Party-Proof Your Floors: 4 Ways to Prep Hardwood and Carpet for the Holidays

Getting your home ready for the holidays means decking the halls, decorating the tree, and stocking up on gallons of bargain eggnog. But what have you done to prep your floors for said holidays?

The spaces underfoot may not be in the forefront of your mind when you’ve got baking to do and gifts to wrap, but with a profusion of holiday visitors, foot traffic on your floors goes way up—and with it, wear, tear, and damage.

Preparing your floors for the holidays means preventing scratches, stains, and other mishaps that could end up requiring a costly flooring overhaul. Refinishing hardwood floors, for example, could set you back more than $1,000, while a carpet repair could cost you $200, according to national average estimates from HomeAdvisor.

Working your floors into your holiday plans suddenly sounds like a priority, doesn’t it? From carpet to hardwood, here’s where to begin the protection prep work.

1. Start at the front door

One of the biggest risks to floors during the winter time is a mix of dirt, snow, and the sand and the rock salt that many homeowners use to make their front steps less slippery. These can all get tracked in on visitors’ shoes and spread throughout your house.

“Rock salt can leave white residue that, over time, can dull the finish of your floors,” says Dave Murphy, director of training at N-Hance Wood Renewal and Refinishing in Nashville.  “When it’s tracked into your house, it gets dragged across the floors, creating deep scratches in the wood.”

Setting a “No shoes in the house” rule can dramatically decrease the chances your floors will be scratched or stained, Murphy says. Not a practical solution? Add a mat near the front and back doors of your house.

Pets can also track in salt and sand on their paws. “Consider keeping baby wipes near the door so you can wipe their paws,” says Yelp home editor Lauren Makk. 

2. Protect flooring from your Christmas tree

Water is a hazard to any flooring—whether it’s hardwood, carpeting, or laminate. But ample amounts of it are necessary in keeping a real tree alive during the season.

“Place a plastic bag underneath the tree stand to catch any spilled water,” says Debra Johnson, a home cleaning expert with Merry Maids. “Don’t fret about the look: Your tree skirt will hide it.”  And once the tree is decorated, it can become difficult to water. “Consider purchasing a funnel to assist with adding water to the tree and preventing spills,” Johnson suggests.

Tree needles can create scratches in your flooring and get caught between the grooves of hardwood or fibers of your carpets. To prevent floor damage from needles or the tree trunk as it’s dragged into the house, Johnson suggests wrapping a clean plastic tarp around the tree before moving it into your home. Once the tree is in place, a tree skirt can catch most of the needles that will fall throughout the season. When it’s time to take the tree out, remove the skirt and rewrap in the tarp.

3. Turn down the heat

With Jack Frost turning the temperatures down outside, it’s tempting to spin the thermostat up inside the house. But this won’t just cost you big when your heating bill arrives. It could also cost you your floors, especially if you have hardwood.

“Heaters in your home can really dry out hardwood, leading to problems like shrinkage and cracked floorboards,” Murphy warns.

To strike a balance between staying warm and preventing floor damage, he suggests running a humidifier in your home to keep moisture in the air.

4. Clean quickly and frequently

Spills happen, and sometimes people just don’t listen when you ask them to wipe their feet. Is it any wonder Grandma used to cover the furniture in plastic to keep everything safe?

Johnson says you should be prepared with what she calls an “emergency kit” stocked with the necessities to tackle holiday mishaps: a roll of paper towels, four or five microfiber cloths, and a spray bottle of carpet or floor cleaner.

If anyone spills a holiday drink on hard-surface floors or carpets and rugs, remove any excess liquid as soon as possible, and then spray the spill with cleaning solution and blot until all the excess moisture is gone.

As for salt, sand, and other debris, frequent cleaning of hardwoods and laminates with a neutral floor cleaner will help protect against salt buildup. In high traffic areas, Murphy recommends sweeping daily and mopping once or twice a week.