Woman wearing slippers dry mopping hardwood flooring in winter.

5 Tips for Caring for Your Wood Floors in Winter

Winter is a welcomed season for many in Oregon because it brings with it a glut of snow sports, a handful of blustery nights spent cozy at home, and plenty of busy days filled with holiday traditions old and new. The change of season is felt distinctly. We are starting to see the coming rain that will wash us in shades of emerald next spring. The crispness in the air indicates it’s time to pull out the winter gear: hats, gloves, scarves, base-layers, and boots. It’s also time to tackle the household winterizing too. Here are five tips for caring for your wood floors in winter.

1. Clean Appropriately

Knowing the type and condition of the finish on your floor is essential to choosing the appropriate cleaning product. Hardwood floor finishes come in a variety of compounds, and each finish has specific cleaning guidelines. For example, if your flooring has a urethane or polyurethane finish, you don’t want to use a wax paste or oil soap because they can leave a slippery residue, which creates a serious slip hazard.

Other cleaning products can discolor and dull a finish in as little as one application, so it’s important to use the right cleaning agent. Even natural cleaning agents such as baking soda, vinegar, and water can cause visible damage to the shine and color of some polyurethane finishes.

In fact, it’s best to avoid water altogether, and never use a steam cleaner. Water damage to hardwood flooring can cause staining and swelling, and if the damage is extensive or prolonged, it can result in cupping, crowning, and other costly repairs. There are a number of high-quality products that are specifically formulated to clean quickly and efficiently while drying thoroughly.

2. Leave the Muck at the Door

Once you have made the effort to clean your floors, keep that shine as long as you can by controlling the amount of the world that makes its way into your home. We have tons of reasons to keep outside elements outside, and fortunately, there are loads of products to help us do that. You can mount thick bristle shoe brushes leading to your entry points and then place deeply grooved mats at both the outside and inside of the door itself. Once inside, you might adopt a Mr. Rogers sneaker habit and slip into some comfortable house shoes.

The health benefits of keeping a clean floor are numerous, and when it comes to wood floors in winter, there are extra factors to consider. Beyond the known culprits of water and mud, the Oregon Department of Transportation uses sand, magnesium chloride salt with an added corrosion inhibitor, and sodium chloride salt as anti-ice/de-ice storm maintenance measures, and any one of these things can inflict significant damage to flooring if tracked across your floor.

3. Protect Vulnerable Areas

Hardwood floor finish wears down disproportionately in high-traffic areas, and other places can become discolored from exposure to sunlight and UV wavelengths. It’s a good idea to put down rugs or floor runners to reduce wear and to use sheer curtains at windows to reduce UV light damage. Additionally, moving rugs and furniture periodically can help to minimize fade. Avoid high-heeled shoes and abrasive boots, and keep pets’ nails trimmed to minimize scratching. Also, consider refreshing your finish in high-traffic areas to extend the life of the flooring.

4. Avoid Water Contact or Moisture Collection

Most experts agree that water is quite problematic for wood floors in winter because of its ability to seep into the tiniest scratch or crack and then to be drawn into the wood fiber, where it naturally creates opportunities for stains, mold, warping, and cupping. It’s best to prevent water damage through diligence. Use mats at areas susceptible to splashing, such as near sinks, water bowls for pets, potted plants, and entryways because it’s there that water is joined with abrasives and caustics like sand and salt.

If you find water on your wood floors, immediately dry it completely. Whenever possible, regulate the moisture in your home with consistent temperature and humidity control. A dehumidifier is a great tool to keep moisture in check.

Even with all the preventative measures, it’s likely you will still be tracking water, mud, and sand onto your floors, and once the damage begins, there can be a rapid deterioration and degradation of the area. At the point that your finish has become damaged, it becomes necessary to evaluate the options. Fortunately, the experts at Wall 2 Wall Hardwood are readily available to help assess your needs.

5. Renew the Finish

Ultimately, there will come a time when your regular four to six deep cleanings each year just can’t deliver the look and performance you’re accustomed to seeing. You have done all the preventative measures and cared for your floors with great attention, but as with all things, there is a life expectancy.

Each type of finish will come with its own rating. Urethane and polyurethane may need refinishing every 6 to 10 years, depending on several aspects, especially the amount of traffic your floor supports. A family of four with two dogs is likely going to need to renew their finish significantly earlier than a retired couple.

Wax finish may need more frequent renewal, whereas some of the engineered finishes are rated to last anywhere from 10 to 30 years. As mentioned earlier, it’s really important to know what kind of finish you have because it will determine what your renewal options are.

Other considerations include the degree of wear, any damaged areas or repairs, stains, and water marks. The type of wood and thickness will need to be evaluated beforehand if your renewal includes significant sanding. Refinishing your hardwood flooring can be a DIY project, but it’s important to understand that it’s not necessarily quick, easy, or even that cheap. In all reality, hiring a professional to do the job is in the average homeowner’s best interests of time and money.

Wall 2 Wall Hardwoods offers a variety of professional services that deliver excellent craftsmanship. We know the job, have the tools, are familiar with the common snafus, and have the expertise to make your floors look amazing.