Cork Flooring Regular Maintenance and Long-Term Care

Interior in white colors in the attic
andreygonchar / Getty Images

When properly cared for, a cork floor can last for decades, even in high-traffic areas. However, it will take some regular maintenance to keep the flooring looking new and beautiful. In addition to everyday cleaning, there are some important preventative measures you can take to protect your cork floor from specific hazards as well as some period maintenance items to ensure the floor has adequate general protection from damage and wear.

Everyday Cleaning for Cork Floors

Frequent sweeping or vacuuming is the most important thing that you can do to help maintain the integrity of a cork floor. When small particles of dirt, dust, and debris are allowed to accumulate on its surface, they can act like sandpaper, scuffing the scratching the surface every time someone walks across the floor.

It's also important to keep water off the floor and to wipe up spills as soon as possible. When it's time for deep cleaning, you can use a mop, but make sure that you wring it out so that it is only slightly damp, and don’t allow puddles to accumulate on the floor. A quick alternative is to wipe the floor by hand with a slightly damp towel.

Preventative Measures for Cork Flooring

A few simple precautions take only a little bit of time but have the potential to save you a tremendous amount of hassle and expense going forward.

  • Floor mats: Placing floor mats at the entrances to a room can do a lot to help cut down on damage to the floor. Mats pick up debris from shoes so they don't end up on the floor. Mats can also be placed in areas where splashing occurs or where people tend to stand for long periods of time, such as in front of sinks.
  • Curtains: Much like hardwood flooring, cork will tend to discolor and fade when it's exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods. You can help prevent sun damage with curtains or blinds that can be closed when needed.
  • Pet nails: Pet nails, especially those on larger dogs, can scratch or even gouge the protective surface of the flooring. Simply keeping your pets well-groomed and controlling the length of their nails can do a lot to help prevent damage.
  • Furniture pads: Another potential danger to your cork floors are the pointed legs of heavy furniture pieces. Protect your floor from gouges and scratches with inexpensive furniture pads placed under the legs. These are especially helpful for pieces that are moved frequently, such as chairs and ottomans.
  • High heels: If you wear high heels in the house, make sure you maintain the padding on the tips of the heels. The amount of pressure exerted by the pointed tip of an average woman's heel is equal to that of the entire foot of an elephant and can leave impressions in cork flooring. An even better solution is simply to take off high heels when you're indoors.

Periodic Long-Term Maintenance

Standard cork flooring should be sealed to protect it from water penetration and staining agents. The sealer used most often is a UV-resistant polyurethane mix that creates an invisible layer over the surface of the floor. Surface finishes wear off over time and must be reapplied, often every year or two, to maintain a protective seal over the flooring.

Note that some cork flooring is prefinished at the factory with a tough protective sealer. If you have prefinished flooring, consult the flooring manufacturer for recommendations about sealing the floor after installation.