Simple Ways to Keep Floors Clean This Winter When the Weather Has Other Plans

Sharon Brandwein
Written by Sharon Brandwein
Updated February 22, 2022
A man mopping a hardwood floor
Photo: milan2099 / E+ / Getty Images

Winter weather can damage your hardwood floors, but you’ve got it covered

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When winter roars in like a lion, the usual suspects—snow, ice, salt, and slush—can wreak havoc on your gorgeous hardwood floors. Proper floor care is crucial for maintaining their beauty and preventing permanent damage. 

Lucky for you, there’s not much to it. With a few strategic purchases, some new house rules, and a cleaning schedule you can stick to, your floors can stay clean. Here’s how to keep your floors clean this winter while keeping your sanity in check.  

1. Make Sure What Happens Outside Stays Outside 

If your front porch or backyard is covered in snow and mud, you can be sure it'll be tracked into your home. The only question is, will it be tracked in on two legs or four? 

To reduce the amount of dirt that hits your wood flooring and carpets, keep the areas around the outside of your home as clean as possible. Take special care to shovel driveways and sidewalks before it has a chance to melt into a gross wintry mix on your wood floors. 

2. Think of Doormats as Your Secret Weapon

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; in this case, the ounce of prevention are doormats. Whether you have hardwood floors, laminate flooring, or carpet, doormats can do a lot of the heavy lifting to keep your floors clean this winter. 

To be honest, it’s one of the best things you can do for your floors year-round. Ideally, you should invest in two mats per entryway; one for outside the threshold and one for inside. The outside doormat would probably grab the bulk of dirt and moisture, snow, and slush from shoes, and the inside mat would ideally grab anything that’s left. 

3. Invest in Boot Trays  

If you live in an area where snow, salt, and slush are a normal part of winter, you might also consider adding a boot tray to your entryways. Often made from rubber, plastic, or metal, these handy helpers are indispensable when it comes to keeping your flooring clean and dry. 

4. Implement a No Shoes Policy

A hallway with stylish furniture and pairs of shoes by the door
Photo: Liudmila Chernetska / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

Adding doormats to your entryways is a great way to keep the mess to a minimum, but there’s only so much a mat can do. At best, doormats can probably catch about 80% to 90% of the dirt, debris, and moisture from shoes. 

The only way to ensure that nothing gets through is by removing your shoes at the door. To keep your hardwood floors and carpets clean this winter, you might try instituting a no-shoe policy.  

5. Mind Your Pets

We all love our pets, and while they spend most of their lives living like kings and queens, you might have to draw the line at free roam of the house—for the sake of your sanity. As wonderful as they are, our furry friends are notorious for tracking in dirt, mud, and grass. 

But even more concerning is the bacteria, germs, and dander that you can’t see. So to keep the visible (and invisible) mess to a minimum, you might think about keeping certain areas of your home off-limits to your pets.

6. Keep Cleaning Supplies Nearby

How many times have you tracked dirt, snow, or salt in with you and promised you would come back to clean it straight away, but returned a few hours later to find that the dirt dried into a cakey mess? 

It’s easy to miss messes along the way, but keeping cleaning supplies on hand will help remind you to clean your floors before walking away. To ensure quick clean-ups, keep your supplies nearby. A broom, a dustpan, and a mop are all you need. 

7. Clean Your Floors Regularly 

The best way to keep your floors clean this winter is by sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming them regularly; this is particularly important if you have wood floors. Salt can ruin hardwood floors if it’s not cleaned up immediately. With enough time, foot traffic, and only sporadic cleaning, your floors can quickly pass the point of no return. Incidentally, the average cost to refinish hardwood floors is somewhere between $600 and $4,000, so you might want to keep floor care top of mind. 

The best way to clean hardwood flooring that’s stained with salt is a one-two punch with vinegar and water. Just mix one cup of vinegar with a gallon of water, pour the solution into a spray bottle and spray it directly onto salt stains. Use a paper towel or microfiber rag to wipe it dry. 

8. Clean High-Traffic Areas More Frequently 

If you’re cleaning your wood floors once a week, think about cleaning high-traffic areas at least twice per week, maybe, even more, if it's a busy weather season. 

High-traffic areas are hard to keep clean any time of year, so consider hiring a pro in your area to keep your hardwood floors and carpets looking their very best come rain or shine.  

How Cold Weather Affects Hardwood Floors 

The key to floorcare during the winter months is knowing your opponent and understanding what’s happening. Remember that as the temperature drops outside, so do the humidity levels, both outside and inside your home.

Lower humidity levels in your home mean that the moisture in your wood floors will decrease, causing them to shrink. As the days get shorter and the mercury continues to fall, you may begin to see gaps in your hardwood floors. 

The good news is this is completely normal, and as the seasons change, from winter to spring and into the summer, your floorboards will return to normal. If you’re concerned about the gaps in your wood floors, you can always run a humidifier in your home to add some moisture back into the air.  

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