Wood floors will remain attractive if you keep them grit-free and wipe up spills and foot-borne moisture promptly.
Here are wood-floor care tips:
* Keep dirt from being tracked in by stopping it at the door. A pair of rough-textured mats--one on the outside, the other inside the entryway--will catch a lot of it.
* Use area rugs to protect the floor finish where traffic is heavy--the dining area, family room and hallways, for example.
* Glue bunion pads on the feet of tables and chairs so that they can be moved without scratching the floor.
* Moving heavy furniture may damage wood floors. Slip a piece of plush carpet, pile side down, under the furniture legs or cover the legs with heavy socks, or try placing each leg into a "shoe" made from the bottom half of a clean milk carton. You'll protect the floor, and the furniture will slide more easily.
* Follow the recommendation of your builder or floor finisher about whether to wax floors. A finish of penetrating sealer needs the protection of wax, while varnish may or may not.
* Do not wax polyurethane and some other modern finishes because wax makes it impossible to recoat the floor with the finish without first stripping and sanding.
Caution: Do not use wax on polyurethane.
* Only solvent-base waxes should be used on wood floors.
* When a floor begins to look shabby--usually after six to eight coats of wax (or about once a year), it's time to remove the old wax.
* Self-cleaning, solvent-base polish removes old wax and dirt. Change the applicator pad or cloth often to prevent reapplying the old dirt.
* For a thorough cleaning, use a liquid cleaning wax containing a solvent such as turpentine or nontoxic dry-cleaning fluid.
Caution: Be sure that the room is ventilated when you do this.
* Severe darkening and yellowing of older wood floors is probably caused by the buildup of years of varnish applications. The only way to remedy this is to refinish the floor.
* For a quick cleanup of a wood floor, go over a small area at a time with a well wrung-out mop, wiping dry before moving on. Instead of plain water on natural or stained dark wood, try cleaning with cold tea.
Caution: Never clean a wood floor by flooding it with water.
* Water can cause warping and, even worse, wood rot. Only a slightly damp mop or cloth should be used, followed immediately by wiping dry.
* Dust-mopping or vacuuming floors daily is the best way to care for a floor because it gets rid of the fine grit that grinds the shine off of a floor finish.
* Dust mops pick up more dirt than brooms. To make the work go faster, buy a commercial 18-inch dust mop at a janitorial supply store.
* Avoid wax buildup on floor edges, under-furniture areas and other light traffic areas by applying wax every other waxing session.
* Keep track of where you do--and don't--want to wax. After you've moved the furniture and cleaned the floor, put a piece of newspaper the size of each piece of furniture where the furniture usually stands. Wax around the newspaper.
* For a quick shine between waxings, place a piece of wax paper under your mop and work around the room. (Be sure that you have dust-mopped thoroughly before, because grit under the paper will scratch the waxed surface of the floor.)
* To prevent worn spots on the polished floors in doorways or at the bottom of stairs, apply a thin coat of paste wax with a cheesecloth once or twice a month. Allow the wax to dry for 15 minutes, then polish; repeat the procedure an hour or two later.
* Remove mold from a wood floor with dry-cleaning fluid; if the mold is deeply embedded, use bleach or disinfectant. Rewax to restore the shine.
* For shallow scratches on a wood floor, buff the area lightly with extremely fine (No. 0000) steel wool, rubbing with the grain. Then apply two coats of paste wax, buffing each coat with a soft cloth. Rewax three or four times a year to prevent scratching.