Hardwood Floors & flooring

Five Winter Wood Cleaning Steps to Maintain Your Floors

by Margie Monin Dombrowski

winter wood floor tips

In the winter, wood flooring needs even more TLC than usual. With all of the extra dirt tracked in from muddy shoes, along with less moisture in the air to prevent gaps from forming between planks, you need a plan of action to keep them in good shape. Start preparing in the fall so your wood floors can look their best throughout the season.

Remove Dust and Dirt

During the late summer, dust mites are at their peak. These leave behind buildups of bacteria that, although soft, can scratch hardwood floors once ground in. Your first step should be to vacuum or sweep dirt and dust every week. Use a dust mop or a vacuum with a floor-brush attachment to prevent similar damage against your floors and furniture as you clean it.

Restore Its Shine

Sweeping and mopping aren't always enough to keep your wood floors free of grime. Go over your finished wood floors again with a damp mop and a natural oil soap to refresh your floors and preserve their shine without irritating the wood in the process. Be careful not to leave standing water on the floor which can damage it as well and wipe it dry. A deep clean right before the winter can help maintain your hardwood and keep it resistant to the elements that'll inevitably find their way inside.

Prevent Gaps

Gapping in wood flooring occurs during the winter because the low indoor humidity dries out the wood after the year's highest moisture levels in the summer. When wood loses moisture, it contracts, shrinking to reveal spaces in between the boards. Reduce winter gapping by taking control of this annual range of moisture. According to the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), this means keeping the relative humidity (RH) levels inside your home from swinging more than 20 percent from its wettest to driest. Do this by running a humidifier in the rooms that experience the most fluctuation those with doors to the outside, for instance.

Be Protective

Rugs don't just make a room feel warmer and cozier; they can also help protect your floors from wear and tear. Place rugs and runners at entrances and in high-traffic areas to prevent scratches and keep wet footwear from warping the wood especially in the colder months, when you track in snow and spend the most time inside. Stay away from rugs with rubber or vinyl backing, though, as they can trap moisture and damage the floor's finish.

Stop Dirt in its Tracks

The best way to keep your wood floors clean is to keep dirt out before it gets in. Place a walk-off mat outside your home as well as inside the entryway, where guests can wipe off their shoes before making themselves at home. Even if they don't stamp out all the dirt and mud, the mats will at least catch some of it. Add a shoe rack in your entry area to make sure the remaining dirt, rock salt and moisture from heavy boots and clothing doesn't come in contact with your floors, leaving less mess for you to clean.

Preventive and regular maintenance are important to keeping your wood floors clean and in prime condition. Follow these tips for winter wood floor care and you'll enjoy them each season.

This article was brought to you by Colgate-Palmolive Company, the makers of Murphy® Oil Soap. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of the Colgate-Palmolive Company.