Before we had hardwood floors installed in our main living area a few years ago, I had only ever had laminate flooring to worry about. And as those of you familiar with laminate floors know, the best thing about them is how easy they are to clean!
So once I (finally!) got that hardwood floor I had been dreaming about, I realized I didn’t know the first thing about how to clean hardwood! It took me a lot of trial and error to figure out the best way to clean my wood floors, because it seemed like everything I tried was either ineffective, too expensive, or ended up doing more harm than good!
But I hope to put that hard-won wisdom to good use in today’s blog post, which is all about how to clean hardwood floors! By the end of this post, you’ll know everything you need to know to keep your hardwoods looking clean and beautiful! 🙂
A Note About Finishes
This post focuses on how to clean wood floors with a polyurethane finish. This is the most common type of finish used on modern wood floors, so as long as your floors were installed within the past 10 years or so, it’s likely they have a polyurethane finish. Older wood floors may have a waxed finish, which has its own set of rules for cleaning and care. For more information about waxed wood floors, check out this article from Bob Vila.
How To Clean Hardwood Floors
There are two methods you should use to clean hardwood floors: dry mopping and wet mopping. Here, we’ll explore the ins and outs of each method, including how often you should do them, and which tools will help you get the job(s) done!
Dry mopping (or dust mopping) is done to remove loose dust, dirt, and debris from the surface of your floors, and it’s the bread and butter of cleaning hardwood floors. You should dry mop your floors frequently, even as often as daily depending on how dirty your floors get!
The ideal tool for dry mopping hardwood floors is a dust mop with a removable cloth or microfiber cover. Another good option it to use your vacuum’s hard floor setting, if it has one. (You can technically use a standard broom to clean hardwood floors too, but they just don’t work nearly as effectively as the other options.)
One important thing to remember about dry mopping is that while you can do it at any time, you should always do it before wet mopping. Otherwise, you run the risk of accidentally pushing dirt into your floors, instead of pulling it out!
The other half of the hardwood floor cleaning equation is wet mopping. Wet mopping involves using a damp mop and some sort of cleaning solution to wipe up messes that are stuck to the floor, like spills, muddy shoe prints, etc.
Because hardwood floors can be finicky, it’s important to choose both your mop and your cleaning solution carefully. It’s also important to avoid getting your floors too wet while you’re wet mopping them, because excessive moisture can cause serious damage.
Related: Avoid These 7 Steam Mop Mistakes
One way to avoid this is taking a few minutes to dry your floors after wet mopping them. Use a soft, clean towel to dry off any lingering moisture, or go over your floors again with a dry dust mop.
Which Mop Should I Use?
Here are a couple of different mops that work well for wet mopping hardwood floors:
This is an ideal mop for cleaning hardwood floors because you can use it dry or wet. So instead of having to switch tools halfway through cleaning your floors, you can simply switch out the microfiber mop cover for a clean one and keep cruising!
If you prefer the traditional mop-and-bucket system, consider a set like this one that features a built-in wringer to squeeze excess water out of the mop. This will help prevent problems that can arise due to excess water seeping into hardwood floors, like bubbling and warping.
Which Cleaning Solution Should I Use?
Unfortunately, picking the right cleaning product for your hardwood floors can feel like navigating a minefield! Products like oil soaps, wax cleaners, and soap-based cleaners can leave a sticky or hazy residue behind on hardwood floors, while acidic cleaners like vinegar can eat away at your floor’s protective finish over time.
Here are a few products that widely considered to be good choices for hardwood flooring. None of them need to be rinsed off, and they won’t leave behind any film or residue:
Like other Method brand products, this hardwood floor cleaner is plant-based and biodegradable, so it’s good for the environment as well as your floors. Simply squirt it onto your floors and mop for beautifully clean floors!
Bona is a trusted name when it comes to products that work well for hardwood floors. This is a simple and effective water-based cleaner, and it’s also Greenguard Gold certified, meaning it’s safe to use in homes with kids and pets.
This floor cleaner from Zep is a good option for cleaning dirt-laden and discolored floors, as it packs an extra strong punch on spots, stains, and scuff marks.
How To Remove Hazy Residue From Hardwood Floors
If your hardwood floors are already plagued by a buildup of hazy residue, a standard routine of dry mopping and wet mopping won’t do you much good. You’ll need to remove the residue first, but afterward, you’ll find it much easier to clean your floors (and keep them clean too!)
To do it, you’ll need ammonia-free glass cleaner, a non-scratch scrubber, and a few microfiber cloths. Start by spraying a 2 foot by 2 foot section of with the glass cleaner, and let the cleaner sit for about a minute.
Next, scrub the area with your scrubber to cut through the loosened buildup. Follow immediately with a microfiber cloth to remove the grime and the cleaner from the floor.
Continue the process of spraying, scrubbing, and wiping until your hardwood floor is clean and residue free. (It’s not a quick process by any means, but I can tell you from experience that it is extremely effective!)
How To Care For Hardwood Floors – 3 Simple Tips
Dry mopping and wet mopping will keep your floors clean, but they aren’t the only things you can do to care for your wood floors. The three tips below are simple things you can do every day to help keep your hardwood floors looking great for years to come!
Tip #1: Take Your Shoes Off
Instituting a “no shoes in the house” rule is the best way to keep wood floors clean. Because when you walk on a wood floor with dirty shoes, the particles of dirt on your shoes are rubbing abrasively against the floor.
As surprising as it sounds, those abrasive dirt particles can actually ruin your wood floors over time! Place door mats both outside and inside your home’s exterior doors to help prevent dirt from getting tracked inside, and provide a rack or tray where people can store their dirty shoes.
Tip #2: Don’t Ignore Spills
Don’t ignore wet or sticky spills on your wood floors. Not only is it easier to clean up a fresh mess than an old one, but you’ll have a better chance of avoiding secondary problems like moisture damage and stains.
When you drop an ice cube or see a glob of jelly slide off your spoon, take a few seconds to clean it up right away.
Tip #3: Repair Scratches
To a certain extent, scratches are unavoidable with wood floors. (Especially if your kids have dogs, and those dogs aren’t particularly coordinated on slick surfaces!) 😉
Even if the scratches are shallow, it’s still a good idea to repair them as soon as you notice them. If you don’t, those scratches can collect dirt and grime and wind up even more visible than they were originally!
Here’s an easy way to “repair” a scratch in your hardwood floors:
- Find a crayon that matches the color of your floor.
- Rub it on the scratch to fill in the gap.
- Turn your blow dryer on high and use it to heat up the wax.
- Buff the area with a soft, clean cloth.
As long as you give your hardwood floors the proper cleaning and care they deserve, they’ll continue to look great and serve you well for years to come!
What’s your best tip for cleaning or caring for hardwood floors?