Hardwood is one of the most popular flooring choices for the home. But hardwood is also expensive, so you want to take the best possible care of it. Take these steps to ensure a long life and a beautiful finish:

Avoid moisture when cleaning

Water seeping into the boards, even in small amounts, can cause warping and cracks over the long term. In most cases, the finish will protect your hardwood from incidental amounts of water, but regularly cleaning with a wet mop will stretch that protection to its limit. For this reason, clean up any spills quickly.

Steer clear of harsh chemicals such as vinegar or ammonia. Many manufacturers will recommend a specific cleaning solution, and you could void your warranty if you don’t comply. Stay away from steam cleaners as well.

Many cleaning products can dull the finish or discolor the wood. Plus, some products leave a waxy residue that can be hard to eliminate.

For regular maintenance cleaning, a soft cloth or microfiber mop can pick up most messes. Many manufacturer-recommended cleaners come in spray form, which you can spray directly on the mop head. Spray enough to make it damp but not wet, so it picks up dust but doesn’t leave residue behind. A regular vacuum set for bare floors can handle debris.

How to preserve your floor

Daily sweeping or vacuuming will help ensure your floor’s long life. Debris, dirt and other grit can get into crevices, create buildup and scratches or wear away the finish.

Place rugs in entryways and high-traffic areas to minimize wear and tear. Close blinds or use curtains to prevent fading from direct sunlight.

Place felt pads on chair legs, tables and any furniture that will be frequently moved. Rearrange your furniture every year or so. Heavy furniture sitting in the same spot for years can cause indentation and damage.

Place plastic trays underneath plant pots to protect the floors from excess water.

If you have pets, keep their nails trimmed to minimize scratches, and use caution while wearing high heels — or better yet, take your shoes off at the door.