How to Clean Hardwood Floors: A Comprehensive Guide

Howste Technical Services Flooring, Hardwood, Home Cleaning

Hardwood flooring looks great, but it’s a pain to clean! What is safe to use? Can you mop a wood floor? How do you get stains off the floor?
All these questions and more will be answered in this guide to taking care of your wood floors.

Step-By-Step Guide

The steps you need to take, along with the supplies you need depend on the type of cleaning you’re doing, so let’s walk through a couple common situations.

Regular Upkeep

Doing some regular tidying of the hardwood floors helps keep the floors from getting too dirty. All of these methods are relatively quick and simple.
You have several options:

  • A soft bristled broom to get into the corners of the room where dust and dirt likes to hide
  • Robot vacuum. Why do everything yourself? This can be a great hands-off way of cleaning.
  • A damp cloth with wood-floor cleaner. Great for spot cleaning spills or residue.
  • Microfiber dry-mop. Using a dry mop will grab all the pet hair and dust before it has a chance to accumulate.

When the floor does get dingy, you’ll need to do a more thorough cleaning.

General Clean

It’s good to do a general clean about every 1-2 weeks. This will keep the floors looking shiny and free of dirt.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Move the furniture
    Clearing the space of furniture will ensure the most thorough clean possible
  2. Dry-mop or vacuum
    This step will get rid of any surface dirt and debris before you start the main cleaning process.
    Important note: Make sure you use a vacuum head that doesn’t have rough bristles, otherwise you run the risk of scuffing your wood floors! Ouch!
  3. Mop the floor
    Dampen a mop, but make sure to wring it out well. You do not want any standing water as this will cause moisture damage to the floor over time. Using a hand-held spray bottle filled with a cleaning solution (a good one is Bona’s Free & Simple Hardwood Floor Cleaner). Mop along with the grain of the wood, while putting out a mist with the cleaner. As long as you don’t let the cleaner sit on top of the wood you’ll be just fine.
  4. Done!
    Buffing can help a bit, but the floor should be shiny just from the mopping run. If you’d still like to buff, use a soft cloth and rub in a circular motion.


What Not to Do:

There’s a lot of information floating around about cleaning wood floors, but how do you separate truth and fiction? Here are some of the common myths about hardwood flooring:

  • Hardwood floors don’t need to be cleaned that often.
    Dirt builds up faster than you think! Doing a general clean at least once every 1-2 months is a good idea. Ideally, it should be done at least once a month, but you can get away with slightly less than that.
  • It’s okay if you don’t get every spill.
    Any moisture is damaging to hardwood flooring. Spilled a drink? Don’t leave it, clean it up.
  • Steam cleaning.
    This is only good for surfaces not sensitive to moisture, don’t steam clean wood floors.
  • Not researching your products.
    Just because a product says it’s safe on wood doesn’t mean you should trust your floors to the writing on a label, do some research yourself. Some products can ruin the polyurethane coating on top of the wood, be careful. In most cases, simply cleaning the floor thoroughly is enough to get it looking great.
  • Any equipment will do.
    Rough bristles or the abrasiveness of a floor buffer have no place being used on hardwoods. Be gentle with your floor.
  • Using a mop that’s too wet.
    Leaving standing water on wood floors is a big no-no. The moisture will penetrate the wood and warp it over time.
  • Natural is best.
    It’s tempting to avoid buying a floor cleaner and to go with a solution of vinegar, but here’s why that’s a bad idea. The acid in vinegar breaks down the finish of the wood, which will dull over time, (According to Bona).


Extra Tips for Immaculate Hardwood:

  • Put floor protectors under furniture to avoid scuffing.
  • Vacuum regularly, twice a week is a good goal.
  • Keep doormats at the door, and keep them clean. This will help avoid dirt being tracking onto the wood.
  • Freshen up dull sections by lightly sanding and applying new coats of polyurethane.
  • Avoid cleaners that contain ammonia, vinegar, wax, polish, or oil soaps, according to, these can dull the finish and make refinished difficult. Spray some of the cleaner on a window and let it dry, if it leaves a residue or film, it’s no good on the hardwood floor.

For more cleaning tips, check out this related blog post.