Hardwood Floor Care Guide: How to Maintain Your Flooring in 5 Steps

Rochel Maday
Written by Rochel Maday
Updated September 22, 2021
A young couple playing with their dog in the kitchen of their country house
rh2010 / stock.adobe.com

Use this five-step hardwood floor care guide to clean and maintain your flooring

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

Hardwood floors are a coveted feature for home buyers. They also offer great resale value. According to the Remodeling Impact Report, hardwood floors have an average return on investment of 91%.

Hardwood floors are an asset worth protecting. The following hardwood floor care guide will show you how to care for your flooring at various stages of its life.

Difficulty score: 2/5

Time: 1 hour to 5 days, depending on steps needed

List of materials (as needed):

  • Dust mop

  • Wet mop

  • Hardwood floor cleaning solution

  • Wood filler

  • Sandpaper

  • Stain

  • Polyurethane finish

1. Inspect Your Floors

Hardwood floors can add serious value to your home. And adding a few steps to your weekly routine is all it takes to increase their longevity. 

Knowing how to care for your hardwood floors begins with a thorough inspection:

  • Start by removing clutter and rugs from the space.

  • Next, examine every plank for scratches, dents, grime, and signs of damage.

  • Make note of any findings that will need attention later in the cleaning process.

2. Remove Visible Debris

Close-up of a woman’s hand wiping a hardwood floor
Westend61 / Getty Images

The next step in our hardwood floor care guide is to pick up any large pieces of debris before dust mopping the entire surface. If you use a vacuum, use one without a beater bar. Dust mop at least once a week. You may find yourself completing this step more often if you have young children or pets.

3. Clean and Disinfect

Even with regular dust mopping or vacuuming, dirt and grime can accumulate on hardwood floors. A liquid solution designed exclusively to clean hardwood floors can take care of both.

Follow the tips below to properly clean and disinfect hardwood flooring:

Disinfecting Hardwood Floors

From hardwood flooring in the kitchen to the bathroom, it can harbor bacteria and viruses like any other surface. Look for a solution that contains disinfecting agents. Follow the product’s instructions, especially if you need to dilute it. It’s also recommended to test the product on a small and inconspicuous area before applying it over the entire flooring surface.

What to Avoid on Hardwood Floors

There are certain cleaning solutions and techniques to avoid on hardwood floors. Vinegar and bleach, even if diluted, can damage the finish of your flooring with prolonged use. Using a steamer is a natural approach to disinfecting surfaces. However, wood floors are porous and excessive moisture and high temperatures can cause warping.

At-Home Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Hydrogen peroxide is an effective disinfectant that’s probably in your cabinet right now. Spray a 3% hydrogen peroxide solution directly onto floors. Wipe away with a microfiber cloth after allowing the solution to sit for several minutes.

4. Repair Scratches as Needed

Wood flooring is prone to scratches. Some can add a bit of character, while others can be unsightly. These techniques can help make your hardwood floors look new again.

At-Home Approach

A mix of olive oil and baking soda can reduce the appearance of scratches in hardwood floors. Apply the mixture, let it sit for several minutes, and buff in gently with a soft sponge.

Altered Approach

Consider this approach if your floor has more than just a few light scratches. Hand-scraping or distressing your floors to give them a worn, antique appearance can turn unsightly scratches into custom character. 

  • Try running a wire brush across each plank to mimic pet scratches.

  • A screwdriver can be used to create controlled and shallow divots.

  • You can even try a soldering iron to add burn marks or scars to your flooring.

Whatever approach you want to try, make sure to conduct a test run in an inconspicuous area to make sure you like the final look. 

Professional Approach

This approach is best for deep scratches. 

  • Start by cleaning deep into the groove of the scratch so you don’t trap any debris.

  • Then fill the groove with wood filler.

  • Once the wood filler has dried, lightly sand the top until it is smooth and flush with the surrounding area.

  • Stain with a matching shade and seal.

5. Protect Your Hardwood Flooring

Close-up of a woman’s hand wiping a hardwood floor
Catherine Falls Commercial / Moment / Getty Images

The last step in our hardwood floor care guide is maintenance. Once your floors are clean, disinfected, and repaired, you’ll want to fall into a hardwood floor maintenance routine. 

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Mop up spills right away.

  • Use approved cleaning and finishing products on your hardwood floors.

  • Always test a small hidden area before full applications.

  • Open the windows, if possible, when using cleaning solutions to speed up drying time.

  • Add protective pads to furniture.

  • Remove shoes before walking on hardwood floors.

  • Use rugs in high traffic areas.

  • Trim pets’ nails on a regular basis.

Hardwood Floor Refinishing Guidelines

Even with consistent care, hardwood floors need routine refinishing. Refinishing can give tired floors new life and is typically recommended every 7 to 10 years

Signs your hardwood floors could benefit from refinishing include:

  • Excessive scratches and dents

  • Water damage

  • Fading and discoloration

DIY Hardwood Floor Refinishing Costs vs. Hiring a Pro

It’s possible to refinish your hardwood floors on your own. You also have the option of hiring a local wood floor refinishing professional. Here are different costs to consider. 

DIY Hardwood Refinishing Cost

First, there are plenty of materials you’ll need to purchase or rent. First, you’ll likely have to rent a floor sander at an average of $70 for a full day, plus a deposit. Other materials, like sandpaper, stain, and varnish, can quickly add up to several hundred dollars.

While the cost to refinish hardwood floors strongly depends on square footage, you can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 to refinish your own hardwood floors.

Hidden DIY Costs

Another DIY cost to keep in mind is related to your experience. The less experience you have with refinishing hardwood floors, the higher the risk of error. If you accidentally ruin your floors, you can expect to pay two to three times as much to replace them than if you had hired a professional from the start.

Professional Hardwood Refinishing Cost

If you’ve decided that having a professional refinish your floors will be faster and more satisfactory, you can expect to pay between $1,000 and $2,500. To get a better idea of what your hardwood refinishing project will cost with a professional, multiply the project’s square footage by the average price of $4 per square foot

Caring for hardwood floors is a labor of love. Maintenance is ongoing but worth it for homeowners who desire the timeless look and feel of hardwoods in their living spaces.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.