If you regularly find yourself reminding your children, spouse and visitors to take off their shoes before setting foot in your home, you probably understand just how unsightly your floors and stairs can look when the seasons change. What you may not realize, however, is that the grime that remains on your stairs during the wintertime can have lasting, damaging effects that can hinder the quality of your hardwoods moving forward.
Odds are, if you live in an area prone to freezing, you rely on chemical salts to help melt ice and minimize slipping and falling. While these substances are often quite effective at melting ice and keeping you and your guests on your feet, they can also cause considerable damage when they make their way inside your home.
How chemical salts affect hardwoods
The same substances used to prevent falling outdoors can actually make you more prone to taking a tumble indoors. Even if you’re meticulous about the condition of your home and insist that everyone remove their shoes in the entryway, winter salts still have ways of getting inside your house. Maybe they fall out of pantlegs or become attached to salts, but regardless of how they get there, they can spell big trouble. Salts made of magnesium chloride and calcium, for example, leave oily films behind on stairs, which is not only dangerous to you, but also damaging to the wood itself. This is due to the fact that these chemicals dry out the wood and absorb moisture, which leads to premature cracking, splintering and rotting.
How to protect your stairs and floors
Regularly throughout the winter and anytime you suspect salts have made their way into your home, go over your wood floors and staircases using a damp mop (microfiber models tend to work best for this purpose!) and a mixture of vinegar and warm water. This should remove the damage-causing salt particles before they can penetrate your wood surfaces. You can also work to minimize the spread of salt inside your home by putting down a rug or carpet for guests to walk across before they set foot on your hardwoods.
Wooden stairs and floors stand the test of time – as long as they receive a little TLC now and then. Keeping winter salts off your steps and surfaces can not only improve safety for your family and guests, but it can also preserve the beauty and condition of your hardwoods for years to come.