Showing Customers Real Wood is Easy to Care for in Real Life

Wood flooring professionals know how easy hardwood floors are to clean, and that with proper maintenance, their product can last for the life of a home. However, according to research conducted by the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), only one-fourth of homeowners know the correct way to clean wood floors. It is no surprise that many consumers turn to the Internet for guidance on how to care for their flooring. However, there is a significant amount of inaccurate information about this topic.

Searching online for how to clean wood floors finds suggestions such as baking soda, essential oils, and using a mop with a bucket full of water. Serious issues can arise when someone uses these methods on wood flooring. For example, the use of wet mops or steam mops can damage the floor’s finish and the wood over long periods of time. The NWFA’s care and maintenance guidelines note that customers who have been educated to understand their floors aren’t completely immune to spills, grit, and water will be less likely to call back with complaints in the future.

Contractors who participated in Hardwood Floors magazine’s 2021 Industry Outlook survey cited some of the top reasons they receive callbacks are seasonal gaps, damage by another service company, and unrealistic customer expectations. Nearly 100 percent of those contractors stated they proactively leave behind information or
discuss proper maintenance with their customers. This comes in the form of directions on cleaning, tip sheets with dos and don’ts, product information, cleaners and mops, and NWFA guidelines. Included below are some of the NWFA guidelines on care and maintenance.


Remember, nearly half of consumers consider wood floors to be easy to clean1. Make sure you have helpful (and proper) information available to prove that. Visit nwfa.org to find out more about how to download the “Real Wood. Real Life.” materials or NWFA guidelines.

1According to the NWFA 2017 Consumer Research Survey


Educating the Customer
Creating realistic expectations of wood floor maintenance up front, before the contract is even signed, is critical to the long-term performance of the wood floor. Educating the customer includes:

  1. Explanation of proper maintenance, both preventative and routine.
    Preventative maintenance may include the use of floor protectors and throw rugs.
    Routine maintenance may include using the proper cleaning products.
  2. Making sure the customer is aware of which cleaning product they should use on their wood floors. They also need to know that improper cleaning products can void manufacturer and labor warranties and can cause adhesion problems with future maintenance coats.
  3. Explanation about the maintenance coat schedule. Depending on the degree of traffic on the floor, most floors will need to be recoated at some point.
  4. Explanation of how humidity and temperature affect the wood floor’s performance. The customer also needs to know that temperature and relative humidity are often a part of the warranty of their flooring. The use of humidification will complement this necessity. This also will help avoid complaints about gaps between boards in the dry seasons.
  5. In addition to a verbal explanation of these items, give them all of the pertinent information in writing.
This care and maintenance fact sheet is one of the free materials available to NWFA members to help educate homeowners as part of the “Real Wood. Real Life.” campaign.

General Maintenance

  1. Wipe up all spills immediately.
  2. Only use vacuum cleaners that have a setting for hard surfaces. Turn off the beater bars/brush on the vacuum cleaner when present.
  3. Do not wet-mop a wood floor. Standing water can result in cracks, splits, cupping, warping, degradation of the finish, and discoloring residue.
  4. Do not use steam cleaners on wood floors. Water in a vapor form will penetrate the wood fibers and cause irreversible damage to the wood flooring and the finish.
  5. Use breathable throw rugs both inside and outside the doorways to help prevent grit, salt, chemicals, sand, moisture, and other debris from being tracked onto wood floors. This will minimize scratching and premature wear.
  6. or wood flooring in the kitchen, place a breathable area rug in front of the kitchen sink and stove.
  7. Rugs should be shaken out, cleaned, and thoroughly dried when they get wet.
  8. Check with the finish manufacturer for timing on when rugs can be placed on the floor. In general, rugs should not be placed on a newly finished wood floor for a minimum of seven days after the final coat of finish has been applied.
  9. Take special precautions with special non-skid pads that frequently are placed under area rugs. Some of these pads may imprint their pattern onto the finish and/or wood floor. (Natural fibers may not transfer as much as some synthetic pads.)
  10. Be aware that area rugs cover the wood floor, protecting it from UV/sun exposure, which results in color differences in the wood floor.
  11. Put fabric-faced glides under the legs of furniture to prevent scuffing and scratching. Periodically check these floor protectors for embedded soil and replace them as necessary.
  12. Avoid walking on wood floors with cleats, sports shoes, and high heels. A 125-pound woman walking in high heels has an impact of 2,000 pounds per square inch. An exposed heel nail can exert up to 8,000 pounds per square inch. This kind of impact can dent any floor surface.
  13. Keep pet claws trimmed and in good repair.
  14. When moving heavy furniture, do not slide it on wood flooring. It is best to pick up the furniture completely to protect the wood flooring.
  15. When moving appliances (refrigerators, stoves, etc.), use safety glides. On newly finished floors, wait a minimum of three days before replacing appliances.
  16. Use an appropriate humidifier throughout the winter/dry months and/or dehumidifier in the summer/wet months to keep wood movement and shrinkage to a minimum. It is important to maintain a consistent environment throughout the year to minimize floor movement.
  17. When the floor loses its luster, it’s time for a recoat.

“Real Wood. Real Life.” Campaign Materials

Equipping wood flooring professionals with materials to help educate homeowners about proper wood flooring cleaning and maintenance is one of the reasons the NWFA developed the “Real Wood. Real Life.” campaign, which was launched in 2019. Resources are available to help members share maintenance advice, including the Homeowner’s Handbook to Real Wood Floors, social media posts, trade and home show signage, fact sheets, and FAQs. All of these materials are part of the campaign’s marketing toolkit and may be downloaded for free by visiting nwfa.org/consumer-outreach/.

Another resource is the NWFA’s consumer-facing website, woodfloors.org. It includes a “Care for Your Floor” section, which goes over how easy it is to care for wood floors, and shares a simple cleaning and maintenance routine. There also is information about everyday wear and tear, moisture management, maintenance coats, and the sand and refinish process.

Remember, nearly half of consumers consider wood floors to be easy to clean1. Make sure you have helpful (and proper) information available to prove that. Visit nwfa.org to find out more about how to download the “Real Wood. Real Life.” materials or NWFA guidelines.

Libby White Johnston is the publisher of Hardwood Floors magazine. She can be reached at libby.johnston@nwfa.org.

1 According to the NWFA 2017 Consumer Outreach Survey.

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