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A guide to cleaning, maintaining and caring for your door
A front door is an important piece of your home that should be appropriately cared for and maintained to optimize its performance.
Your new door is beautiful, but without regular care, it can look dull, ultimately affecting your curb appeal, or even lose effectiveness over time.
Read on to learn what to expect for every type of door: wood, steel and fiberglass. But remember, this is just a guide: be sure to consult the manufacturer's guidelines for specific cleaning and maintenance instructions tailored to your door's material and finish. Following those exact care instructions is crucial to extending the lifespan of your door, preventing costly repairs and maintaining your warranty.
In this article, we explain why regular maintenance and care of your door is important, give steps on how to clean your front door depending on its material and detail general care instructions.
Why is caring for exterior doors important?
The front door of any home deserves a lot of credit. It's often responsible for the first impression your home receives and sets the tone for the style and decor you'll find inside when you walk through it.
Here are just some benefits to caring for your front door:
- Enhanced curb appeal: With regular maintenance, your front door will keep looking brand new for a lot longer. With a strong curb appeal, your entry door becomes a focal point for guests or potential buyers.
- Improved energy efficiency: For many doors, proper maintenance means keeping debris out of the sills. Doors need sealed gaps and fitted weatherstripping to work as they should. Without these features, you can experience air leaks and heat loss, resulting in higher energy consumption and utility bills.
- Extended lifespan: Proper care of your doors will make them last longer because your maintenance prevents premature deterioration and damage.
- Improved functionality: When you properly maintain your front door, it'll be free of sticking or dragging, helping it to operate as it should for years to come.
Wood door care and maintenance
Since wood is a living entity, wood requires more maintenance than steel or fiberglass doors. While there is no set schedule for maintenance, here are signs that indicate maintenance or refinishing may be needed:
- Hairline cracks
- Color changes and fading
- Flaking or scaling
- Dullness or chalkiness
- Cracked paint or varnish at component joints
- Darkening areas of the wood grain
- Scratches or physical damage of the finishing
General maintenance timing for wood doors
The lifespan of the finish of your wood door will depend on its exposure to high humidity, precipitation and direct sunlight. Some finishes may last up to three years under ideal conditions and protection—but if the door is exposed to frequent direct sunlight, the finish can start to deteriorate within the first year.
How often you need to touch up your wood door also depends on if it was finished with stain, paint or varnish. Penetrating oil stains are the easiest to apply—but also provide the least protection. They need to be reapplied at least annually, even with additional topcoats of varnish. Pigmented stain exterior varnishes (spar varnishes) require more work (2 – 4 coats) but give you longer-lasting protection of up to three years.
Wood door reminders and tips
Remember these points when caring for your wood front door:
- Do not use dark colored stains or paints. On doors exposed to sunlight, some expansion and contraction may occur and accelerates the breakdown of finishes. This causes more frequent maintenance and will void your warranty.
- Remember: wood is a living entity. As such, color and grain variations are part of the uniqueness and beauty of wood—they are not defects. However, as wood doors fade in color over time, these variations may become more obvious. This will be accelerated with sun and water exposure and will be most apparent on dark wood types. Finishing with UV resistant finishing will help delay, but not completely remove, this effect.
- Do not use a razor blade. When cleaning around the glass of your door, avoid razor blades and use standard glass cleaners instead. For textured surfaces, paint thinner or a melamine sponge eraser can be used.
Steel door care and maintenance
Steel entry doors are relatively low maintenance. However, since the door is metal, it is prone to rust. Regular cleaning is the best way to ensure your steel front door stays free of rust and in good condition for years to come.
How often you need to clean your steel door depends on where you live. Once a month is good enough in many climates. However, if you live within 50 miles of a coastline, you may need to increase the frequency to twice a month to combat the saltwater air.
How to clean your steel door
Follow these steps to clean your steel front door:
- First, make a cleaning solution. Steel doors generally do not require special cleaning products. Warm water and diluted mild dish soap will work just fine!
- Wet a cloth or microfiber pad with water and gently wipe down the door from top to bottom.
- Rinse your door with water. It is okay to use a garden hose—but never use a pressure washer. Even at the lowest setting, the water can infiltrate small gaps around the door and soak the inside of your home.
- After washing, dry your steel front door with a dry sponge.
Stubborn stain? You may need to upgrade your diluted dish soap to a 1:1 white vinegar and water solution. Simply dip a clean cloth into the solution, dab it on the stain and leave it for a few minutes. Then, rub it off with a sponge or microfiber cloth.
When to prime and repaint your steel door
The color of your steel door determines how long the paint will last. Dark colors fade much quicker and all colors will fade faster when exposed to the sun.
If cleaned and maintained properly, repainting a steel door should only be necessary every 8-10 years.
Fiberglass door care and maintenance
Fiberglass doors are the lowest-maintenance front door material. Unlike wood or steel doors, they do not rust, warp or delaminate. However, regular cleaning is important to helping your durable fiberglass door last even longer.
How to clean your fiberglass door
Follow these steps to clean your exterior fiberglass door:
- Similar to steel doors, fiberglass doors do not require a special cleaning solution. A simple dish soap and water mixture will do the job in most cases. For an added boost, you can try mixing in some baking soda.
- Apply your cleaning solution to the door using a soft lint-free cloth or sponge to prevent scratching the fiberglass.
- Gently dry the door with a towel.
For stubborn stains, use a soft-bristle scrub brush with a water-vinegar mixture to gently spot treat the area.
When to refinish your fiberglass door
How often you must refinish your fiberglass door depends on where you live and where the door is positioned.
If the door is exposed to direct sunlight or if you live in an area with excessive moisture and air pollutants, you will likely need to re-apply the topcoat of your fiberglass door once a year. If the door doesn’t get a lot of direct sunlight and you live in a milder climate, you may be able to get by only re-applying the topcoat once every two years.
For exact care and maintenance instructions, be sure to consult your warranty as those instructions have been tailored for your specific front door and finishing.
How to repair a dent in a front door
Here are some general steps for repairing dents in your exterior door:
- Clean your door. The very first step in addressing any dents or dings in your door is to clean it. Use the proper techniques and supplies based on your door's material. Let your door dry completely before moving to the next step.
- Apply heat or cold. Temperature changes can remove or at least significantly reduce the dent if it's already pretty shallow to begin with. However, don't overdo it, as too much heat or cold can cause damage.
- Use a dent removal tool. First, make sure that the tool you select doesn't counteract with your door's material. Then, carefully follow the steps that come with your tool to make sure you do not cause further damage.
- Perform finishing touches. Assess your door once the dent is done to see if you need to sand your door or touch up any paint or stain.
How to fix a scratched exterior door
Follow these steps to tend to a scratched front door:
- Clean your door. As with fixing a dent, it's important to clean your door first if you notice a scratch on it. Doing so will help you properly assess how serious the scratch is so you can use the right technique.
- Buff the scratch out. For light surface scratches only, you can try using buffing techniques to remove them. Using a microfiber cloth and a scratch remover, gently rub in a circular motion until it seems the scratch has lifted. Clean the area and reassess.
- Repair deeper scratches. For scratches that go a little deeper, there are other methods to use. You can gently sand the area that's affected, going in the direction of the grain or finish. Be careful not to sand too hard or you can remove more material than you intended. For scratches that are so deep that you can see the wood or door material, use the filler that's specific to your door's material, then sand over it so you achieve a smooth surface.
- Paint or stain your door. To finish, evenly apply a matching stain to your door, letting it dry completely. After, apply a clear protective finish to the door, allowing it to dry before using your door again.