How to Properly Clean a Hardwood Floor

With the proper care and maintenance, hardwood floors can last a lifetime. However, many consumers and cleaning professionals are either uninformed or misinformed as to how to properly care for wood flooring. Fortunately for today’s consumers, caring for wood floors requires much  less effort than in the past when wax flooring was the preeminent choice. Most of  today’s wood floors have a surface building finish that allows for easy care and maintenance. Regardless of the finish, style, or species, one thing remains abundantly clear – maintenance is key! A good maintenance routine that protects the finish from scratches and moisture can add years to the life of your floor.

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While it’s true that cleaning methods vary based on finish types, the following general maintenance guidelines apply to all residential and commercial wood floors and finishes.

  • Sweeping & Vacuuming – Use a soft bristle broom, dry dust mop, or vacuum to routinely remove the grit and grime that accumulates on the floor. Left unattended, dirt particles can work like an abrasive when trapped under footwear and scratch and de-gloss the floor. Use a vacuum that does not have a rotating beater bar, as it can damage the finish.
  • Window Coverings – Wood is a natural product and thereby affected by light. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays can have a dramatic effect on the exposed wood and fading or bleaching may occur. Window treatments can go a long way in helping to keep your wood’s color intact.
  • Area Rugs & Floor Mats – It’s good practice to place area rugs at all entrances, pivot points, high-traffic areas, near sinks, and/or any other place where dirt or water may accumulate. Be wary of rubber backed mats and non-slip rug pads, as they can be unkind to the floor’s finish. The pattern on the non-slip mat may actually imprint onto the floor. Rugs, mats and pads with natural backings are your best bet. Keep in mind that the use of area rugs may cause shading differences in the floor due to light exposure.
  • Floor Protectors – Install floor protector pads to the bottom of anything that will come in contact with the floor. This includes all furniture, baby items, large toys, etc. Never slide or drag heavy items across the floor, as wood finishes can easily scratch and mar under extreme pressure.
  • Other Protective Measures – Some other ideas include keeping shoes in good repair. High heels in particular are a threat if they lose their protective cap and the nail is exposed. Obviously, all athletic cleats and spikes should be left at the door. As far as pets go, make sure their nails are clipped and trimmed regularly. Wipe spills immediately and pay close attention to the flooring around the dishwasher, refrigerator, house plants, or any other areas prone to spills or leaks. Finally, keep the temperature in-line with normal living conditions in your area, as extremes of humidity and temperature can wreak havoc on wood floors.

Adhering to these basic guidelines will go a long way in helping to protect your investment by extending the life of the hardwood floor and finish.

5 thoughts on “How to Properly Clean a Hardwood Floor

  1. William vessal

    The best thing to wash a floor is a cup of white vinegar in a gallon of warm water and clean it with damp dry mop.

    1. Mike Glavin

      Hi William,

      Vinegar and water was a popular cleaner in the 60’s and 70’s particularly considering the type of surface finishes that were used then. But today’s cleaners, like Basic Coating’s Squeaky are far more effective. The vinegar and water combination does not have the same cleaning power as Squeaky Cleaner. Today cleaners are built to handle more soils than what the vinegar and water can effectively clean. Basic’s Squeaky Cleaner is built with a wetting agent, solvents, surfactants, and water capable of a cleaning and solvating a greater number of soils more efficiently. Vinegar and water does not do as good a job of wetting the soil or possess as broad a solvency on greasy food spills. Yes, vinegar and water will work on sugar spills and a small number of grease like substances because water is the main component to help solvate those types of soil. Today’s cleaners will do the cleaning more quickly and easily and on a far broader range. Of course these are general comments. The finish on your hardwood floor matters. You always need to consider the finish on your hardwood floor. Basic Coatings Squeaky cleaner is designed to be used on all cured polyurethane finished floors (water base and oil based), UV cured prefinished acrylic, and polyurethane finished floors and acid cure finished floors. Thank you for your response. You should consult the manufacturer of the floor or the finish to make certain you are using the correct cleaner. Good Luck cleaning your beautiful hardwood floor

      -Mike Glavin – Owner

  2. Luna Foster

    Thanks for letting me know about it. Most hardwood flooring contractors give short shrift to this subject. They usually mention washing the floor with vinegar and water, or oil soap, or they try to sell you some rather expensive cleaning agents supposedly meant only for hardwood floors.

  3. Jade Brunet

    We are happy to have new hardwood floors to replace our linoleum and are looking to find ways to properly take care of it. It is helpful to learn that using a soft bristle broom, dry dust mop, or vacuum routinely can remove the dirt that accumulates. Understanding that unattended dirt particles can work as an abrasive hen trapped under footware is important. We will be sure to remove dirt as soon as possible to avoid scratching.


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