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Take a minute to think about the beating your wood floors take on a daily basis: shifting tables, pet paws, high heels, just to name a few! As tough as they may be, wood floors will inevitably become dirty, scratched, and worn over time. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to bring old floors back to life – without the cumbersome process of refinishing.

1. Strip off the wax

If your wood floor wasn’t sealed with a polyurethane finish and relies on a carnauba paste wax to deliver its shine, wax can accumulate and cause the floor to look dull. In fact, the shine will completely disappear if you have used paste wax on a polyurethane sealant. Even if you apply wax properly a couple of times a year, eventually it will accumulate and turn dull in certain areas. Preserve the shine of your floor by stripping off the wax with the help of mineral spirits or another wax stripper.

2. Tailor your cleaning methods

The simple act of cleaning can make a significant difference in the appearance of your wood floor. However, it’s important to tailor your cleaning method to your floor’s needs. If the floor has been tucked away under a carpet, examine it and remove any nails or staples left after the carpet installation. If the floor has mold, treat and remove it completely so it does not spread to the other areas of your home. Dining room floors may contain food residue that won’t come off without extra elbow grease. Avoid using harsh chemicals because they can harm the floor’s finish.

3. Polish it to a shine

Polishing your floor with an item specifically formulated for it is an inexpensive way to even out imperfections, regain elegance, and prolong the life of the wood. The best way to get started is to invest in a wood floor polish in high- or low-gloss sheens and a flat-head mop with a microfiber cloth. Be sure to take the floor’s finish into consideration before applying any of these products. Floors featuring penetrating finishes like unsealed wood or tung oil would turn out better with wax. Polish is suitable for protective surfaces such as urethane. Use the right polish to avoid making floors too slick or dulling the lustre of the finish.

4. Consider recoating

Another way to bring your wood floor back to life is to add a new layer of coat that will adhere to the existing finish. Recoating is quicker than refinishing, but it does have its weaknesses. Because the fresh finish coat will be applied on top of the existing finish, it will help enhance the appearance of old wood, but it won’t fix any issues within the wood itself. That’s why you should take the following steps before executing the recoating process.

    • Make repairs

This includes removing any exposed nail heads, touching up deep scratches with a stain marker, and plugging holes left from old phone lines. Also, remove the dust produced by scuffing with the help of a soft bristle on a vacuum (mopping will only push the debris into the spaces between the boards).

    • Let it dry

After cleaning and repairs, wipe the wood floor with a dry, soft cloth, and give ample time to any remaining wood cleaner so that it evaporates in an efficient manner. If you’re pressed for time, use a fan to blow air across your hardwood floor.

    • Scuff the existing finish gently

Neither oil-based or water-based finishes can produce a chemical bond with an older finish. You have to generate a mechanical one yourself, and this can be done by using a polisher featuring a synthetic pad. It’ll speed up the process of scuffing old coatings by adding several dozen almost imperceptible scratches to the current finish.

5. Damp mop in every season

This doesn’t need to be done more than three to four times a year (unless you’ve neglected the floor for months). Take a slightly damp microfiber cloth and begin cleaning in the direction of the grain. Avoid using a sopping-wet mop as the water can cause floors to buckle (even sealed ones can’t stand up to heavy water damage). If you don’t have any other choice but to use a commercial cleaner, opt for a spray applicator. One-half teaspoon per 2 sq. ft. is enough for cleaning wood floors.

Follow these tips to keep your floors looking great, and you can put off your next refinishing job. Additionally, make sure to maintain them by placing rugs at entry points to keep dust at bay. We also recommend keeping your home between 60° and 80° F as moisture could cause the wood to cup (this typically means lowered centers and raised edges). Good luck with your floor maintenance!