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How to Protect Your Floor from Winter Weather Part 1, “Invasion of the Elements”

Snow photo by Martin Pettitt

With hardwood, laminate and even some vinyl flooring, care, cleaning and maintenance may require more time and effort in the winter. Snow, slush, mud, road salt, and ice-melt chemicals can excessively track into the house. Inside, the residual water from any of these elements can stain and warp some floors, even lead to swelling of the flooring, as well as mold and mildew growing in and under the floors. Winter can be rough, so here are some things you might consider to help get your floor through the season all clean and pretty. The first of these two posts deals with protecting your flooring from the outside world.

Keep Your Floors Dry

The most obvious of winter weather concerns are the things we track in on boots and shoes. Unless your flooring is 100% waterproof, like a vinyl plank flooring, you will want to make good efforts to keep any liquid from just sitting on the floor. Let’s go from the least protective preventative things we can do to the most.

Wiping shoes on a series of mats

The minimal protection is the floor mat, but you should not just use a single mat, rather plenty of mats, even a whole system of floor mats. I’ll explain the system concept, and I bet each mat will make a lot of sense to you after I do.

First you want a mat outside the door that will basically act as a scrub brush. It should be tough and bristly, so that it can remove most of the big stuff, ice, salt, chunks of mud, time-altering butterflies, etc. This one will also start the drying process.

Scrubbing Mat photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

Personality Floor Mat photo by Andréia Bohner

It’s a very good step one, and such mats can serve the additional function of greeting your guests, or comically illustrating your personality.

Second you want a softer, but still pretty rugged mat right inside the doorway. This one continues the drying off of the boot, and allows for additional stomping or jumping, further removing debris. Having mats like these on each side of any entrance should be considered essential.

Long Walking Mat

Finally, a walking mat can be employed. It can be soft, but shouldn’t be too plush. It should be as long as it can be without complicating other doorways. 15 feet would be wonderful, but try to use at least 10 feet. The goal is to finally dry off the footwear, so the more times the shoe contacts the rug as a person walks, the better. With these three mats in place, one should only have the most dust-like of winter dirt intrusions to deal with in the home proper.

Ideally, you’ll have two sets of these mats so they can be changed out frequently, washed, and just as important – dried out. Wet mats don‘t dry shoes, and as the days go along, mud and ice-melt can accumulate, not only rendering the mats less effective, but eventually putting unwanted things onto the shoes as people enter.

The “Shoes Off” approach

Shoes Off photo by joo0ey

This is the next step up because any tracking in just stops where the shoes stop. Most people understand even the strictest imposition of this policy, and your most conscientious friends will even ask as they step in. If they don’t, just use your own kindness when asking them to please remove any shoes immediately as they enter. You can even get a large dish draining rack, place it by the doorway over a towel, and offer to have their shoes dry out rather quickly while they visit, so they can be that much more comfortable as they depart.

If you really want boost the courtesy, have cheap, washable or disposable slippers at the door for guests. Then their feet can stay (or become) warm, and they won’t have to be self-conscious of any potential odors they may not wish to share. You can keep your own slippers by the door as well, of course, but make sure you don’t cheat and slip them on to get the mail or warm up a car. That defeats their purpose, as they will begin doing the tracking in of undesirable things. The Three Step Rule is as mythical as the Three Second Rule.


Paws photo by harbortrees

How do you “take off the shoes” with pets? Since pets generally visit the outside world without footwear, their returns can be your biggest slush mess problem. Train them, using treats, or from their youth, to not only allow you to wipe off their paws, but to even wait for you to do it before entering the rest of the house. For non winter/rainy times, you can continue the procedure to maintain the training, or develop a command like “Oh, come on in!” that will give them permission to skip the step (but still get a treat).

The dedicated entrance room

This is the best way to prevent trackage, because all of the above can be done thoroughly in such an area, and a person can make sure they’re ready to enter without the small space or social interactions that can make one hurry on in. Multiple people won’t bump into each other, or hold the door open, waiting until each previous has removed shoes and moved on in.

Mudroom photo by meglet127

Now, it’s hard to just conjure one of these up out of winter need, I realize this. You either have one, or you don’t. When I was growing up, my mother would always have us switch to using the garage as the main entrance, as it led into such an area, and essentially worked as one itself.

Towel photo by kirstyhall


For any and all of these, try to keep dry towels, even work rags, very handy to easily wipe up spills as they occur. It helps you get liquid up quickly, and may keep you from forgetting to come back that one, pivotal time.


Next week – how what we do inside during wintertime weather can affect a floor, and how to keep that to a minimum.


– – – –
W. David Lichty is the Content Guy at Floors To Your Home (.com). In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in ‘play with Beatles multi-tracks’) and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on Google+

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W. David Lichty is the Content Guy at Floors To Your Home (.com). In my spare time I shoot and edit video, explore film history, mix music (as in 'play with Beatles multi-tracks') and write non-fiction for my friends. Connect with me on Google+

Posted in Hardwood Flooring, Laminate Flooring, Vinyl Flooring, waterproof Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,
3 comments on “How to Protect Your Floor from Winter Weather Part 1, “Invasion of the Elements”
  1. Kathy Siviter says:

    Can you tell me if there is any way to clean a big stain/damage left from a bag of ice melt getting wet and seeping into hardwood floors? Could this cause permanent damage or mildew/mold underneath the floor?

  2. David says:

    Hi, Kathy,

    I asked two of our best minds, and they offered the following for you:

    This is a bad situation for the hardwood. The salt will, and probably has, damaged the cells and fibers of the hardwood. This customer needs to contact a floor covering contractor that specializes in hardwood repair and replacement.

    If the bag of ice sat there and completely melted, it is very possible the moisture got through the seams of the hardwood. Of course that would also depend on which way it was installed. If excessive water did get through it is possible mold can form and cause permanent damage.

    From the stain point, here is a link she can follow to see if anything helps. http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Stains-out-of-Wood

    I’m sorry the tips aren’t of a happier sort, but as you can see, there are options, and clearly it is very good that you asked!

    Do take care,
    David and the team

  3. The winter season entails very cold weather which may be harmful to floors. These tips that you have shared are truly helpful to protect them from the effects of a very cold weather. Thanks for sharing.

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