It's Not So Hard: How to Clean Your Hardwood Floors

by Team HomeServe
mop and bucket of water sit on a hardwood laminate floor awaiting mopping

Hardwood floors add a warm, natural mood to your room, but they're also prone to damage from scratches and moisture.

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Knowing how to clean hardwood floors the right way can help you reduce the chances of that damage. With the right tools and cleaning products, you can bring back the shine without causing long-term issues to your flooring.

What Cleaners and Tools Should You Use (and Not Use) to Clean a Hardwood Floor?

Having the right cleaning products is essential for protecting the finish and wood underneath when you clean. The safest option is to use a commercial cleaning product designed for hardwood floors. You can also use a gentle soap and warm water. Avoid using random cleaners or home cleaning solutions, which can often be damaging to the finish on wood floors. The cleaning tools you'll need include a broom, vacuum and microfiber mop.

Some cleaners that are safe for other surfaces can damage hardwood flooring. Things to avoid include:

  • Vinegar and other acidic cleaners
  • Baking soda
  • Excessive water
  • Steam
  • Bleach
  • Ammonia

You should avoid liquid and paste wax products if you have hardwood floors that are sealed with polyurethane. Wax will interfere with refinishing options in the future. You should also avoid oil soap products, which can cause major buildup on wood floors. The buildup can dull the look of floors and must be stripped before you can refinish floors.

How Do You Clean a Hardwood Floor?

Cleaning hardwood flooring is relatively straightforward. Check out the steps below to find out how to clean hardwood floors:

  • Sweep flooring daily. This prevents buildup of dirt and debris, which can scratch the finish. You can also vacuum floors if you prefer. Use a soft attachment or the hard floor setting on your vacuum to avoid scratches.
  • Mop floors weekly or more often if needed. Put the hardwood floor cleaner or soap and water in a bucket, so it's easy to rinse your mop.
  • Wet the mop without oversaturating it. After dipping it into the cleaning solution, wring out most of the moisture from the mop to avoid leaving standing water on the wood floors.
  • Mop floors. Go over all surfaces with the mop, dipping it back into the cleaner as needed.
  • Rinse floors. Dip the mop into clean water and go back over the floor to remove the remaining cleaning solution. Again, wring out as much water as possible to avoid saturating floors.
  • Dry flooring. You can go over the floor with a clean, dry towel to remove any moisture left on the surface. Turning on a ceiling fan to circulate air also helps floors dry faster.

Doing these steps regularly helps maintain hardwood floors so they don't get dirty or dull.

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Tips for How to Clean Hardwood Floors

The following tips give you additional guidance on how to clean hardwood floors:

  • Check with the manufacturer. If you know the manufacturer of your flooring, check its recommendations for cleaning products and methods. Some flooring companies make cleaning products or suggest compatible cleaner brands. Using some products, such as oil soap, can void your flooring warranty, so read the fine print thoroughly.
  • Test cleaners first. Whenever you try a new cleaning product, test it on a hidden section of the floor to ensure it doesn't cause any damage.
  • Get into a routine. Handle cleaning tasks regularly to keep the floor clean. You might sweep daily and mop weekly or as needed, for example.
  • Protect your floors. Placing floor mats at each entrance collects some dirt and debris to keep your floors cleaner. Area rugs minimize dirt and spills, and they can stop furniture from scratching the flooring. Felt pads on furniture legs also help.
  • Wipe up spills immediately. Any liquid spills can soak into the wood and cause damage, so always wipe them up quickly to prevent this issue.

Regular cleaning and care keep your hardwood flooring looking good and help them last longer.