Cleaning hardwood floors with water, or cleaning products with water in them, is obviously an effective choice for hardwood floor owners.
But water, or any liquid, should be used sparingly and with a clear understanding of why and how water can damage hardwood floors.
Manufacturers and industry experts advise against cleaning hardwood floors with water because wood naturally expands when it’s wet and can cause your floor to crack or splinter.
Cleaning Hardwood Floors with Water
When using water, or any liquid base, to clean wood flooring, follow these tips:
- Never leave standing water. If water spills on a wood floor, immediately wipe it up with a clean cloth. The same applies to entrances where water could be brought in from the outdoors.
- Don’t use a soaking wet or even heavily dampened mop or cloth.
- Don’t pour liquids directly on the floor. Mist with a spray bottle or lightly dampen (near dry), but don’t soak, a mop or cleaning cloth.
- Always wipe your floors dry after cleaning.
Avoid Hardwood Floor Water Damage
It is true that polyurethane is the most common finish applied to raw hardwood flooring because it is a powerful barrier of protection against fast and permanent damage to the wood.
But no hardwood floor is “waterproof”, no matter how many layers of coating are used.
Cleaning hardwood floors with water, or using water excessively, is a leading cause of blackened, water-stained, warped and ruined wood flooring. It can also lead to mold.
So how does water reach and damage bare wood through the polyurethane finish?
Cracks and separations between the hundreds of individual boards in your wood floor are a natural occurrence. Many hardwood floor owners refer to these as quite noticeable gaps in the floor.
Hardwood flooring contractors are frequently blamed for a less than satisfactory installation by wood floor owners who do not understand the behavior of wood.
Hardwood is a natural resource. It reacts to its environment. The wood shrinks and expands depending upon the amount of moisture in the air.
These gaps aren’t always so obvious. They can be tiny, nearly invisible openings. Hardwood floor water damage occurs when the wood is vulnerable and exposed, though not always to the naked eye.
How gaps and separations between wood planks occur
For example, during the winter months in colder climates when homes are heated and the air is dry, wood flooring loses some of its moisture and shrinks. Winter weather dries out wood flooring, causing gaps, possibly increasing squeaks and opening surface cracks. Wood will be wood.
A humidifier is recommended. Other ways to add humidity to the air include opening the dishwasher after the rinse cycle, turning off the bathroom fan, or hanging laundry to dry indoors.
In the spring, as air quality in homes becomes higher in moisture, wood flooring expands, and the cracks begin to close up.
A polyurethane coating on your hardwood floor protects only the surface of the wood, covering the top of each plank individually. As the boards shrink and separations develop, the fibers within each board are exposed – and water is their number one enemy.
Water can dull the finish and permanently damage the fiber of the wood, causing boards to warp and discolor.