Nine Tips For Caring For Your Reclaimed Hardwood Floor

by Nicola Temple on April 9, 2012

If you have installed a reclaimed hardwood floor, with all its character and beauty, you’re likely going to want to know how to maintain it. Sure, it’s probably been around for a hundred years already, but that’s all the more reason not to mess it up on your watch!

There are some very basic tips that you can follow to keep your hardwood floors looking good and reduce the number of fixes and repairs needed. These tips are useful for both new and reclaimed hardwood floors.

1 – Knowing your seal helps you deal. It’s important to know how your flooring is finished as this will dictate how you maintain it. If the wood has been given a surface seal, as most these days have, with polyurethane or polyacrylic, your floor will be more resistant to stains and water damage.

If, however, it’s got what is known as a penetrating-seal, such as oil, which soaks into the wood, or if it has a varnish, lacquer or shellac finish, the floor won’t be as resistant to stains as a surface-sealed floor.

2 – Keep it clean. With two kids and a couple of pets, this may be easier said than done. However, it really is important to sweep and vacuum the floor frequently. Use a soft broom with fine bristles to sweep up daily and use a soft brush attachment on your vacuum weekly. This will pick up the dirt that can be ground into the floor or scratch the surface.

reclaimed hardwood floor

A wet mop is an enemy of any reclaimed hardwood floor. Always use just damp mops or cloths to clean hardwood to avoid swelling and buckling of the wood. CC image courtesy of Morgan on Flickr.

3 – Use mats. In high traffic areas, and particularly entrance ways, a mat can catch 80% of the dirt before it reaches the floor. So, some strategically placed mats can help reduce the amount of gouging dirt getting onto your hardwood surface.

4 – Water is your worst enemy. Water doesn’t quite have the same effect on your hardwood as it did on the wicked witch of the west, but close! Water penetrating into a hardwood floor can cause it to expand and buckle, no matter how old the wood is. So, be sure to soak up spills immediately. Never use a wet mop to clean; use either a mop that’s just damp or a lightly damp cloth to spot clean stains and give the floor a wash. If you have an old towel you can use to soak up spilled liquids, all the better! Get those boards dry.

5 – Use extra-fine steel wool to get out water spots. Pale water spots can develop on hardwood floors. These can be removed by dabbing some extra-fine steel wool into mineral spirits. Rub the stain with the wool in a circular motion.

6– Use a gentle cleaner. Your reclaimed hardwood flooring was probably around when your Grandma or even Great-Grandma was around, so why not use the recipes from that time too! A gentle floor cleaner made with 1 gallon warm water and 1 cup of white vinegar can go a long way in the hands of a soft floor cloth.

7 – Avoid furniture fiascos. Always cover your furniture feet with good quality felt pads and if you’re moving furniture, take the extra time to lift and carry rather than drag. Chances are your reclaimed hardwood floor has lots of character already, but a lovely semi-circular gouge caused by swivelling the sofa one night, doesn’t likely blend well with the other dings that give the floor character.

8 – Spot fix with some wax. Small divets, such as heel marks, can be covered by using a small amount of wax on an extra-fine steel wool pad. Rub the wax into the divet area.

9 – Give it a new topcoat when necessary. Depending on your finish, your reclaimed hardwood floor may need a buff and finish anywhere from once a year to once every five years. This will simply involve giving the surface a bit of a scratch to give the new finish layer something to attach to. A new top coat will help protect the hardwood floor and remove some of the more superficial dings and gouges.

Caring for a reclaimed hardwood floor isn’t much different from caring for any other hardwood floor. Probably the best advantage is that reclaimed wood has already seen a lot of use and so there are some dings, knots and other imperfections that give the floor character, which takes the pressure off.

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