Hardwood floors become slippery usually because of the shiny polish layer we treat them with. Additional reasons why a hardwood floor may become slippery is due to overuse of cleaning products, oil, or wet spills, grime, dust, and debris tracked in, or an aged finish.
Knowing what causes the wood floor to become slippery and how to prevent this slickness could save you or someone you love from slipping, falling, and becoming injured on the floor. It could also help you maintain your floor’s natural beauty and durability to enjoy for a lifetime.
What Makes a Wood Floor Slippery?
Traditionally, wood is not thought of as a slick surface. It is naturally porous and has a texture that is not smooth to the touch. So, you might think that a nice hardwood floor made from this porous material found in nature should not be slippery.
However, when a tree is turned into a hardwood flooring plank, it is sanded down and treated with a shiny sealer. This shiny sealer is quite often the culprit for turning wood flooring into a slippery hazard.
Slippery wood floors can be hazardous and dangerous since the slickness could cause loss of footing when walking on the floor, which leads to falls and serious injuries. Also, if pets slip on the hardwood floor, they can create scratches on the surface which can damage the finish.
Whether you are not as nimble as you once were as you age, live with an aging relative who is prone to slips and falls, your children just can’t get enough of slipping and sliding across the floors in their socks, or you own a business and are afraid someone will slip and fall on your property, it’s important to understand how to make slippery wood floors less slick.
Understanding how to properly maintain them will also help you keep your hardwood floors looking their best for years to come.
Since wood is porous, we may not think of it as slippery. Yet, you just watched your child glide across the floor as if they were in an ice skating rink. So, what is making your wood floor so slippery?
Clean and dry wood floors are not naturally slippery. But, they can become slippery for a number of reasons. Some reasons why a wood floor may become slippery include:
- Dust and dirt or other dry contaminants like powder may cause your feet to slip as you walk across the floor.
- These dust and dirt particles can also fill in the natural grooves and peaks, found in a real wood floor panel. Since this natural wood texture is what provides the friction, if these grooves are filled in with debris, the surface will become slicker.
- Wax and polish buildup
- When wood floors get wet, they become slippery. Wood floors in certain rooms, like the laundry room, bathroom, or kitchen, are more likely to become slick from wet spots.
- Entryways are a hot spot for slickness since rain or snow is tracked in
- Wearing socks on wood floors will make your footing become slippery
How to Prevent Slippery Wood Floors
The best way to keep a hardwood floor from becoming slippery is to keep it clean and dry. The fastest and easiest way to keep a wood floor from becoming too slick is to clean them regularly.
Make sure they are free of dust and debris. Some opt to lay down doormats and rugs with non-slip pads. Just make sure the non-slick pads you use are not made out of synthetic rubber which can discolor the wood flooring or leave indentations in the finish.
Last case scenario, you can always remove the wax residue and sand the floors to prepare them to be refinished with a specially designed anti-slickness coating.
To prevent slippery wood floors, follow these helpful tips:
- The easiest fix is to clean the floors frequently and make sure they are always clean and dry by removing dust and debris on a regular basis. It is very important to sweep hardwood floors at least once per day. Use a mop that has been treated with a dusting agent with soft bristles or a vacuum with a non-abrasive hose attachment.
- Add non-slip pads or area rugs with non-slip pads so long as they are not PVC or synthetic rubber pads that will off-gas Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs and break down causing them to stick to the floor finish
- Place doormats at the entrances both inside and out
- Put a runner down wood stairs to prevent trips and falls from slick wood. If you thought wood floors are slick, try climbing up a flight of slick wood steps. It’s extremely important that you tackle hardwood stairs to keep them from becoming a hazard.
- Wipe your pet’s paws after they have been outside in the rain, snow, or wet muddy ground, so they don’t track in the mess and wetness causing slick floors
- Avoid floor cleaners that contain silicone, wax, polish, ammonia, oil, or vinegar
- If you mop the floor, be sure to thoroughly wring out the mop after each pass and completely dry the floor afterward. Some experts recommend never wet mopping a hardwood floor, but you can take a look at the differences for yourselves in our guide.
- Dry the floors completely after mopping, if you choose to mop
- Clean up spills immediately, since spills can make the floor extremely slippery
- Do not overuse waxing or polishing products
- Use non-skid paint meant for wood. This paint will add a layer of traction.
- Replace slippery sections with anti-slip floor panels. These panels are easy to install and fit the exact measurements, so you can simply place them down in the room or walkway.
If the floor continues to be slick, it should be sanded down to remove the old, slippery finish and refinish it with a new anti-slip re-coat. Resorting to sanding and refinishing works best for solid wood floors with a thick surface, like walnut, oak, or maple.
If wood floors become slippery, it’s important to take action before someone falls and hurts themselves. Regularly cleaning the floors is the least expensive and easiest way to achieve non-slick floors.
Control the slickness of the floor by taking proper care of the floor through maintenance and regular cleaning. To keep the floor from becoming a slipping hazard, use anti-slip cleaning products to make the floor less slippery, and make sure the floors have enough traction.
The method you choose is going to depend on your budget and how much physical work you are able to put into the project.