Facility Managers

How to Remove Salt From Hardwood Floors This Winter

by Jason Brubaker

Winter weather won't just dry out your skin, force you to dress in layers and potentially add to your daily commute, it can affects residential homes and businesses in many other ways - and we're not just talking about higher heating costs and the risk of frozen pipes. Specifically, we're talking about the toll that salt can take on your hardwood floors.

It's fairly easy to minimize and prevent potential damage from rock salt in residential environments, as simply instructing residents and guests to remove their shoes upon entry is a sure way to eliminate it from entering the home. However, commercial environments are a different story, as you can't exactly ask your paying customers to ditch their shoes upon entering your establishment.

That said, it's not impossible to keep your hardwood flooring looking great for many, many years if your business operates in an area of the country that experiences harsh winters - you just need to know how to properly remove and clean the contaminants so that the floor doesn't sustain any damage. This post is designed to take a closer look at how to prevent salt from getting onto and damaging your hardwood floors, as well as how to properly remove salt and clean floors after the crystals have become evident on your flooring surface.

What's the Threat from Winter Salt?

Salt is hazardous to hardwood floors for a few reasons. For starters, the crystals are usually rough and jagged in texture, so they can scratch the surface if they're dragged across the floor. This may happen easier than you think, as crystals can get caught under shoes and such. Secondly, salt is made of calcium chloride crystals, meaning that there's also the potential for the particles to wreak chemical damage on the floors.

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The best way to prevent your hardwood floors from being damaged by salt is to take proactive measures to ensure that you minimize the amount of salt that is tracked into your business. While you certainly can't expect your customers and business partners to remove their shoes upon arrival to your establishment, there are other ways you can prevent the entry of salt.

Perhaps the best, and easiest, preventative measure to enact is placing rugs or mats around the entrances to your business. These mats can capture salt from shoes, thereby preventing it from being tracked into your business. Just be sure to regularly clean or shake out these mats or rugs to ensure that they don't become oversaturated with salt.

Another easy preventative measure is to simply make time to sweep or vacuum your hardwood floors after each business day. This can help remove salt before it has a real chance to do significant damage to your flooring.

Removal and Cleaning

Even the most stringent preventative measures likely won't keep salt from entering your place of business. And while sweeping and vacuuming can help remove particles before they cause damage, you may run into issues where the salt begins to or has already stained the hardwood surface.

Many people are under the impression that a simple application of vinegar mixed with water will get the job done, but this is a big misconception for a few notable reasons. First, vinegar can actually do more harm than good to the floor. It can strip the finish and leave harmful residue on the flooring. Second, water is a natural enemy of hardwood floors, so you need to be careful about how much you're applying to the surface to avoid water damage and other associated issues.

Noting this, just how should you be cleaning salt stains and removing salt from hardwood floors? It's not difficult, you just need to find the right floor cleaning product - one that will remove salt stains and still preserve the hardwood floor's finish. Products are available for such purposes depending on the severity of the salt presence and damage on the floor. When cleaning using these types of specialty floor chemicals and a standard mop, most of the salt stains will be removed from the floor without damaging the finish of the floor.

If that doesn't do the trick, however, a phone call into a professional floor care cleaner or renting a portable hardwood floor scrubbing machine can often help give you the extra oomph that you need to eliminate stubborn stains. If you go the machine route, just ensure that the suction is great enough on it so that excess water isn't left on the floor surface.

When cared for properly, a good hardwood floor can last for several generations. But part of proper floor care is knowing what to do with salt and salt stains when winter weather arrives, especially in busy commercial environments. Make sure you know how to safely remove salt from your commercial floor today.