How to Protect Your Apartment’s Floors in the Winter

Lilly Milman

By Lilly Milman

Dec 14, 2023

When it’s cold, wet, and snowy outside, the last thing you want to do is bring any of the mess inside. Unfortunately, tracking in some of the salt that keeps your sidewalk clear of ice and snow is inevitable — and salt can wreak havoc on your apartment’s floors in the winter months, whether you have hardwood floors, carpet, vinyl, or linoleum flooring.

In this guide, we walk you through how to clean and protect your apartment floors as a renter in the winter, regardless of what they’re made of.

How to Prevent Damage to Your Apartment Floors in the Winter

The easiest way to keep your floors looking pristine all year round is to prevent any damage occurring inside at all. If you’re vigilant about setting up the following preventative measures, you may be able to avoid having to clean up any big messes this winter.

Buy Heavy Duty Mats

Step number one to keeping your apartment floors clean this winter is investing in non-slip entrance mats — for inside and outside your apartment. Two mats may seem like overkill, but hear us out: Having a thick, ribbed rubber mat outside to wipe your shoes on, and a softer, washable mat inside to stand on while you take your shoes off may just save you hours of cleaning this season. Otherwise, if you walk into your apartment and leave wet shoes by the door every day, you’ll most likely see some staining or warping on the floor in that area by the end of the winter — which will be easier to prevent than correct. The indoor floor covering will also be a great spot for you to stop and wipe down your pet’s paws if they go outside during the winter.

For a more luxurious experience, you can even consider buying a heated indoor doormat so that you won’t have to step on a cold floor when you walk in. This is just one small, renter-friendly home improvement that will go a long way.

Turn On the Humidifier

Obviously, keeping your apartment warm in the winter is important. But if you using a heating system in your apartment and have hardwood floors, keeping a humidifier at the ready is a necessity. Cranking up the thermostat can suck the moisture out of the air — and the floors — creating gaps between the floorboards. While this is completely normal, it can also allow dirt and water to soak in — which can lead to long-term damage. Turning on a humidifier when you are trying to warm up your apartment can add in a little bit of the necessary moisture to reduce these gaps and ultimately prevent damage from occurring. You’ll especially want to look out for damage around space heaters, if you are using them, or vents.

If You’re Decorating with a Tree, Get a Floor Mat

If you decorate your home with a real Christmas tree or holiday bush each year, you know that falling needles and water spills can be a pain to clean up. We know, we sound like a broken record by this point, but make your life easier by investing in a protective floor mat to place underneath your tree. This way, if your tree stand leaks a little water or some pine needles fall onto the floor, they won’t have a chance to actually harm the floors. If you have vinyl plank flooring, you’ll want to be especially careful with your tree and tree stand — as chips and scratches in the floor will not come out — so it will be extra important to have protective padding laid down.

How to Clean Your Apartment Floors in the Winter

This may not be the easy fix you’re looking for, but regularly cleaning your floor surfaces can also go a long way in protecting your apartment floors throughout the winter. The less salt and muck you allow to build up on your floors, the less likely it is that your floors get warped or stained. While different types of flooring may require different cleaning products, the cleaning processes will be very similar.

Vacuum Once a Week, At Least

This may sound excessive to some, but a quick weekly vacuum in high-traffic areas in your living space may actually end up reducing your time spent cleaning in the long run. You may not notice grime building up on your floors on a weekly basis — and that’s the point: You want to attack any sort of mess before it starts building up in the first place. This will be especially important if you have carpet, hardwood floors, or even a large area rug, which will show signs of wear and tear from the winter faster that vinyl or linoleum floors will.

Clean Any Big Messes ASAP

If a less-than-perfect houseguest stomps into your apartment in their winter boots, you’ll want to mop up any wet spots before they get a chance to soak into or stain the floors. Keep a bin with a rag and some cleaning supplies near the door so that you can easily jump into action, and wipe up any messes before they get ugly. 

Find the Right Cleaning Products for Your Floors 

If you do start to notice some more serious stains forming on your floors from the slush or salt you tracked in from outside, then it’s time to roll your sleeves up and spot clean the problem areas. Just make sure you use the right cleaning products for your specific flooring material.

  • For a carpet, you can try steam cleaning — which will require a steam cleaning device and a specialized cleaning solution.
  • For hardwood floors, it can be a bit trickier to figure out the right cleaning regimen. Ultimately, the cleaning product you use will depend on the finish that’s on your floors. Certain types of wood stains can be permanently damaged by water, while other kinds of finishes can be easily cleaned with water. If your floors are treated with a polyurethane coating, a common finish for wood floors, then your floors can be easily cleaned with water. See what we mean by tricky? You’ll want to ask your landlord what type of finish your hardwood floors have before you embark on any big cleaning projects. If they do give you the go-ahead to clean with water, try using a solution made up of water and vinegar to clear up any dirt buildup.
  • For laminate flooring, a lightly saturated mop and a DIY cleaning solution of water, vinegar, and a little dish soap will do the trick during a bimonthly cleaning session.
  • For linoleum or vinyl floors, you can use a specialized floor to clean up occasionally. Linoleum can also be cleaned with a mild dish soap mixed with water.

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