Stuff happens. If you have beautiful wood floors, no matter how careful you try to be, they will end up with signs of wear and tear caused by kids, pets, parties, and … well … life in general. Fortunately, you can fix minor types of hardwood damage yourself, using these simple tools and natural, non-toxic supplies. (Be sure to read the installer’s instructions before using any product on a new floor, so that you don’t end up voiding your warranty.)
Broom and mop. Sweep your hardwood floor with a soft broom or Swiffer-style tool. A quick daily sweeping will remove normal dirt, dust, and grit; this avoids scratching the wood. When your floor needs additional cleaning, go over it with a mop that is nearly dry. Some folks slightly dampen their mop using a little water either mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil or steeped with a teabag for five minutes. These mixtures may also be applied lightly with a spray bottle.
Old T-shirt or microfiber cloth. Wipe up spills of food or drink immediately whenever possible. If the spill has dried, rub lightly with a moistened cloth. Do not saturate, as this may dull the surface finish or even damage the hardwood. Dry with a second cloth.
Scrubber. If you need to get rid of more stubborn stains or heel scuffs, consider your floor’s finish. There are scrub pads designed specifically for use on urethane finishes. For wax-finish flooring, scrub gently with fine steel wool or sandpaper, wipe, and re-wax.
Walnut. Disguise minor scratches in seconds by running a halved, shelled walnut over the affected area and rubbing its oil into the wood. An alternative, in households with nut allergies, is treating with barely damp coffee grounds.
Ice. When your little darlings get chewing gum, crayon, or other wax on the hardwood flooring, place a plastic bag filled with ice on the mark for a few minutes. Then crumble off as much as you can with your fingers -- or the edge of a wooden spoon or similar non-abrasive implement. Any remaining wax can be covered with absorbent paper and ironed with a hot iron.
Soap. Take care of oily stains on hardwood floors that have a wax finish by applying a high-lye-content soap directly to the problem spot. Rinse, dry, and hand buff to restore the sheen.
Olive or coconut oil. Sometimes a bit of oil on your floor is a good thing. Unfinished hardwood floors take on a nice glow when you buff them with natural oils. Olive and coconut are recommended. Scent them with a few drops of essential oil, such as Illinois’ state flower, the blue violet, which will give a pleasant odor to your Chicago flooring. Allow the freshly oiled floor to dry for several hours.
Prevention. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, goes the old saying, and a few commonsense precautions will help protect the beauty of your hardwood floors. Guard against scratches by sticking felt pads onto the bottom of chair and table legs. Pick furniture up to move it, rather than dragging. Do not walk, jump, or dance on the floor while wearing spike heels, and trim pets’ claws regularly. Place throw rugs at your home’s entrances and in high traffic areas; use only natural latex or rubber underlays to prevent discoloration of the wood.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.