Wednesday, November 24, 2010

20 Tips for Taking Care of Hardwood

Your business and residence contain a variety of wood surfaces that need care and cleaning to look their best. Here are 20 tips for taking care of your hardwood floors, furniture, and cabinets.

1. Know how hard your wood is and act accordingly.

Kiln-dried hickory and pecan are the hardest of the hardwood species. Next on the list is hard maple. Other hardwoods, in decreasing order of hardness, are white oak, beech, red oak, yellow birch, green ash, black walnut, soft maple, cherry, hackberry, gum, elm, sycamore, alder, yellow poplar, cottonwood, basswood, and aspen. Treat these latter hardwoods with extra care.

2. Clean regularly.
If allowed to accumulate, debris acts like sandpaper on hardwood.

3. Select the right product for the job at hand.
Removing a scratch? Use light sandpaper, a matching stain, and a protective coat of polyurethane. Restoring the finish? Choose a wax or oil recommended by the hardwood manufacturer and apply it exactly according to the instructions. Doing a light cleaning? Use non-alkaline dishwashing soap and a damp sponge to clean, making sure to dry the area immediately. Avoid the use of too much water, ammonia, and abrasive cleaners. Be aware that some products like linseed oil leave a residue, and other products may stain your clothing if you lean against the polished surface. Silicone sprays may also break down the wood.

4. Use the right tools.
Choose a vacuum without a beater bar and brushes. Select a broom with exploded ends. Use a microfiber dust mop. Dust and polish with soft, clean cloths.

5. Remember you are often cleaning the hardwood's finish rather than the hardwood itself.
Unless you are looking for a stain to match the color of a hardwood like cherry, products designed for a specific wood serve no purpose. Choose the product that is best for the wood's finish instead.

6. Protect your hardwood floors from scratches and wear and tear.
Use a welcome mat or two to catch dirt and debris at the door. Sweep up dirt weekly; daily is even better. Never drag furniture across your hardwood floor. Instead, place felt pads under the legs of furniture, especially pieces like dining room chairs that are moved frequently. Ask guests not to wear high heels, soccer cleats, skates, or muddy shoes past the front door. Keep wheeled toys outside.

7. Maintain constant humidity.

Air condition in the summer and use a humidifier in the winter. This will minimize the expanding and contracting done by natural hardwoods.

8. Protect your hardwood from the elements.
Close windows before raindrops blow in and on the floor, cabinets, or furniture. If you are building a new home or remodeling, keep your hardwood from damaging exposure by having new building materials delivered to an enclosed space. Also, make sure all your doors and windows are properly installed and closed before work with hardwoods begins. Ideally, your contractor will store hardwood flooring or lumber in the room where it will be installed so the wood can adjust to the moisture content of that space.

9. Use a sealer.
Apply a sealer at hardwood cut marks to prevent moisture from seeping in at the exposed area. Also, apply a sealer to surfaces that will get heavy traffic or constant use because they will also need frequent damp-cloth cleanings.

10. Install a vapor barrier.
Never install hardwood over a damp subfloor or newly installed drywall. Dry out the area and install a vapor barrier first.

11. Use protective pads.
Encourage family and guests to place coasters under their drinks. Use pads on hardwood tabletops. Place warm objects on hot pads or trivets. Use felt or a tablecloth under sharp objects like cut glass bowls, picture frames, vases, and lamps.

12. Wipe up water spills immediately.
In the past, builders refrained from using hardwoods in moisture-prone settings like bathrooms, basements, and kitchens. Now, hardwoods can be coated with polyurethane and still retain their natural look. Simply wipe off cleaning products, liquid splashes, food and beverage spills, or pet accidents as soon as possible.

13. Filter sunlight that shines on hardwood floors and furniture with drapes or blinds.

14. Move hardwood furniture away from heat sources like fireplaces.

15. Apply a protective sealant to hardwood floors and work surfaces.

16. Use a cutting board instead of chopping on your wood countertop.

17. Keep brass polish off your hardwood by removing it before polishing.

18. Clean the glass of a hardwood cabinet by spraying cleaner on a cloth first.

19. Remove plastic from hardwood surfaces to avoid sticking and discoloration.

20. Be wise. If a child shouldn't consume it or you can't pronounce it, it probably shouldn't be left on your hardwood.

Why do it yourself? Leave the care and cleaning of your hardwood floors, furniture, and cabinets to your professional cleaning team. They have the expertise, tools, and products that will make your hardwoods glow so you can enjoy them for a lifetime.