How to Clean Hardwood Floors: The Ultimate Guide to Floor Maintenance

How to Clean Wooden Floors with Ease, in the Right Way

Nov 09, 2023
What often catches your attention when you enter a house? Often, it’s a shiny clean wooden floor for some people, including me. I don’t care whether it’s newly installed or has been there for years, preserving this investment is essential. That is why I clean hardwood floors with the right amount of care and attention. 

I do a little more than use any old mop and broom. How you take care of your wooden floors will determine how long-lasting they are.

So how do you clean wooden floors properly? It doesn’t have to take up every weekend of your life. I keep three rules in mind so that I can spend less time dealing with them and more time enjoying precious daily moments. I use the right supplies and tools, a suitable hardwood floor cleaner, and know the dos and don’ts.

Below I have specified how I do it. Make sure you read to the end. It takes just a few minutes, but it may be of valuable assistance to your floor cleaning.

How to Clean Wooden Floors

Identify your kind of flooring

First and foremost, it is necessary to know what type of hardwood floor and finish you have. The particular type may require special considerations. If you are not sure, check with the manufacturer. You may not want to do something that  damages your hardwood floors.

Since every board of the prefinished floors has bevelled edges, they are the most effortless to spot. They have a coating of a long-lasting surface seal, but the boards have separate layers. The unsealed cracks between them are vulnerable to water damage.

Your floor is unfinished or stained if you have a non-glossy surface. The hardest to distinguish is shiny flooring.

You can rub a slight wet fine steel wool on an unnoticeable area to determine whether you floor can be waxed. If a light gray smudge appears on the abrasive, you can tell you have a wax finish.

To know if your surface seal is old or modern, pour some water drops on the most worn area. If the water stays beaded after a few minutes, it’s likely it’s a modern seal. Meanwhile, if it darkens or soaks the wood, chances are your seal is poorly finished or is old. Gentle care is necessary.

Polyurethane and urethane are some of the most popular flooring finishes available today. These surface seals are resistant to stains and water. Cleaning them is easy.

The finishes of older floors are typically lacquer, shellac, or varnish. Though they are technically surface sealed, they tend not to be as durable as their modern counterparts.

Identify your  kind of flooring

The best way to clean hardwood floors with modern surface seals

Supplies and tools needed

   The best vacuum cleaner

    Furniture coasters, blankets, and felt pads

    Hardwood cleaning product

    A bucket of water

    A mop

    A cloth


1. Remove belongings and furniture from the area that needs cleaning

Slide your heavy furniture out of the way using coasters, blankets, and felt pads.

✪✪✪ Pro tips:

 Ask someone to help lift the heavy items. 

 If you have plenty of furniture and your living space is smaller or does not have enough places to move your things, I suggest shuffling everything to one side of your room and cleaning the unoccupied side and then do the same on the other side. Though this method gets the job done, you may want to reserve it for deep cleaning days.

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2. Pick up all the dust and dirt with your mop or vacuum

Vacuum or sweep with the wood’s grain as this will gather most of the trash. Pay more attention to the wood’s joints because dirt is most likely to build up there.

✪✪✪  Pro tips:

 Inspecting the vacuum wheels and head before their use is advisable. Abrasives such as salt, gravel, and coffee grounds can be embedded in your hard-plastic vacuum cleaner wheels. Similar to sandpaper, they can ruin the finish of the floor fast with marks and scratches wherever you rolled the vacuum.

The vacuum’s stair wand attachment is for more than cobwebs and stairs. It does a fantastic job of cleaning along the edges of walls where dust gets trapped around baseboards.

If you do not want to move the furniture, but still want to get rid of the dust under your sofa, then you can use a dust mop with the extendable handle or the stair wand and upholstery accessories on the vacuum to deal with it.

3. Choose the proper cleaner

Using the wrong cleaning product on your flooring can be damaging and expensive. They could leave residues that are impossible to clean and that cause discoloration, wood splitting, or bubbles in the finish. So, choose ones that are right for the job.

For general cleaning, use water-based and pH-neutral products like specific hardwood floor cleaning agents, or products for vinyl floors.

To dissolve dirt and grease, opt for detergents, soaps, baking soda dissolvable in water, or other alkaline, water-based cleaners. Remember to only use these in small quantities.

Acidic, water-based rinsing agents work to dissolve the deposits of minerals and hard water. Fresh lemon is a good example.

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✪✪✪ Pro tips:

≫ The safest option is hardwood-specific cleaners.

≫ Avoid ammonia, bleach, and abrasive cleaners. Also, stay away from anything that could leave a residue like wax, oil, and furniture spray. They will not just hurt your hardwood but possibly void any warranty.

4. Add the cleaner to a bucket of water to make it thinner

After choosing the right floor cleaning product, mix it with water. Importantly, you should follow the instructions of the manufacturer when diluting the cleaner. Too much of it can damage the floor’s finish.

✪✪✪ Pro tips:

≫ Consider the type of water you use. Distilled water is the safest choice as it prevents hard-water streaking. You can buy it in supermarkets at a low price. Alternatively, a swift wipe down with lemon juice in water following cleaning also helps avoid streaks. Make sure you give the floor a hand dry afterwards.

Mop hardwood floors with the cleaning solution

5. Mop hardwood floors with the cleaning solution

Once you are positive that you have the safest cleaner for your wood, dip the mop into a bucket of the mixture. Move it over the floor in the direction of the wood grain. Begin in the far corner and then work toward a door so you don’t have to walk on wet floors. Fill the bucket again if the solution becomes too dirty.

✪✪✪ Pro tips:

≫ To minimize the chances of dirtying or marking your floor when it is wet, take off your shoes.

 Use a cloth to tackle difficult areas. Dip it in the cleaner and water solution and then manually scrub it across stains for more direct pressure.

6. Soak excess liquid off your floor with the mop

Wash the mop in clean water and squeeze it until it’s damp. Mop up the remaining dirty water on the floor with it. Squeegee this into the clean bucket before repeating.

Do not delay this step. Modern surface seals can resist the penetration of water to some degree, but being wet for a significant amount of time can be damaging.

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✪✪✪ Pro tips:

 Wring your mop dry. Move it over the wet floor until it soaks up the remaining liquid. Repeat until your floor seems free from moisture. 

≫ Also, you can turn on portable fans or open windows to allow air circulation.

7. Go over the floor using the clean mop

Doing so will get rid of any dulling or streaky traces of the cleaning solution.

✪✪✪ Pro tips:

≫ You can use a terry cloth to dry your floor. The wrung-mop method also helps avoid streaking and protects the lifespan of your floor

Go over the floor using the clean mop 

8. Admire your final satisfying result

Grab your favorite drink, sit back and admire your sparkly clean floor.

How to wash hardwood floors (all other types)

Supplies and tools needed

✛ A vacuum cleaner

✛ Furniture coasters, blankets, and felt pads

✛ A bucket of water

✛ A mop

✛ A cloth

✛ Odorless mineral spirits


1. Remove belongings and furniture from the area that needs cleaning

This is the same as the first step for washing hardwood floors with a modern surface seal above.

2. Pick up all the dust and dirt with your dust mop or vacuum

This is the same as the second step for washing hardwood floors with a modern surface seal.

3. Pour water into a bucket

As with modern surface seals, you need a bucket to place water in.

✪✪✪ Pro tips:

≫ You can use distilled water to prevent hard-water streaking.

≫ Remove your shoes to avoid dirtying or marking the floor while cleaning.

How to wash hardwood floors

4. Clean using a slightly damp mop

Dip the mop into the water bucket. The floors cannot come back to their original condition once there is water damage and they will likely need replacing, so make sure you wring it out thoroughly. Move it across your floor in the direction of the wood’s grain. If the water becomes too dirty, fill the bucket again.

✪✪✪ Pro tips:

≫ The mop will not be good to use if you can still wring water from it with your hands.

≫ Wash your mop many times during cleaning.

5. Use mineral spirits and a cloth for tough spot cleaning

Mineral spirits are too strong to use regularly, but they work to eliminate stains such as white water spots.

✪✪✪ Pro tips:

 Make sure you test your mineral spirits on an unnoticeable area first. Rub a dot into your floor in a hidden area, such as under a couch. Come back after ten minutes or so to check if there is any damage to the flooring.

General maintenance guide

Now that you are specific about the steps of how to clean wooden floors properly, it is essential to know how to keep them clean.

1. Clean routinely

Sweep and/or vacuum your floor weekly to avoid dust and any scratching agents. You should deep clean hardwood floors only when necessary. Doing so will make them last longer.

2. Wipe up wet spills on the floor right away

Whatever your finish, don’t leave moisture on your wood floor. It can harm the wood and the seal for good if you are careless. Use a damp cloth to wipe it up.

3. Prevent the damage your pets can do to your hardwood

If you have pets, you may be aware of how their claws can ruin your floor. This is especially true of big dogs. Trim their nails and the floor and your pets will thank you.

Prevent the damage your pets can do to your hardwood

4. Avoid the mess as a result of people coming in and out of your home

Daily dirt is inevitable when your family and guests enter and leave the house. The best way to tackle this is to try and avoid it in the first place. For example, make your living environment shoe-free. If you are not comfortable with that, another alternative is buying a doormat and wiping feet before entering. Encourage your family and guests to do the same.

5. Be careful if your hardwood needs buffing or waxing

Asking a flooring specialist is the safest bet. Waxing keeps the floors shiny, but they will be slippery for several days after. Be sure to buff in circular motions, beginning in one corner and moving towards the exit. When you finish, wait for about one hour before you walk on the floor.

6. Handle floor scratches with a wood repair kit and floor wax

If you notice any scratches on the floor, don’t panic. Get a wood repair kit that matches the hardwood in your home from a local hardware store. Also, get some floor wax. Use the kit to paint across the scratch along the wood’s grain. Let the paint dry. Next, apply wax using a paintbrush until it blends with the surrounding floorboards' smoothness.

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In a nutshell

Did you enjoy the above guide? If you’re still wondering how to clean hardwood floors and maintain their quality, the key is to do regular cleaning and only deeply clean as needed. This flooring takes the most substantial amount of wear and tear in your space from dirt, dust, grime, debris, pet hair and your kids’ leftovers. Repairing, refinishing, or replacing it is expensive.

I hope the methods and tips mentioned above are helpful to you. Do you have another good way to mop hardwood floors? If so, please feel free to share in the comments.

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