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Hardwood flooring is one of the most popular flooring choices for the home, and no wonder.

It offers strength, durability and great looks. Plus, it tends to have a high return on investment when you start calculating resale value. But hardwood is also an expensive flooring choice, so you want to take the best possible care of it. Plus, it tends to be more vulnerable to the wrong cleaning choices than other kinds of flooring. Take these steps to ensure a long life and a beautiful finish:

AVOID MOISTURE WHEN CLEANING

Moisture and wood don’t mix. Water seeping into the boards, even in small amounts, can cause warping and cracks over the long term. In most cases, the finish will protect your hardwood from incidental amounts of water, but regularly cleaning with a wet mop will stretch that protection to its limit. For this reason, clean up any spills quickly.

Steer clear of harsh chemicals such as vinegar or ammonia. Many manufacturers will recommend a specific cleaning solution, and you could void your warranty if you don’t comply. Stay away from steam cleaners as well.

Many cleaning products can dull the finish or discolor the wood. Plus, some products, even those that are advertised as safe for hardwood floors, leave a waxy residue or buildup that can be hard to eliminate.

For regular maintenance cleaning, a soft cloth or microfiber mop can pick up most messes. Many manufacturer-recommended cleaners come in spray form, which you can spray directly on the mop head. Spray enough to make it damp but not wet, so it picks up dust but doesn’t leave residue behind. A regular vacuum can handle debris. Make sure you set it for bare floors.

HOW TO PRESERVE YOUR FLOOR

Daily sweeping or vacuuming will help ensure your floor’s long life. Debris, dirt and other grit can get into crevices, create buildup and scratches or wear away the finish.

Place rugs in entryways and high-traffic areas to minimize wear and tear.

Close your blinds or use curtains to prevent fading from direct sunlight.

Place felt pads on chair legs, tables and any furniture that will be frequently moved. Every so often, inspect the felt on furniture that moves frequently, such as chairs. The pads will wear away more swiftly in such cases.

Rearrange your furniture every year or so. Heavy furniture sitting in the same spot for years can cause indentation and damage.

Place plastic trays underneath plant pots to protect the floors from excess water. Use caution not to overwater plants.

If you have pets, keep their nails trimmed to minimize scratches, and use caution while wearing high heels — or better yet, take your shoes off at the door.

Eventually, you’ll need to refinish your hardwood floor. Most floors should last you between 10 and 20 years. This will vary depending on traffic and maintenance. Keep an eye out for scratches, wear marks, and furniture indentations. When you hire a pro, make sure they have experience with your type of flooring material.

 

Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.

 

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