwood is an investment, keeping it looking beautiful doesn’t have to be back-breaking. The trick is learning how to care for hardwood floors in a simple way.

Neglecting the upkeep of your hardwood floors, however, can leave you with dull, damaged flooring and a pricey refinishing job.

Read on to find out how you can keep your wood flooring looking like new.

Prevent Damage to Your Hardwood Floors

As a wise person (probably someone with solid wood floors) once said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Or, in this case, an ounce of babying your wood floors now is worth hours of repair later.

Now, when we say “baby”, we aren’t saying you should only walk on your floors wearing white silk socks or invent a way to make you furniture hover so nothing touches the walnut perfection of your floors. (Although if you do invent that, let us know.)

We just mean that you made an investment, and if you want it to pay for itself, you will need to take care of it.

There are a few key things that are responsible for wear on your floors:

  • Pets
  • Outside Contaminants
  • Furniture

So how do you avoid these and keep your wood flooring looking beautiful?

How to care for hardwood floors when you have pets

The danger from pets is three-fold: Nails, hair, and those happy “gifts” pet sometimes leave when they aren’t let out quickly enough.

Hair is easy enough. Simply sweep or vacuum daily to keep it off the floors. Pet nails can chip at floors, especially dog nails that aren’t retractable the way cats are. Make sure you are keeping pets nails trimmed on a regular basis.

This goes for any furry friends that will be walking on the floor regularly and is good for their health as well as your floors.

It’s important to do this to both cats and dogs. Even though cats can retract their claws, they will eventually grow too long and begin to damage your floors.

As for pet waste, it’s important (and we’ll talk more about it later) to not allow it to sit. Make sure it’s cleaned up as quickly as possible before it seeps into the subfloor.

Outside Contaminants

When you come into your house, everything that outside came with you on the bottom of your shoes.

Instituting a “no shoes” policy in the house can help cut down on most of the dirt coming in from the outside.

Especially avoid wearing heeled shoes indoors. Besides tracking in contaminants, heeled shoes can do serious damage to your wood flooring in the form of nicks and gouges in the wood.

It’s also helpful to lay down a few area rugs to help protect your floors. You should make a concerted effort to keep your outdoor living areas clean so you are tracking in less dirt.


The pressure on your floors from furniture can cause uneven wear over time. You can combat this two ways.

First, make sure you are using furniture pads on the bottoms of your furniture to avoid scratches when the furniture moves.

Second, periodically rearrange your furniture. This will give new life to any space in your home. It will also help your wood flooring to wear evenly.

Repairing Existing Damage

Having wood flooring isn’t meant to control your life. So things are going to happen, and occasionally your floors will take a hit.

How you take care of these things will depend on the type of damage and the extent.

Scratches and Scrapes

Scratches and scrapes are usually shallow and easily repairable.

Use a furniture touch up pen in a matching color or a specially formulated wood flooring refresher. Either method should disguise and repair scratches and return your wood floor to its original sheen.

Deep Gouges

For gouges that are deep but not too deep, you can get away with a wax filler stick. Just make sure to polish it with a soft cloth to get an extra wax off the floor.

For deeper gouges, wood putty is your best friend. Color match it as best you can and once it is set, sand the spot lightly, and apply a wood finish.


Pet stains are a pain to any pet owner, but if you catch stains before they have too long to set, you have a good chance of protecting your floor and subfloor from any damage.

Wipe up any stains before they have a chance to dry, making sure to get into the crevices between the boards.

If there is significant staining left behind, you can lightly sand down the finish, give the boards a good scrub with a little wood bleach or another cleaner, and then do some quick refinishing.

Obviously, prevention is preferable here. But it’s good to know stains don’t have to be the end of your wood flooring.

Sticky Substances

If you get gum or some other sticky something stuck to your flooring, you want to get it off before it causes any damage, without causing any damage yourself in the removal process.

Usually, sticky substances can be removed with the aid of an ice pack and a butter knife.

Simply apply the ice pack to the sticky area and wait until it is frozen solid. Then, use your butter knife to peel it away.

Make sure you give the area a good clean afterward.

Daily Maintenance and Cleaning

The day to daycare of your wood flooring doesn’t need to be intense.

In fact, a few minutes a day can keep your floors beautiful. Every day, make sure you and members of your household are preventing damage. Also, give the floors a good sweep once a day to clear away dirt and pet hair.

Once a week, run a vacuum over your floors using the bare floor setting. Make sure to use an attachment to get into spaces around baseboards, and in any little crannies where dirt likes to hide.

If your floor needs it, go ahead and take the time to mop once a week as well. Many people decry wood floors as being much more prone to grime than carpet. Don’t let this fool you.

Carpet and wood flooring collect the exact same amount of dirt throughout the day. The difference is that carpet does a much better job of locking dirt down in the fibers and hiding it.

Just make sure you are giving your floors a good once over daily, and they’ll stay clean and pretty.

It’s important to make sure you are using the proper tools on your wood flooring. The wrong cleaning products can scuff or damage your flooring.


The absolute best tool for keeping your wood flooring clean is a microfiber mop. A broom is fine, too, but microfiber acts like a dust magnet. It clings to the dirt and hair on your floor and pulls it up.

This microfiber mop is what you should be using daily. Use it dry, just to take care of the dust and dirt on the floor, as you would use a broom.

You can use a broom, but on slick floors, a broom tends to move dirt around rather than clean it.

Also, stiff-bristled brooms carry the risk of scratching your floors.

For your weekly vacuuming and mopping, make sure you have a vacuum that is friendly to wood floors. Some vacuums have a beater bar or wheels that can scratch wood floors.

As for mops, go ahead and put away that mop bucket. Too much moisture damages wood. Instead, just mist the floor with a wood cleaner. Then, go over it with the mop. Make sure not to leave any excess moisture on the wood.

Wood floors need a light touch, so don’t feel like you need to really break out the elbow grease here.

Cleaning Products

With wood floors, it’s often more important what you don’t use than what you do.

So many products can dull the surface of your floors, so it’s best to avoid them altogether if you can.

You want to avoid any of the following with wood floors:

  • Oil-based cleaners
  • Furniture spray or wax
  • Ammonia
  • Harsh or abrasive cleaners
  • Essential oils (yes, even citrus)

Often, your floor manufacturer will recommend a cleaner, or you can use a mixture of soap and water.

Just make sure you are using a mild, oil-free soap. Dish soap works well for this. You don’t need much, either. A teaspoon of soap in a large spray bottle is plenty.

Make sure that when you are mopping, all the moisture is being absorbed. Leaving too much water on a wood surface can be disastrous.

Keep in mind that using the wrong cleaners can sometimes void the warranty on your floors. Check with your manufacturer for the details on your warranty.

Deep Cleaning and Maintenance for Hardwood Floors

About once a month, you’ll want to do a good deep clean of your wood flooring with a wood floor cleaner. This is one of the simplest ways to care for your hardwood floors, but it takes some effort!

This will help your flooring maintain its shine and protect it from damage.

Every few years (set a reminder on your phone), you’ll want to do what’s called a maintenance coat on your floors. This is also referred to as a “buff and coat” or “screen and recoat”. All the terms refer to the same process. When your wood flooring is brand new, it is finished with a protective coating that gives it longevity and protection against wear and tear.

Over time, this protective layer begins to wear down, and if it gets too thin, it stops doing its job.

So every three to five years, depending on your family and the water on your floor, you’ll want to have this process done. The thinning coat of finish is buffed or screened away. This is similar to sanding, but not quite as abrasive.

Then a new coat of finish is put down.

You can either DIY this or leave it to a professional, based on your preferences. If you do the job yourself, you’ll need to rent or buy a buffer and learn how to use it.

When it’s Time to Refinish

image of wood flooring

Even the best-cared-for wood flooring will eventually need refinishing. The wear and tear of daily living, even under the best of circumstances, is going to dull your floor and cause the occasional scratch and nick.

The wear and tear of daily living, even under the best of circumstances, is going to dull your floor and cause the occasional scratch and nick. Luckily, there are some things you can do to lengthen the time between your refinishing projects.

Refinishing can be done every few decades if you care for your floor well.

This process involves quite a bit of elbow grease. Since it’s such a rare requirement, most homeowners leave it to professionals. However, if you want to do it yourself, you absolutely can. You’ll want to clean the floor well and remove any stripping from the edges of the floor.

Sand away imperfections by hitting the edges of the floor with 180-grit. We recommend that you use a floor sander for the middles. Doing this will give you a fresh, even surface to apply a new finish and sealer.

If you’re in a hurry, you can also strip the old finish away with a chemical stripper. Keep in mind that this won’t remove imperfections or scratches.

Keeping your wood floors looking like new is a matter of solid prevention and good maintenance. If you put in the time to preserve this investment in your home, your wood floors will last through decades of constant use.

If you are interested in wood flooring for your home, take a look at our amazing selection of wood floor samples!