Once you’ve experienced the elegant simplicity of hardwood flooring, it is hard to imagine living without it, much less covering its organic beauty with wall-to-wall carpet. Carpeting can look attractive, but the amount of stuff that accumulates in and under it over time can be revolting. Sometimes carpet is only installed to conceal old wood floors in bad condition.
Coverings for bare floors
If you like the cushy, plush feel of carpet on your bare feet, get an area rug to place over your hardwood. It serves two purposes: It protects the floor, and it keeps your feet warm in the winter. Be sure to move your area rugs periodically; if you don’t, your wood flooring could discolor.
Enemies of hardwood
Water is the #1 enemy of hardwood flooring. Water can damage your finish and leave behind a residue (http://woodfloors.org/care-maitenance.aspx).
Wipe up water spills as soon as they happen with a soft cloth.
Ammonia is another enemy of hardwood. It will turn oak floors black.
Cleaning hardwood is easier than you might think
One truism about hardwood floors: they’re easier to keep clean than carpet. You need only follow a few general principles. And you don’t need to hire a maid to do it right.
Although Grandma might tell you that vinegar and water is all you need to make your hardwood shine, unless you plan to strip the finish from your hardwood, don’t follow her advice on this one. Also avoid using furniture polishes on your hardwood (or Grandma may slip, fall, and need her other hip replaced).
Hardwood cleaning basics
When you clean hardwood, first vacuum the floor to remove all dirt and debris (check out a canister vacuum). If you use vacuum attachments to clean corners, to avoid scratching the floor, cover the ends of those vacuum parts with duct tape.
You can also use a dust mop if you prefer that to a vacuum.
Once you remove the loose dirt and debris from your floors, it’s okay to use a damp (near dry) sponge mop on wood floors. When you wet mop, don’t drench the floors with a sea of water or you’ll warp the wood.
Once the floor is dry, use a microfiber mop with a hardwood floor cleaner WITHOUT wax. If you have children who play on the floor and pets who lick the floor, consider environmentally-safe floor cleaners, such as Bona products.
An ounce of prevention against scratches
Enforce a “no shoes” policy in your home. One errant pebble lodged under a shoe is all it can take to scratch and ding your hardwood.
If your guests call you finicky for asking them to leave their shoes at the door, tell them you’re taking a cue from the Japanese (who probably have less scratches on their hardwood, too).
In time, your guests will adjust to removing their shoes in your foyer. They may even start to bring along their own slippers. And your good habits just might inspire them to take better care of their own hardwood, too. If they don’t have hardwood (or if it’s peeping out from behind unsightly dated carpet), they might decide it’s time to install or restore their hardwood.