Carpet vs. Wood Floors: In This Battle, There's a Clean Winner

Boy helping father sweep floor
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If you're wavering between installing new wood floors or new carpeting in your home, it can be worthwhile to consider the cleaning options for each. Of course whichever new flooring you choose will look great when it's first installed, but even a few weeks of use can require enough sweeping, vacuuming and polishing to make you reconsider your choice.

Here are some factors to consider in cleaning wood floors versus carpet:

Resale value

Hardwood floors are more in style recently, and can make a home easier to sell, according to a survey by Lumber Liquidators: Among their respondents, 100 percent of real estate agents preferred hardwood floors over carpet. And according to the National Association of Realtors, buyers are willing to spend $2,080 more on a house with hardwood flooring, USA Today reports.

One of the major benefits of wood floors is that they are easy to clean. Oak is the most common, but bamboo is gaining popularity because it's eco-friendly, says Brian Pullin, director of customer care at Lumber Liquidators in Toano, Virginia. Bamboo is technically not a hardwood at all, though it has the durability and look of wood. It's a grass, which means it grows much faster, and can be harvested more sustainably.

Older homes often have oak floors under carpets, which offers a buyer the option to switch from carpet to hardwood fairly easily. But that original flooring may have been be damaged by moisture getting under the carpet, which could necessitate pulling it up and replacing it, Pullin says.

Do you prefer sweeping or vacuuming?

Sweeping is a lot easier than vacuuming, though wood floors will also require polishing, Pullin says. Dry mopping should be done every three to four days, and a cleaning solution meant for wood floors should be used every three to four weeks, he says. Don't mop with the typical solution of water and vinegar, he says.

"The cleaning is quicker and easier, and it's more cost effective than if you're having someone come in and clean your floor," Pullin says.

Carpet holds dust, germs

Carpets can become reservoirs of dust, hair, skin and other tiny particles, which can lead to eye and respiratory problems, Pullin says. While a wood floor won't harbor all of those if you sweep it regularly, the trapping effects of carpet can be a benefit, says Kari Davis, sales representative for J+J Flooring Group, a Dalton, Georgia, business that specializes in carpeting.

Carpet holds on to allergens and keeps them out of the air, unlike wood floors where they can be kicked up by someone simply walking across the floor, Davis says. Vacuuming carpet frequently will remove them, she says. Many modern carpets also have antibacterial nano-silver coatings embedded into the threading, Davis says.

Professional carpet cleaning needed

Even if you vacuum your carpet daily, it will still need a professional cleaning that uses hot water extraction once or twice a year, Davis says.

Dirt is more easily tracked onto carpets than it is on wood, Pullin says, and carpet more readily shows walking patterns where traffic is heaviest. This will require a regular scrubbing, he says.

Cleaning up spills

Spilled liquid is a lot easier to deal with on a wood floor than on carpet, though both require quick cleanups to prevent the liquid from being absorbed. A wood floor shouldn't be steam cleaned because the water will go into the wood, Pullin warns. On the other hand, too much water will make a carpet weaker by weakening the latex backing that holds the carpet down.

A spot cleaner can be used to remove a stain, though any carpet cleaning product should first be tested someplace inconspicuous to make sure it doesn't affect the carpet's color, she says.

Good carpet pads are very important because they create moisture barriers that keep stains on top of the carpet; otherwise, liquids can seep into the carpet and then come back up from the pad, Davis says.

Dropping something heavy

If you drop a can of green beans on a wood floor and it really dents the floor, the area can still be easily repaired by a professional, Pullin says. Slight buffing can remove some scratches, he says.

To avoid scratches to wood floors, he recommends using protection pads when moving furniture, or putting furniture on coasters to move. Or, pick up the furniture instead of sliding it.

Wood floors should last longer

Carpet should last about 10 years, which is the length of a typical warranty, Davis says.

"After that, it's just going to ugly out," she says. "It's just going to look worn and outdated."

The warranty for wood flooring is a "finish" warranty that generally range from 25 to 30 or more years, Pullin says. The Bellawood warranty is for 100 years and is transferrable to the next homeowner, he says.