How to care for your timber flooring
Author: Carolyn Boyd, Property Journalist
It’s easy to understand why homeowners love timber floors: they look warm, are good for allergy sufferers, are softer underfoot than tiles or polished cement and tend to do a great job camouflaging dust and dirt. The beauty of these types of floorboards is that, although they can occasionally scratch or mark, over time, this often adds to their patina, giving them that warm but lived-in look.
They do, however, require some care. And though it’s relatively simple to care for timber floors, there are a number of things you should avoid:
- Too much moisture
- Excessive dirt
- Dragging furniture or heavy objects across them. To avoid scratching the floors, fit the underneath of all furniture legs with protective pads. Check that dust and grime don’t build up under the pads over time, as this, too, can cause scratches if you slide the furniture.
Give the floors a finish
Most wooden floors are now polished with solvent or water-based polyurethane. Both are hard wearing, but homeowners and floor finishers are increasingly choosing water-based options, as these are lower in toxicity and dry faster. Other homeowners like to use wax or tung-oil.
If you’re moving into a new home with timber flooring, be sure to check which finish the floors have, as this will affect how you should clean and maintain them.
Keeping them clean
Give your timber floors some TLC with a regular sweep or vacuum. Regardless of the floor finish, it’s important to regularly remove dust and loose particles that could cause scratches. A soft-bristled broom, vacuum cleaner or electrostatic mop are your best bets.
Wipe up everyday spills straightaway with a dry cloth or paper towel. Placing floor mats outside the entryways to your timber floors can also help stop some of the dirt, sand and grit from landing on your floors.
And although you should never mop waxed floors, you can freshen up polyurethane floors with a quick mop. But remember: water is the biggest enemy of timber floors, so if you’re using a conventional mop, wring it out well; never flood the floor with water. And don’t use water that’s too hot, as it can damage some finishes. Use cool to lukewarm water with a pH-neutral cleaning product that’s recommended for your finish. Avoid harsh cleaners, such as bleach, and vinegar, as it’s acidic and can dull floors over time.
Never use steam mops on wooden floors; they can strip the floor finish (particularly water-based finishes), and the moisture can penetrate the floorboards, causing cupping. However, some floor-care companies, such as Bona, sell mop systems that allow you to very lightly mist the floor and mop it with a machine-washable microfibre cloth. These systems are great for homeowners who don’t want to deal with lugging around mop buckets.
With this minimal effort, your timber flooring can give you years of easy-care pleasure.