If you have hardwood floors, they’re most likely composed of standard three-quarter inch planks of solid wood — oak, pine, maple, and cherry are common woods used in hardwood flooring.
Over time, the urethane sealer on hardwood floors wears away, especially in high-traffic areas, and needs to be reapplied. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) recommends re-coating solid wood floors every three to five years and having them refinished every few decades or as needed.
Refinishing a hardwood floor involves sanding it down to the fresh wood and re-coating it with sealer. It’s an expensive, messy project that requires the skill and expertise of a professional — or very handy handyperson. In general, a hardwood floor can be refinished four to six times over its lifespan.
The good news is that hardwood floors are durable and easy to clean. Compared to their laminate and engineered wood cousins, though, hardwood floors are pretty susceptible to damage from high humidity, moisture, and the wrong cleaning products.
Here are the Three Golden Rules of Maintenance for hardwood floors:
- Wipe up wet spills immediately.
- Never use a wet mop or — horror of horrors — a steam mop on your hardwood floors. Regular exposure to moisture causes swelling and warping.
- Never use conventional floor cleaners like Mop & Glo or Murphy’s Oil Soap on your hardwood floors. These and other cleaners leave behind oils, silicones, waxes, and other residues that dull the shine of the floor. Some will cause streaking or a milky coating that’s hard to remove. Some of these residues even attract more dirt — and worse, they make it impossible for a new coat of sealer to adhere to the floor later on, which means if your floors need refreshing, you’ll have to go the refinishing route.