Wooden floors create a cosy atmosphere. However, they are also subjected to very heavy wear. Just think of high heels, stones from your shoes and everyday dirt. No natural wooden floor can survive that for long. As a result, you should protect floors from the outset with oils, wax or varnish. However, you must also clean them properly and regularly to enjoy your wooden floors for many years. What do you have to bear in mind when maintaining parquet and floorboards? Together with our expert Mateusz Szylak from Parketterei in Munich, we give you helpful tips on parquet care and how to treat wooden floors.
How to Clean and Maintain Wooden Floors Properly
Do you want to enjoy your wooden floor for years to come? You can, if you clean them and care for them properly. Get helpful tips from our expert.
- In general, you have to remember that wood is a living material, and it expands and contracts with changes in humidity and temperature. To prevent your wood from warping, you should keep the temperature and moisture content of the air relatively constant. An indoor climate of approximately 20 degrees Celsius and a humidity of between 50 and 60 percent are ideal.
- Before wiping your wooden floor (whether floorboards or parquet), you should always vacuum the floor: "Dirt and sand have the same effect as sandpaper on wooden floors. They increase the wear on the protective layer. That makes it easier for moisture and dirt to dig in," says our expert Szylak.
- A floor mat at the entrance catches a lot of dirt. In areas of heavy footfall, larger dirt traps are recommended.
Caring for parquet floors
"First off, we have to distinguish between parquet floors with varnished (sealed) surfaces and those with oiled or waxed surfaces of parquet floors. The surface finish determines the care they need," says Szylak.
It is important to remove everyday dirt carefully and using the right cleaning agents. "Never use microfiber cloths or all-purpose cleaning agents. Those cloths act like little scratching brushes, and the cleaning agents are also much too aggressive," says Szylak. Microfiber wipers and steam cleaners are equally unsuitable for parquet. You should use special parquet cleaning agents and a soft mop instead. "Always follow the care instructions so that you retain the full warranty for your product," advises the expert.
If floors are lightly soiled, vacuuming is enough for regular cleaning. After that, wiping with an almost dry cotton mop is enough to gently remove residual soiling. However, you should be careful: If the parquet gets too wet, the surface will be damaged in the long run. When damage occurs, like a silvery-gray or rough parquet surface, the only way to remove it is time-consuming sanding.
Insufficient care is the most common mistake. There is even a norm for treating wooden floors – (German) standard DIN 18356. It says that dirt should be removed regularly from parquet floors. However, it does not define a specific interval, so a decision must be made on-site. "I would say every 1 to 2 weeks in private homes. In hospitality sector or commercial premises, it can make sense to clean the floor every 1 to 2 days," says Szylak.
Regular maintenance cleaning is recommended, especially for oiled parquet or floorboards.
"The advantage of varnished wooden floors is that they can be treated with varnish soap or similar components. They have a sealed surface that prevents dirt and soiling taking hold. However, this is only true as long as the varnish is not scratched. As soon as it scratches, moisture creeps under the varnish and causes the gray discoloration I talked about earlier," adds the expert.
Caring for timber floorboards
As with parquet, timber floorboards can also be divided into sealed and unsealed floors.
"The care procedures for timber floorboards are similar to those for parquet floors, and depend on the surface finish," explains Szylak. There are specific polishes for sealed floors and special care products for floors treated with oil and wax. "These care products not only protect the floorboards against fine scratches due to dust or sand, they also prevent the dirt sticking easily," says Szylak.
Long-serving wooden floorboards in old buildings often have very wide joints. "If this is the case, you must really make sure that you vacuum the floorboards thoroughly and do not use too much water when mopping them. And always use a professional care product when washing the floorboards," warns the expert. However, the workload is not much higher than for sealed joints, when you consider how durable these floorings are. "These floors were generally there long before we were – and will still be there when we are long gone," adds Szylak.
Tip: Older (varnished) timber floors look better if they are polished roughly once a year. However, the old floor wax must first be removed with a grinder. After that, the wood is sealed again using a polishing machine and liquid floor wax. You can rent polishing machines for a small fee in most well-stocked DIY stores.
Prevention is better than cure!
"Too many people don't take preventive action," critiques Szylak. "They don't start looking for a solution until the timber or parquet floors are in really bad condition, even though regular care can eliminate the need for a thorough overhaul and preserve floors for a long time."
For sealed wooden floors, you should apply a very thin film of a special care product to the wood roughly twice a year.
You should treat waxed floors to a new layer of wax roughly once a year – and the same is true for oiled floors: polishing them with oil gives them a new protective layer. "However, you have to make sure that no excess oil remains on the surface. When puddles of oil are left to dry on the wooden surface, they leave ugly round stains," warns the expert.
Hard wax oil is a combination of oils and waxes. It can be applied in one go, speeding up the treatment process. However, the disadvantage of closing the pores in the wood rapidly is reduced waterproofing, which require more everyday care.
And remember: "Cloths and grinding dust soaked in oil can spontaneously combust. So always soak cloths and grinding dust with water after treatment, or store them and dispose of them in an airtight container," warns the expert.
What can you do when your wooden floor is scratched?
It is almost impossible to avoid scratches – even if you have felt gliders on all of your chairs and take off your high heels outside the door.
"However, on oiled and waxed surfaces, minor scratches are almost invisible after maintenance cleaning," explains Szylak. Even with sealed surfaces, varnish care (like that sold by Bona or Woca) can help preserve them. When applying the products, this varnish fills the little scratches and therefore seals the surface again.
"If there are larger scratches or many scratches, the surface of the timber starts to turn gray without varnish – and once it reaches a certain point, the only solution is a grinder," says Szylak.