How to Clean Wood Floors

There’s nothing like the warm honey glow of a beautiful and well cared-for wood floor. Cleaning, however, can be tricky. What kind of cleanser do you use? Can you use a mop? Here are some helpful tips for keeping your wood floor looking shiny and new.

Be Gentle

The first rule is to be gentle. Most hardwood floors are given a urethane or polyurethane coating that protects the floor against moisture and dirt. However, harsh cleansers can damage this coating over time. Avoid ammonia and abrasives, as both can damage the floor’s coating and potentially strip it or leave it dull.

First, lightly vacuum or sweep your floor. This step will prevent overdoing it with either water or cleansers, both of which can damage your floor. Avoid getting the floor more than slightly damp, as heavily soaked floors tend to warp and grow mold.

No Furniture Polish

Definitely avoid using furniture polish on your wood floors. Furniture polish is meant to penetrate wood, but the polyurethane coating on your floor will keep the polish on the surface, and your floor will be dangerously slippery. Bottom line: save the furniture polish for furniture.

What About Vinegar?

Vinegar is often recommended as a natural cleansing agent. Add a quarter-cup of vinegar to a gallon of water, or even use plain water. Either solution will help a damp mop pick up dust, hair, and dirt. The problem with both is that they don’t really deep-clean your floor. Ultimately, the best solution for deeper cleaning is to use a mild, pH-neutral detergent or a product specifically made to clean wood floors.

Best Tools

Although you can safely use a string or sponge mop, microfiber is the best choice. Microfiber is generally better than regular sponges at attracting and trapping dirt and dust particles even if used while dry.

  1. First, apply the solution to your mop, not to the floor, making sure your mop is not oversaturated.
  2. Mop using long swipes in the direction of the grain, and rinse about every 1-2 passes to make sure your mop head stays clean and isn’t just redistributing dirt.
  3. Check your bucket. If the water is looking dingy, it’s best to empty it and finish the job with a fresh bucket and solution, or else you’ll just spread dirt around without really removing it.
  4. Rinse the floor after you’re done by going over the surfaces with clean warm water just as you did before.

At this point, you can let the floor dry naturally, especially if you’ve been careful not to over-saturate the surface. On slip-prone areas, you may want to dry pathways with a kitchen towel. Voila! Enjoy your beautiful surface for years to come.