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Salt, Sand, & Water Damage to Hardwood Floors

Woman Wearing Boots On Wood Floor

The holidays are over, but they may have left their mark on your hardwood flooring. Today we will look at the salt, sand, and water that we track into our homes during the winter months, and how you can keep your floors looking their best.

The culprits: salt, sand, and water

It’s important to keep your walkways safe for everyone from the mailman to your family. This often means sprinkling salt, and sometimes sand, on the ice that forms in your driveway and outside of your front door. It works great, but once the ice melts you no longer see the salt—until it ends up getting tracked into your home on your shoes and the shoes of your guests throughout our Minnesota winters. By the time you see the damage, it’s in the form of white stains on your beautiful hardwood floor.

Calcium chloride crystals can really damage a hardwood floor finish. When you look at sand and salt at a microscopic level, you will see small, rough-edged particles. Finished and unfinished hardwood floors alike can be ruined by the abrasion of these particles being stepped on or dragged across the floor.

Water can quickly lead to mold growth. It can also warp the floorboards. In order to keep your hardwood floors free of salt stains and other damage this winter,follow the these guidelines:

Remove excessive salt, sand, and moisture at the front door

When possible, avoid using salt outside of your home. It’s a good idea to place coarse, heavy rugs to the entrance of your home and place a second rug inside the doorway. The rugs will help remove smaller particles of rock salt and sand from people’s boots. Ask people to remove their boots as they enter your home. A framed sign can do this for you if you are uncomfortable asking people to do this. Knock off snow from shoes and boots outside the front door or in a mudroom. Wipe them on heavy, coarse rugs. Then, place them in waterproof mats where they can dry. Keep water-absorbent cloths at the entrances of your home to wipe up any melting snow that makes its way in.

Vacuum hardwood floors regularly

Calcium chloride and sand particles are micro-abrasives, similar to sandpaper. Vacuum your floor with either a canister vacuum or an upright that is made for hardwood floors. If it has a rotating brush, either turn it off or remove it entirely (if you don’t use it for carpeted areas in other parts of your home. This will suck any abrasive particles up and keep your floors clean.

Use cleaners specially formulated for hardwood floors

Vinegar is not an acceptable cleaner since it often leaves a residue of its own when it isn’t properly cleaned up. The best bet for cleaning hardwood floors is to use a specially formulated cleaner for your floor’s finish. Dave’s Floor Sanding Citrus Floor Cleaner in a convenient spray bottle leaves a streak-free shine and keeps your floors looking clean and new. Just mist and wipe. This cleaner is available in both a ready to use formula and a concentrate.

Immediately eliminate any moisture from your floors

Because excess water can lead to mold under your hardwood floors, it is essential that you immediately remove any moisture from your floors. If there is a lot of water, a wet/dry shop vacuum can help with this. Water can warp and crack your floorboards, so it’s important to dry the floor steadily but slowly. Wood flooring that is dried too quickly can crack.
After drying a wood floor, you may have some concave or convex floorboards. This is known as “cupping.” It is commonly seen when heat has been applied to the hardwood flooring during the drying process, so avoid using heat to dry your floors. While sanding can reduce some minor high areas, heavily cupped wood cannot be sanded flat.

If the damage is done

If your hardwood floors are beyond damage prevention and cleaning, repairs will need to be made. They could include:

  • Replacing individual, matching boards
  • Filling in splintered or corroded areas with wood putty
  • Sanding and refinishing the floor

By the time your floor has reached this point, it is a good idea to give us a call 763-784-3000 or fill out our contact form and we will get back to you!