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Guide To Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Updated Mar 14, 2023

Updated Mar 14, 2023

Home > Flooring > Guide To Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Did you know that 54% of homebuyers will pay more for a home with hardwood floors? 

Hardwood floors are an investment, and keeping them clean is one way to protect your investment. When you care for your hardwood floors regularly, you can enjoy the beautiful shine and know that you’re keeping the value of your home high. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to clean hardwood floors based on the floor’s finish.

What Kind of Finish Are My Hardwood Floors?

new wet polyurethane coated oak hardwood floor
Image Source: Canva

If you don’t know what kind of finish your hardwood floors are, rub your finger across a clean spot on the floor to determine the finish. 

If a smear forms on the floor, your floor has likely been treated with a penetrating seal, varnish, lacquer, or shellac, then waxed. If a smudge doesn’t form, the hardwood floor is surface sealed. 

You’ll also want to consider when your hardwood floors were installed because most new hardwood floors are surface sealed. 

Day-to-Day Hardwood Floor Cleaning

man vacuuming a hardwood floor
Image Source: Canva

Regular vacuuming removes dirt and dust particles that can accumulate and dull or scratch the surface of your hardwood floors. Vacuum your hardwood floors daily, or at minimum once a week, with a specialty vacuum cleaner fitted with a wood floor attachment. Turn off interior rotating brushes or beater bars if your vacuum offers this option. 

Sweeping is another excellent option for maintaining hardwood floors. Choose a dry dust mop or broom with “exploded tips,” otherwise known as synthetic fiber ends, to pick up dirt without scratching or dulling the hardwood floors. 

Use a damp mop with a simple, mild cleanser if your floors require additional cleaning. Dampen your mop in the cleaning solution, wring it out thoroughly, then mop following the direction of the wood grain. Repeat as necessary until the floor shines. Immediately change the water in the bucket when it appears dirty and refill it with clean water. 

An alternative to mopping is scrubbing the hardwood floors with a damp microfiber cloth, which gives you a clean finish. However, this may be impractical for individuals with knee problems or large areas of hardwood floors. 

Regardless of what cleaning tool you choose, make sure the product is never dripping with water. If you spill water on the floor, immediately wipe and dry the floor with a clean cloth. Standing water on your flooring is a surefire way to damage the finish and wood. 

After cleaning the floor, follow up with a dry cloth to absorb any remaining water. 

Why Isn’t My Floor Shiny?

If you’ve cleaned your floor and it isn’t shiny, don’t fret. We recommend trying a different type of cleaning product to increase the floor’s shine. However, you should never wax with a polyurethane finish. If this doesn’t work, it might be time for you to have the floors refinished or recoated professionally. 

Choosing the Right Hardwood Floor Cleaning Products

technician vacuuming hardwood flooring
Image Source: Canva

The best way to pick hardwood floor cleaning products is to use the cleaning products recommended by the hardwood flooring manufacturer. It’s crucial to note that if you use other products not recommended by the manufacturer, you may void your warranty. 

We also recommend speaking to the technician or company that installed the flooring for their product recommendations. If you can’t gather a recommendation from the manufacturer or installer, look for a generic hardwood floor cleaner at your local retail flooring store or Amazon. 

Additional DIY Cleaning Tips To Get Clean Wood Floors

  • Never use wax, oil soap, or petroleum-based products on your hardwood floors unless you know for sure that your floor is a wax finish, which is uncommon nowadays. If you use wax or petroleum-based products on a non-wax floor, the oil and wax hold onto the dirt, which can scratch the surface of the hardwood floor when you step on it. 
  • Check if the hardwood flooring manufacturer has its own brand of hardwood floor cleaner. Many flooring brands, like BellaWood and Armstrong, have their own wood floor cleaner.
  • Always use a clean mop head, ideally one that is removable or microfiber to prevent scratches. Dirt and dust can easily scratch the surface of your hard flooring, so clean your microfiber mop head frequently while washing the floor. 
  • Never steam clean or steam mop your wood floors. Save this for vinyl floors, tile floors, or laminate flooring, as it can harm your wood and finish. 
  • You should never mop hardwood floors with a sopping wet mop and a bucket of water. Always use a damp mop on the floor that is well-wrung out. 
  • If you overwet the floor, this can affect the moisture levels in the hardwood floors, causing the floor to expand and experience cupping. Cupping occurs when the middle of the hardwood floor stays flat, but the sides rise, creating an uneven floor.  
  • Never use white vinegar or baking soda on your hardwood floors. These ingredients can damage polyurethane and dull the floor. 
  • If you scratch your hardwood floors, don’t worry. This happens to almost any homeowner with hardwood floors at some point or another. Take a stain marker from a wood furniture touch-up kit to scratch to fill it in.
  • Skip harsh chemicals and cleaning tools with tough bristles. Hardwood floors are delicate and need a gentle touch during cleaning. 

How To Protect Your Hardwood Floors

Preventing your hardwood floors from getting dirty and grimy is the best way to keep your floors clean for longer and prevent the need for deep cleaning: 

  • Take your shoes off when you’re indoors. Shoes can scuff your floors and bring grime into the house. Specific shoes, like high heels, cleats, and sports shoes, can also create dents on wooden floors, so avoid wearing them on your hardwood floors at all times. 
  • Don’t let dirt and grime build up on the floor. The longer buildup is on the floors, the better your chances of scratching the surface area. 
  • Immediately take care of sticky or wet spills. Small things, like an ice cube, can damage your floor as it melts. 
  • If you have a furry pet, remove pet hair regularly with a microfiber or electrostatic dry mop, which traps and picks up particles, rather than blowing the hair around with a vacuum. 
  • Dry conditions may cause cracks, splitting, or gapping in your hardwood floor. Use a humidifier to add a little moisture back into the air if you’re going through a dry season. 
  • Add doormats or small area rugs to high-traffic areas to keep smudges and dirt off the flooring. 

Are Hardwood Floors Worth the Trouble?

For many homeowners, hardwood flooring is worth the extra time and effort because of the beauty it adds to their homes and the increased property value. If you’re thinking about installing hardwood floors, consider the added expenses and time needed to maintain the flooring properly before finalizing your decision. 

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