The Dirt on Dirt and How it Damages Wood Floors

Photos courtesy of Swiffer

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Dirt and dust make any surface look messy. But when it comes to natural wood surfaces, they can be harmful. Here are some interesting facts about dirt and dust, how they impact hardwood floors, and some ways to prevent damage.

What are dirt and dust made of?
Dirt and dust can be complex substances made up of many elements. Especially dirt and dust found on wood floors. That’s because our homes are filled with so many different substances that can break down, get scattered around, and accumulate into complex dirt and dust particles. For example, a tiny particle of dirt found in a home will contain standard elements like clay and sand. But it’s also likely to contain a range of unexpected elements like cooking oils, dyes, dead skin cells, food particles, pollen, salts, and allergens from dust mites. Occasionally, these smaller particles will become entangled in larger fibers and hair, coming from humans and pets, to form big, dusty clumps, also known as dust bunnies.

Shoes are one of the most common sources of dirt on wood floors.

Where do dirt and dust come from?
The most common sources of dirt on wood floors are our pets, open windows or doors, and—the biggest source—our own shoes. In addition, entryway rugs are sources for dirt when they are not properly cleaned. Dirt is then transferred to wood floors when it becomes airborne or sticks to shoes and socks. Another source of dirt, especially for wood floors in kitchens, is food. Whenever dry or wet food is spilled, pieces are left behind and eventually get mashed down into particles that are carried throughout the house by air and foot traffic.

When it comes to sources of dust, humans and pets are major contributors. Hair and skin are constantly shedding, breaking down into tiny, airborne particles that float through the house and eventually come to rest on wood floors in the form of dust.

How dirt and dust damage wood floors
One way dirt and dust damage wood floors is discoloration. Heavy foot traffic breaks down these elements into grime that sticks to the floor, making it look blotchy. Over time, the grime can work its way into small cracks and even the wood grain itself. This can cause deep discoloration that is extremely difficult to remove without sanding and refinishing.

Another, more obvious, way dirt and dust damage floors is by causing scratches and abrasions. When a person’s foot or dog’s paw comes in contact with a large, coarse particle resting on a wood floor, it can cause damage. Aside from an unsightly look, these scratches and abrasions expose wood to water, which can result in swelling or cracking. They can also become traps for grime, leading to the discoloration.

Regular cleaning greatly reduces damage caused by dirt and dust.

Ways to prevent damage
The best way to prevent dirt and dust from damaging wood floors is to reduce the amount that is brought in from outside. A simple way to accomplish this is to ensure shoes are removed before walking on the floors, eliminating these elements from being tracked in. Other ways to keep floors in top condition include: regularly cleaning the entryway areas, frequent vacuuming of carpeted floors, placing a rug or mat outside of each entrance, and keeping windows closed, especially on windy days. With these simple tips, you will prevent a lot of dirt from ever getting in the house.

No matter how many precautions you take to keep dirt and dust off your wood floors, it’s inevitable that some will find its way in. So if there is one thing you do, be sure it’s regular cleaning. This way, dirt and dust get picked up frequently, greatly reducing the chance for damage. And when you do clean, consider using something other than a broom, which scatters and flings, leaving much of the mess behind. Instead, try a sweeping tool designed to trap and lock dirt and dust, resulting in a more thorough clean.

If you find you need to do wet cleaning for tacked-down dirt, avoid methods that use excessive water, such as a bucket and mop, because too much moisture can be harmful for your wood floors. Instead, consider using misting spray mops with clean mopping pads. Finally, if you spill wet food or water, blot up immediately with a paper towel or clean, dry cloth before the liquid can seep into abrasions and cracks.

A beautiful wood floor is the centerpiece of a home. And if it is taken care of with regular cleaning and simple precautions to reduce dirt and dust, it will retain its beauty for decades to come.

This article was provided by Swiffer®. To learn more about Swiffer products, visit Swiffer.com. ©2017 P&G

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