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Q. How do I take care of my wood floor?
Maintenance Sheets (PDF): Care Surface Finish Care Oil and Wax Care Acrylic
A. First, what is the finish that is on your floor? The three most widely used finishes in our area are: Oil Modified Polyurethane, Water Born Polyurethane, and Oil and Wax finish. Advantages and disadvantages of these finishes will be discussed later. If you know the finish on your floor, then you can maintain your floor using the recommended products.
Second, water and wood is not a good combination. You do not damp mop your piano, and should not damp mop a wood floor. This will cause deterioration of the wood and finish over time. Minimum water should be used on wood, period, especially oil and wax finishes. Avoid using mops or cloths that leave excessive water on the floor. Standing water/spills should never be allowed to dry on a wood floor. Spills should be cleaned up immediately and excess moisture should be dried with a towel or rag. Do not clean with water based products on a regular schedule. Use only when necessary and clean only soiled areas. Most warranties from finish manufacturers and factory-finished wood flooring companies are voided by use of oil soap cleaners. For stubborn dirty spots, lightly dampen a soft cloth with the recommended cleaner or a generic cleaner like Fabulon Clean Sheen or Minnwax Hardwood floor cleaner and apply directly to these spots until removed.
Run a dust mop daily in high traffic areas, but avoid dust treatments if you are not sure of the compatibility with your finish. These treatments may cause your floor to become slick or dull your finish. Vacuum your floors on a regular basis, but do not use a vacuum with beater bar engaged.
After a floor is installed or finished, you should take the time to place protector pads on the bottom of all furniture legs before it is moved onto the floor. If the furniture has metal slide tabs on the bottom of legs, these can be removed with a flat screwdriver allowing the application of the pads. I have found over the years that felt pads or a soft leather work well as protector pads.
Do not put area rugs and runners on the floor until you are advised it is safe. Pads or rugs can cause damage to finishes or possible discoloration if placed on floor too soon. Use a good quality walk off mat at exterior entrances and a small rug at these doors on the interior. Wood that is not exposed to light will age differently than the rest of your floor. Natural fiber pads are not as likely to pattern transfer to the finish as are synthetic no-skid pads under area rugs. Use runners in front of sinks, dishwashers, and stoves.
Wood floors like to live in a home where relative humidity ranges between 20-40 percent. This will cause the moisture range in the wood to vary between 8-10 percent. During the dry times the floor may develop small cracks, but these will go away with increases in humidity. In most homes here in Austin, your central heat and air will maintain these conditions. I am sure you know, we rarely see outside humidity less than 40 percent. If the moisture content of your wood floor gets above 10-12 percent, you may begin to see cupping/washboarding or what we call compression set. When you floor goes back to a normal range you will be left with small or possibly large cracks between boards. Caution: Do not go on vacation and turn off the ac (leave it at a temperature where it will cycle on and off some). If you do this, your home may become a greenhouse because of our local high humidity and your floor will grow. You are also encouraging mold growth in any damp/dark area of your home.