How to clean hardwood floors

Image of a woman cleaning a hardwood floor using a microfiber mop pad Hardwood floors fundamentally introduce an artistic and classy feel to any space. Subsequently, these floors stand as one of the most frequently contacted surfaces making cleaning routines essential.

However, with risks such as warping, streaking, or scratching involved due to cleaning, is there a right way to clean your hardwood floors?

Further below, we vastly shed light on how to clean hardwood floors without damaging them and get them to look gleamingly nice. In addition, you will learn about;

  • What to clean hardwood floors with
  • How to clean hardwood floors with vinegar
  • How to clean hardwood floors naturally
  • How often to mop your hardwood floors

Tag along as we expound on the aforementioned topics and more revolving around cleaning hardwood floors.

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How to clean hardwood floors

Cleaning your floors is not only a down pat routine for observing hygiene in your home but also a proven remedy for maintaining your floors. This means that you should not aim to just get over with cleaning your hardwood floors but rather to clean in the best way therein.

If you are wondering how to clean hardwood floors, a good rule of thumb is to start by dusting/sweeping the surface. Prepare a cleaning solution by gently mixing few drops of dish soap or castile soap with four cups of warm water. Use this solution to mop your floor in sections and ensure that you dry each section with a dry mop once you finish mopping it.

You obviously want your hardwood floors to serve you for decades and look gorgeous all along. Here are some well-founded tips on how to clean hardwood floors.

Routine cleaning

You probably have a schedule on how to conduct underfoot cleaning. The schedule varies among households meaning that cleaning could either be a daily, weekly, or monthly routine. However, the general principle is to clean hardwood floors on a weekly basis. Elaborated below are hints of how to clean hardwood floors under the various routines as follows;

    Daily routine

Sweeping/dusting is one ideal way of cleaning your floors. You can achieve this by using a microfiber mop or vacuum. A microfiber mop is preferable since its cleaning pads utilize static electricity to capture dirt, dust, and other debris. However, dust mopping will not eliminate chunks of dirt and particle build-up.

Vacuuming is also excellent for eliminating grime, pet hair, and dust particles that could otherwise scratch or damage the floor. In fact, vacuuming will help you tackle hard-to-reach areas such as corners.

Considerations when sweeping/dusting/vacuuming

  • When dusting using a microfiber mop, you should clean without lifting the mop off the floor to ensure the collected dirt remains captured on the cleaning pad. This way, the risk of damage to your floors is minimal.
  • It would be best to exercise special care when handling the vacuum itself. This is because it typically comes designed with a beater bar that can damage the floor upon contact. There is also a risk of floor damage by the wheels.
  • Can you use a broom to sweep dust off your floors? Yes, you can. A broom tends to be quite effective in removing loose dust and particles. However, it is not recommendable since it pushes the dirt around.

   Weekly routine

The first step is getting rid of loose dirt, grime, and other debris. If you have scheduled to clean your hardwood floors every week, vacuuming will be essential, followed by wet mopping. This means that you start your weekly cleaning routine by sweeping/vacuuming.

Once you are done with that, proceed to wet mopping. This is a very critical step since wood and water don’t mix! You can prepare a cleaning solution by combining, for instance, a gallon of water with Pine-Sol Multi-Surface cleaner (one-fourth cup).

The resulting solution is favorable for use on hardwood floors. As another option, you can prepare a cleaning solution by gently mixing a few drops of dish soap or castile soap and four cups warm water. You ought to mop small sections at a time, followed by drying using a dry mop/clean cloth when using this cleaning mixture.

There are some cleaning reagents that, if used, may adversely affect the floor. Because of this reason, using a mop moistened with water only tends to be recommended by some hardwood flooring manufacturers. The use of cleaning reagents on such floors can even invalidate a warranty.

At times, you may be aiming to clean and disinfect your floors at a go. Options like Clorox Disinfecting Wet mopping cloths will do the trick. Natural-based solutions are also ideal for use on hardwood floors since they are easy to use and require no rinsing.

A microfiber mop is suitable for wet mopping. Alternately, you can use a conventional mop that tends to simplify the cleaning task since it features hands-free wringing. A spin mop would also be great for your mop as it gets it dry enough.

You can also simply wet mop your floors with a soft cloth. The only problem is that you will have to work while on your hands and knees. Remember, the floors come last in the cleaning routine after other surfaces.

Regardless of your choice of cleaning reagent, mopping is carried out the same way. You start by dampening your rag, soft cloth, or mop with the cleaning solution. You will then wring the material out to ensure that it is damp, not soaking wet. Mop the surface with the dampened mop while avoiding applying excess liquid to the surface.

Use clean water to rinse the mop and, once again, wring out the excess. Get rid of the cleaning reagent by mopping with the now-rinsed mop. You should wipe any pooled water using a dry mop or a clean and dry cloth or towel.

Considerations when wet mopping

  • Remember to avoid water/cleaning solution to pool or sit in one section for too long as this can streak and warp the floor.
  • If you intend to use an unfamiliar cleaning solution, you should first try it out in an inconspicuous area.
  • It would help if you mopped your hardwood floors in small sections as this allows an area of the floor to dry as you clean another. This is necessary to prevent liquid pooling that can damage the planks.


   Monthly routine

Polishing is yet another excellent practice for cleaning your hardwood floors at monthly intervals. Polish routines help revamp your floors and recondition the finish to confer extra protection to your floors.

Polishing also corrects imperfections such as scratches and inconsistency of the top layer to help retain the floor’s beauty. Ideally, it is recommendable to polish every 2 to 3 months. Alternatively, you can use stain sticks to handle stains and light scratches.

    Yearly routine

Refinishing is a routine best executed at yearly intervals, every 3 to 5 years. If your floors appear dull or have deep scratches and dents, applying a new finish over the whole floor will be a worthwhile endeavor.

You first have to empty the room requiring refinishing and then sand the floor to get rid of the old coating. You will then apply a new finish to rejuvenate your flooring, restoring it to a clean and attractive hardwood floor.

What to clean hardwood floors with

This far, you are already acquainted with how to clean hardwood floors. Offenders like pet hair/urine, shoe scuffs, mustard, food stains, and water/ink stains make deep cleaning inevitable. What then are some of the cleaners, either commercial or homemade cleaners, suitable for your hardwood floors?

First, the type of finish heavily influences the kind of cleaner to choose rather than the wood species. On that score, let’s take a look at the two most common floor hardwood floor finishes, which include;

  • Penetrating finishes – this type of finish has an added coat of wax for amplified sheen and soaks through wood surfaces. Water can easily penetrate these finishes to result in warping. It would be best if you employ solvent-based cleaners on such finishes. Examples include; Tung oil and linseed.
  • Surface finishes – These types of finishes are impenetrable by water since they form a waterproof coat over the wood planks. This coat results in the pooling of water instead of allowing seepage. Water and water-based cleaners are safe for use on such finishes. Examples include; Urethane and Polyurethane finishes.

To determine the appropriate cleaners for your wood floors, start by establishing the type of finish. You can do this by scraping some small amount of finish in an inconspicuous area with a sharp knife.

These should be your findings. If the scraping bears some smudges and is void of clear material, you probably are dealing with a penetrating type of finish. If the scraping turns out clear, you are likely dealing with a surface finish.

For a surface finish, you can use homemade remedies constituting a gallon of warm water and one-fourth cup of dish soap or castile soap. If you opt for a commercial cleaner, it should have the following traits; petroleum-free, neutral pH, and wax-free. Examples of cleaners falling within this category are Bona PowerPlus Hardwood Floor Deep Cleaner and Murphy oil soap.

On the other hand, other homemade cleaning solutions comprising two teabags in boiling water can be great. In fact, tea contains tannic acid that creates a captivating glamor. A mixture comprising ten parts warm water and one part vinegar complemented by some drops of castile soap is applicable. Also, it is highly recommendable to use cleaners bearing isopropyl alcohol since they dry quickly.

  • Oil and grease stains – expose the section smudged with oil stain to trisodium phosphate (TSP). You prepare by adding two tablespoons of TSP to one gallon of warm water. Remember to put on safety gloves and glasses.
  • Food stains – locate the lower edge of the caked-on food stain, slip the tip of a plastic knife beneath, and scrape it off gently. Scrub the area with a dampened mop and dry it with a dry cloth.

How to clean hardwood floors with vinegar

Vinegar is a home-based component that is commonly employed in preparing a floor cleaning solution. It is highly sought due to its meritorious trait of breaking down the dirt and grime on your surfaces without resulting in streaking.

The safety of using vinegar on hardwood floors is debatable. However, it is one of the cheapest and fastest cleaning solutions to prepare, making vinegar use widespread.

Here are some cautions when using vinegar.

  • When using vinegar, remember to dilute it with water and avoid liquid pooling on the surface as you clean.
  • Also, it would be best if you applied vinegar on hardwood floors with polyurethane finishes.
  • Remember also to check if the use of vinegar will invalidate your warranty.
  • Be very punctilious with the preparation of the solution to avoid using the wrong vinegar type or making the solution highly concentrated with vinegar, as this can result in etching and pitting.
  • Vinegar should not often be used on hardwood floors since its acidic trait can damage the floor and wear down the finish.

Below are the steps elucidating how to clean hardwood floors with vinegar and include;

  1. Start with the basics, sweeping/vacuuming your floor. This will help you eliminate loose dirt and debris, which can scratch your floor when you mop it. A dust mop will come in handy after sweeping to get rid of fine particles.
  2. Prepare the cleaning solution comprising warm water and vinegar. Add ½ cup of white vinegar to a gallon of warm water. Then, add a few drops of essential oils to the mixture. You now have your cleaning solution ready.
  • Proceed to deep clean (mop) with the final solution of vinegar, water, and essential oils. Remember only to dampen the mop rather than get it soaking wet. Work in the wood’s direction till you finish mopping the entire floor.

You can also opt to prepare the white vinegar solution differently by putting 16 ounces of warm water in a spray bottle and then adding three teaspoons of white vinegar. With this sort of preparation, you wet the floor by spraying from the bottle and then wiping the solution with a mop. Alternatively, you can use apple cider vinegar. You prepare the solution by adding ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar to one gallon of warm water in a large bucket.

Can you mop wooden floors?

Yes, you can. However, mopping wooden floors slightly differs from the typical mopping technique of floors in that it requires extra caution. Wood does not blend well with water. Therefore, you ought to find the best way to mop them.

Wooden floors vary in terms of the topcoat. Some are wax-sealed, others have a waterproof seal, while others are unsealed. This suggests that wooden floors have unique care requirements.

However, a general rule of thumb when mopping is not to let water stand on the floor’s surface for long. This is because there are chances of water seepage through the wood, resulting in warping.

Also, when mopping, it would be best if you ensured that the mop is damp rather than get it extremely soaked to avoid pooling of water. Spin mops are considered excellent for mopping wood floors since they have washable and soft microfiber heads and can be wrung nearly dry.

The pattern to follow when mopping wood floors is also a concern. It is advisable to mop with the wood grain to prevent streak formation and revelation and also avoid pushing dirt between floorboards. Begin with the furthest sections (corners) of the room and mop your way out of the room.

How often should you mop hardwood floors?

The answer to this question is relative. However, it is desirable that you mop your hardwood floors once a week. Ideally, adopting a weekly routine will be instrumental in keeping your floors in good shape for a long time.

You need to execute a quick cleanup in case of liquid spillage to avoid damage to your floors. Traffic levels in your home will also determine how often you mop hardwood floors. Obviously, with kids and pets around, you will probably have to mop your floors more frequently.

Also, some high-traffic areas like the kitchen and dining area might need you to mop them more often. The period between cleaning intervals can also depend on how frequently you like to spruce up your space. Adopting a sweeping/dusting routine executed every day or every couple of days is preferable.

How to clean hardwood floors naturally.

The natural appeal of hardwood floors is a trait that is highly fancied by many. In an effort to retain this appeal, many homeowners turn to natural cleaning solutions that tend to pick a trend.

On the upside, the recipe of these natural cleaning solutions constitutes home-based ingredients. This makes them quite affordable and easily available. Also, the use of these solutions on hardwood floors has been shown to help retain their luster, avoid fogging and resist imperfections.

Without further ado, below is a listing delineating the various natural cleaners and how to clean hardwood floors with each of the cleaners.

Oil polish and lemon juice ingredients

Start by mixing ½ cup lemon juice with ¾ cup olive oil. Add the resulting mixture into a gallon of hot water in a large bucket. The oil component helps shine the surface, while the lemon component gets rid of grime.

Use the solution to mop the floor by immersing the mop into the solution and thoroughly wringing it out to remove the excess liquid. Remember to remove water pools left behind as you mop with a clean towel. Finally, leave the floor to dry for a few hours.

White vinegar

Combine ¼ cup white vinegar with a gallon of warm water in a mop bucket and then stir. Remember, the concentration of vinegar should not be high since it is acidic and can wear the wood’s seal down if used in great proportions. You can add essential oils to attain a pleasing scent.

A microfiber or spray mop will work well with this solution. Ensure to wring out excess liquid so that it is damp before proceeding to mop. It may take you one o two passes to clean a section. The formation of streaks should prompt you to rinse the mop in the sink with hot water.

White vinegar and baking soda

If you are tackling stubborn stains, such as pet stains, you can use home-based ingredients. Combine white vinegar and baking soda in equal amounts to form a paste. Alternately, you can mix water and baking soda in equal amounts to form a paste. Use a soft cloth to apply the paste and leave it to dry. The stain should be absent after you wipe the dried paste.

Dish detergent

Stains are of different origins. If you are dealing with oil or grease-based stains, you can use plant-based dish detergent or castile soap to remove the grease stain.

Vinegar and vegetable oil

These two ingredients are suitable for wood floors contraindicated with the use of water to clean. The type of finish on your floor can make the use of water when cleaning unsuitable. Whatever the case, mixing vegetable oil and vinegar and using a spray bottle to dispense the mixture should work excellently for such floors.

How do you clean really dirty hardwood floors?

If your home has high traffic levels, the chances of having your hardwood floors dirty are quite high, especially with pets or kids around. The build-up of dirt, grime, oil stains, or pet stains will make your floors appear dingy and unsightly. How then do you clean really dirty hardwood floors? Here are the steps to follow;

  1. Start with the routine dusting/sweeping with a dust mop or a vacuum cleaner (more preferred). This step will help you remove all the loose impurities.
  2. Prepare a cleaning solution by pouring ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar in a mop bucket.
  3. Add a gallon of warm water into the mop bucket.
  4. Moisten a cotton cloth with the vinegar solution, and remember to wring out the excess fluid.
  5. Proceed to wipe a 3-by-3- foot section of the floor with the damp cloth to get rid of the accumulated dirt. Use warm water to rinse the cotton cloth frequently.
  6. Using a clean terry cloth, dry the now cleaned section immediately.
  7. Continue to clean a 3-by-3-foot section and dry it repeatedly till you work the entire floor.

You can eliminate any stubborn dirt by applying a commercial wood floor cleaner.

How to get rid of scuff marks on hardwood floors

When deep cleaning your hardwood floors, you sometimes have to move furniture. This tends to leave unattractive scuff marks on your floor’s surface. At times, negligible things like placing hot irons or pans on the floor also result in scuff marks formation. If you seek to get rid of the scuff marks on your wood floors, elucidated below are some valuable tips.

  • Scrubbing with baking soda

Combine two tablespoons of baking soda with warm water and mix to form a smooth paste. Apply the paste to the section with the marks and scrub with a soft cloth. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the section and then wipe it dry.

  • Wipe with a sponge soaked in water

This method only applies to fresh scuff marks as opposed to stubborn ones. Moisten the sponge with warm water and gently wipe the marks away.

  • Use tennis material

You can simply employ a tennis shoe (bearing a rubber sole) and gently rub the shoe’s heel against the section with scuff marks. Rub in a circular grinding motion. Alternatively, you can use a clean tennis ball to remove the marks. Incise a 1” piece from the surface of a tennis ball. Position the tennis ball over the end of a broom handle and gently rub the marks off with the ball-covered handle.

  • Erasers

You can do away with minor scuff marks using pencil erasers. Just rub the marks off while watching the pressure you apply to avoid damaging your floor. Sweeping the remnant eraser shavings is necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is vinegar safe to use on hardwood floors?

Being acidic in nature, vinegar has the capacity to strip all finish types away gradually. This means that your floor will allow water seepage and eventually cause wood degradation. This, therefore, suggests that the use of vinegar on hardwood floors is not entirely safe. Also, you should not use it regularly and in high concentrations. Vinegar is, however, effective in rinsing any soap build-up.

Can you use Dawn to clean hardwood floors?

The answer is no. Dawn is best for cleaning no-wax/linoleum and ceramic tile floors. It is not recommendable to use Dawn to clean hardwood floors, or laminate floors since the presence of residues can result in streaking and make the floor appear dull.

Can I clean my wood floors with soap and water?

Cleaning with soap and water tends to be ideal for wood floors. However, such a cleaning routine will need you to use excessive amounts of water that can ruin your floors in the long run. Also, soap tends to leave a filmy residue build-up that works against your floors.

Final Verdict

With hardwood floors, you’ll want to be sure when cleaning them so as not to degrade their homely beauty. It is necessary that you apprise yourself of the dos and don’ts of wood floor cleaning as accentuated in this piece.

Remember, before doing deep cleaning of your hardwood floors, dusting/sweeping is necessary. Also, ensure that you do not use a steam mop to clean your wood floors as it can result in the opening of the pores in the floorboards causing irreversible damage to the floors.

In addition, abrasive cleaners, straight ammonia, and alkaline products are contraindicated for hardwood floors. In conclusion, I hope that the pertinent tips concerning how to clean hardwood floors shared in this article will be of great value to you.







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