Care, Maintenance, & the Effects of Moisture


Care and Maintenance

Cleaning and caring for your wood floors can be quite easy. For regular cleaning sweep with a soft bristle broom or vacuum using a soft floor attachment (to prevent scratching); avoid mopping your floors as water and moisture can damage them. You may also want to periodically clean your floors with a professional cleaner made for wood floors (a small amount of Windex in a bucket of water works well as an alternative).


Preventative Measures

• Do not use cleaners made for other types of floors (sheet vinyl or tile) as some chemicals may harm the wood and self-polishing acrylic waxes can dull wood and make it slippery.
• Do not let sand, dirt, or grit build up; clean flors every 1-2 weeks.
• In heavy traffic areas, use throw rugs. These can help dirt and debris from being tracked through your home and will help prevent scratching.
• Using a wet-mop can dull floors, leave a residue, and cause water damage.
• Wipe up water and spills immediately.
• Place pads on furniture legs to avoid scratching and scuffing.
•  Cleats and high heels can dent wood floors and should be avoided.
• Keep pets' claws trimmed to avoid scratches and gouges.
• Do not slide furniture across wood floors.
• Place a rug in front of the sink in the kitchen in case of spills.
• In the winter use a humidifier (more about in the Moisture section).



Many things can damage wood floors, most of which are preventable; one of these factors is moisture. As the moisture content in the air changes, wood floors slowly expand and contract, however, too much or too little moisture in the air can results in a number of problems in your wood floors.

Cracks: In the winter there is generally less humidity and therefore less moisture in the air, this causes the individual boards to shrink slightly. Wood floors are installed with this in mind, and can therefore handle some shrinking (and swelling in the summer), but when too much moisture is lost large cracks can occur.

Cupping: When wood flooring swells too much, the boards push out to the edges, the result of which is cupping. Humidity levels or something more serious, such as a leak, can cause cupping. Once the water source is found and stopped, the floors can be dried, and later sanded and refinished. When a floor cups, it needs to be completely dried before it is sanded, sanding too soon can result in crowning.

Crowning: If the edges of a cupped board are sanded too soon, when the wood dries and returns to normal, the sanded down edges will then be lower than the center of the board. Crowning therefore looks the opposite of cupping, with the center of the board being higher than the edges.

Buckling: When wood floors are pulling away from the sub floor beneath them, they are buckling. This is caused by excessive moisture and can be aggravated by inadequate nailing patterns and improper sub floor construction. Buckled floors are sometimes best to be replaced, but repair, renailing, and/or reinstallation can also work.

Ways to help eliminate these problems are to limit water exposure, try a wood floor cleaner instead of using water, wipe up spills quickly, and to control humidity; a humidifier can help keep moisture levels stable in a home, and a humidistat can give a reading of the moisture content in the air. Other potential sources of moisture are: a HVAC system that isn’t operating correctly, a wet or damp basement, leaks from appliances (dishwasher or ice maker), a home that is unventilated.

Humidistat: Air Humidity should remain between 35 – 55% and Temperature should remain around 60° - 70°.


Renewal & Repairs*

Unlike most other floor covering options, wood is very forgiving. Most problems can be prevented with proper maintenance, but when problems do occur, renewal and repair usually is possible. For renewing and repairing stains and scratches on any wood floor, always begin at the outer edge of the stain or scratch and work toward the middle. To renew or repair a wood floor, you first will need to determine which kind of finish is on your floor.

Surface Finished Floors – “Urethane”

• Chewing Gum, Crayon, Candle Wax - Apply a plastic bag filled with ice on top of the stain until it is brittle enough to crumble off. Clean the area with a product made for urethane finishes.
• Cigarette Burns - Most common burns can be treated with a touch-up kit made for urethane finishes. Rub with sandpaper, stain and refinish. For burns that reach deep into the wood, individual plank or parquet boards may need to be replaced.
• Food, Water, Dark Spots, Dog Spots - Use a cleaner developed specifically for urethane finishes to remove the spot or stain. More stubborn spots may require additional scrubbing with the cleaner and a wood flooring scrub pad made for urethane floors.
• Oil, Grease Stains - Rub the area with a cleaner developed for urethane.
• Scratches - Repair with a touch-up kit made for urethane finishes available from any wood flooring retailer.

Wax Floors Stains

• Chewing Gum, Crayon, Candle Wax - Apply a plastic bag filled with ice until the deposit is brittle enough to crumble off. Crayon or candle wax can be removed by placing an ink blotter on the area and applying a hot pressing iron to the top of the blotter. Solvent-based wax also can be applied around the area to loosen the deposit.
• Cigarette Burns - If the burn is not very deep, rub the area with fine sandpaper or steel wool. Moisten the steel wool with wax for better results. If the burn is deep, scrape the area with a penknife to remove charred fibers. Rub the area with fine sandpaper and stain.
• Dark Spots, Dog Spots, Ink Stains - Rub spot with #000 steel wool. Wax the affected area. If this fails, lightly sand the area with fine sandpaper, and clean it using #00 steel wool and mineral spirits or a wood floor cleaner . Allow the floor to dry. Stain, wax and hand buff. If the spot remains, apply a household bleach or vinegar and allow it to soak for an hour. Rinse with a damp cloth, wipe dry and smooth with fine sandpaper and stain.
• Dried Milk, Food Stains - Gently rub the stain with a damp cloth. Rub the area dry and wax..
• Heel Marks - Rub in a small amount of wax with fine steel wool and hand buff to a shine.
• Mold - Rub with a wood cleaner.
• Oil, Grease Stains - First rub the area with kitchen soap having a high lye content, or saturate cotton with hydrogen peroxide and place over the stain. Then saturate a second layer of cotton with ammonia and place over the first layer. Repeat until stain is removed. Let the area dry and then hand buff.
• Scratches - To renew and repair scratches, wax the area thoroughly.
• Water Stains, White Spots - Rub spot with #000 steel wool. Wax the affected area. If this fails, lightly sand the area with fine sandpaper, and clean it using #00 steel wool and mineral spirits or a wood floor cleaner. Allow the floor to dry. Stain, wax and hand buff.
• Wax Build Up - Strip the old wax away with odorless mineral spirits or a wood floor product made for stripping wax. Use cloths and fine steel wool to remove all residue. After the floor is dry, wax and buff.

*The Renewal and Repairs section is from woodfloors.org