how to clean hardwood floors

How to Clean Hardwood Floors: A Comprehensive Guide

Hardwood floors look great but can be a pain to clean. Some common questions we hear include:

  • 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.

A Step-By-Step Guide on How to Clean Hardwood Floors

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 of common situations.

Regular Upkeep of Hardwood Floors

Doing some regular tidying helps keep these floors from getting too dirty. All of these methods are relatively quick and simple.

You have several options:

  • A soft bristled broom: This will help you get into the corners of the room where dust and dirt like to hide.
  • Robot vacuum: Why do all the cleaning yourself? This can be a great hands-off way of cleaning that helps you keep things tidy even when you’re extra busy.
  • A damp cloth with wood-floor cleaner: These are great for spot cleaning spills or getting rid of extra 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. (Read more: Which floors are best for you?)

General Floor Cleaning Tips

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

Here’s how to clean hardwood floors:

1. Move the furniture.

Clear the space of furniture to ensure the most thorough clean possible.

2. Dry-mop or vacuum the floors.

This 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.

3. Mop the floor.

Dampen a mop then wring it out well. Don’t leave 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 to try is Bona’s Free & Simple Hardwood Floor Cleaner).

Mop along with the grain of the wood, while putting out a mist with the cleaner. Just don’t let the cleaner sit on top of the wood.

4. Enjoy your beautiful, clean hardwood floors.

Buffing can help a bit, but the floor should be shiny just from the mopping run. If you’d still like to buff the floor, use a soft cloth and rub in a circular motion.

What Not to Do:

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

MYTH: Hardwood floors don’t need to be cleaned that often.

FACT: Dirt builds up faster than you think. Doing a general clean at least once every one to two 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.

MYTH: It’s okay if you don’t get every spill.

FACT: Any moisture is damaging to hardwood flooring. Spilled a drink? Don’t leave it, clean it up.

MYTH: Steam cleaning is good for wood flooring.

FACT: It is only good for surfaces not sensitive to moisture, don’t steam clean wood floors.

MYTH: The products you use on your hardwoods don’t really matter.

FACT: 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.

Check out more details on cleaning products for different floors here.

MYTH: You can use different kinds of equipment for cleaning them.

FACT: Rough bristles or the abrasiveness of a floor buffer have no place being used on hardwoods. Be gentle with your floor.

MYTH: Use a mop that’s really wet to clean them.

FACT: Leaving standing water on wood floors is a big no-no. The moisture will penetrate the wood and warp it over time.

MYTH: Natural wood cleaners are best.

FACT: It’s tempting to avoid buying a floor cleaner and to go with a vinegar solution, but that’s a bad idea. The acid in vinegar actually breaks down the finish of the wood, which will dull over time, according to Bona.

Extra Tips for Immaculate Hardwoods:

  • 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 tracked onto the wood.
  • Freshen up dull sections on the floors by having them lightly sanded and applying new coats of polyurethane.
  • Avoid cleaners that contain ammonia, vinegar, wax, polish, or oil soaps, according to This Old House, these can dull the finish and make refinishing difficult. Spray some cleaner on a window and let it dry, if it leaves a residue or film, it’s not good for using on your hardwood floor.

From new floors to emergency fire and water damage, Restor-It has you covered.

This article was updated on June 30, 2019.