How to clean hardwood floors

Floor Care

Avoid vinegar-based natural cleaning solutions on your hardwood floors because vinegar is acidic and will dull your floors over time.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Cleaning real wood floors 

Genuine hardwood floors are an extremely sought-after feature in a home, but taking care of them can be a source of anxiety. You have to put more care and attention than you would to tile or laminate flooring, but once you know how to clean hardwood, it isn’t difficult.

You’ll find several ways to clean hardwood floors, some for quick cleaning to remove dust and debris and others for a deeper clean when needed. Keep on top of regular cleaning and your hardwood floors will always look their best.

How to clean hardwood floors

Hardwood floors can last for hundreds of years when properly cared for, but they are easy to scratch and prone to water damage if you clean them wrong. Whether you’re just moving into a house with hardwood floors or you need a refresher, it’s important to know how to clean real wood floors correctly to avoid damage that can be costly and time-consuming to repair. 

Cleaning spills

If you spill any liquids on your hardwood floor, it’s important to clean them up immediately. Even with a lacquer, wood is porous and can absorb liquids, leading to stains or even warping. You don’t need to do anything fancy when cleaning up spills. Just wipe them up with some kind of cloth. Swedish dishcloths are great because they’re highly absorbent. 

If the spilled substance is sticky or messy, after cleaning up the bulk of the spill, spray a small amount of a diluted wood floor cleaner and wipe the area with a clean, dry cloth.

Vacuum

Vacuuming is the easiest way to clean debris from your wooden floor, whether that’s pet hair, crumbs from your child’s breakfast, or dirt trodden in on shoes. Beater brushes in vacuum heads can damage hardwood floors, so it’s best to use a vacuum that doesn’t have a beater brush or has a beater brush that fully retracts for cleaning hard floors. Canister vacuums are ideal if your home mainly contains hardwood floors because their cleaning heads generally don’t contain beater brushes. 

For more details on the best models for the task, take a look at the full vacuum cleaner buying guide at BestReviews.

Dust

Although vacuuming does pick up a large amount of dust, those really fine particles are sometimes left behind. Dusting your hardwood floors with a microfiber dust mop will pick up all those tiny particles and is an excellent way to clean your floors when they’re somewhat dusty but not covered in larger pieces of debris or grime. 

What’s great about dusting with a dust mop is that there’s no messing around with chargers or power cords like there is with a vacuum. Dust with a clean, dry microfiber mop head, then simply throw it in the washing machine to clean it when you’re done. 

Mop

It’s important to mop your hardwood floor regularly to remove mud, dirt, and general grime. How often you need to mop will depend on a range of factors, such as how much foot traffic an area gets, whether you have kids or pets in your household, the time of year and whether you wear shoes indoors. High traffic areas should generally be mopped once every week or two, while quieter areas of the home may only need mopping once every couple of months. 

When mopping a hardwood floor, only use a damp mop, because saturating real wood floors with water can damage them. Choose a mop that you can wring out effectively, either with a wringer bucket or a twist mechanism. Use a floor cleaning solution that’s designed for use on hardwood floors, as cleaners made for tile or linoleum may damage the wood. After mopping, wipe the floor over with a dry cloth so it isn’t left with any standing water that could lead to damage, such as water stains or warping. 

How to keep your hardwood floors clean for longer

The cleaner you manage to keep your hardwood floors, the less often you’ll need to mop them, meaning less work for you and other household members. A large amount of grime is tracked in on dirty feet, so placing mats at any external doors and taking your shoes off when you enter your home can instantly reduce the amount of dirt that’s walked in. If you have pets, always wipe their paws clean when they come back from a walk or a trip into the yard. Consider placing area rugs or runners in any major problem areas that seem to stay constantly dirty, such as high-traffic hallways. Making just a handful of changes can cut down on chore time. 

What you need to buy for cleaning hardwood floors

CleanHome Microfiber Dust Mop

CleanHome Microfiber Dust Mop

This dust mop is perfect for regular dusting of hardwood floors to pick up those fine particles that your vacuum cleaner might miss. Made from soft microfiber, it won’t scratch your floors. 

Sold by Amazon

Guardsman Wood Repair Filler Sticks

Guardsman Wood Repair Filler Sticks

Although scratched and damaged hardwood floors will eventually need sanding and refinishing, you can use these wood filler sticks to temporarily improve their appearance. These wax sticks come in various shades that you can match to your hardwood floor and use to cover scratches.

Sold by Amazon

Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner

Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner

This is an excellent product made from 99% natural ingredients and designed to safely clean hardwood floors. It cleans gently so it won’t damage your floors over time and brings them up in a beautiful shine.

Sold by Amazon

 

O-Cedar MicroTwist Microfiber Twist Mop

O-Cedar MicroTwist Microfiber Twist Mop

Thanks to its soft microfiber finish and twist wringing mechanism, this is an ideal choice for wet mopping hardwood floors. You can wring it out effectively so that it’s barely damp, which is just what you need to avoid damaging your hardwood floors with excessive moisture.

Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.