Hardwood floors are beautiful, and they can last a lifetime when cared for properly. Learning to clean wood floors is essential to keeping them in great shape. There’s a lot of advice out there that confuses hardwood and wood laminate, and even more, that could end up hurting your floor.
We found the best expert advice on cleaning hardwood floors the right way to give you confidence that you know what you’re doing. That beautiful wood deserves the best care, and you need to protect your investment. Let’s dig in!
Hardwood Floor Cleaning 101
Hardwood floor cleaning and hardwood floor polishing are not the same, at least not entirely. Your hardwood floor will not need polishing (or refinishing) anywhere near as often as cleaning. Because cleaning happens more often, it’s vital to get it right, so you don’t damage your finish.
Additionally, note that not every hardwood floor is the same. Is it engineered hardwood, solid hardwood, reclaimed, or even unfinished? To understand the difference check out our comparison guide on solid hardwood vs. engineered hardwood, laminate vs solid wood and laminate vs engineered wood.
There are so many different types that we’re going to put together a general guide here, but you should check with the manufacturer or installer to make sure that you know what kind of floor it is and what they recommend.
You should mop about every other week, at the least.
Before You Begin
Water damages unfinished wood floors very quickly. Luckily most have some type of finish. The way to test this is to put a drop of water on your floor. If the water beads and stays on top of the wood, it’s finished. If it doesn’t, it’s unfinished, and you should be looking into finishing it before cleaning.
Once you know that your floor has a finish, it’s time to talk about the tools you’ll need.
The Tools For Our Favorite Method
- Soft, angled broom
- Dish soap
- Rubbing alcohol
- Hardwood floor cleaner (optional)
- Microfiber cloth
- Ringer bucket
- Microfiber twist damp mop
Step One: Remove all Debris
Remember, sweeping your floor before mopping is a crucial step. Not to mention, you must sweep high traffic areas often. Those tiny pebbles, dirt, and dust dirt can actually scratch up your wood floors finish, dulling it over time. Mopping before you have swept can do even more damage.
Step Two: Set Up Your Cleaner
If you do not use a manufacturer-approved hardwood floor cleaner, you can make your own mop solution that works really well. Grab a 1.5- or 2-gallon ringer bucket, add one capful of vinegar, and a large drop of dish soap (about half your pinky nail’s worth).
Fill the bucket to the fill line with warm water, and put your mop in the water. Allow the damp mop to sit and soften for at least a minute or two, then wring well to remove all excess water. You want to ring it as well as possible to avoid over-wetting your floor and leaving them damp too long.
Cautionary note: do not add more than a capful of vinegar to the water, it won’t clean wood any better, and it may strip the finish off of your floor.
Related: How Do You Protect Newly Finished Hardwood Floors?
Step three: Don’t Mop Yourself Into a Corner
That sounds like a funny statement, but it’s important to remember these next steps. Go to the place farthest from the room’s exit, face away from the exit and place the mop bucket behind you. When you do this, set it to the side a bit, and to your dominant hand side, to avoid tripping.
Mop with a well rung mop, using an infinity or horizontal figure-eight pattern, walking backward. Assure that you mop well in corners and cover the entire surface of the floor. If there is visible water on the floor, especially enough to bead up, re-ring your mop and use the microfiber cloth to dry the overly wet floor.
If you have laminate flooring then read this: How to Clean Laminate Wood Floors?
Now You Know the Best Way to Clean Hardwood Floors
That’s all there is to it; now you know how to clean a hardwood floor, and have a beautiful and clean wood floor. Remember not to use too much vinegar, and if you prefer, we do highly recommend using approved hardwood floor cleaners in your water instead of the soap combination here.