How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Hardwood flooring can add beauty and class to a home, but it needs to be properly cleaned and maintained. A well-cared for hardwood floor should last for generations. Improper or neglectful cleaning can lead to permanent staining or damage to the finish. Hardwood floors are a valuable long-term investment, so make sure you clean them the right way.

Clean Your Hardwood Floor Regularly

Sweep or vacuum your hardwood floor on a regular basis. The longer you let dust, dirt, hair and other small debris sit on the floor, the more entrenched they can become in small creases and crevices.

Going over your hardwood floor once per day with a dry microfiber cleaning pad will lift up and remove most dust and debris. Microfibers use the power of static electricity to attract even the smallest particles of dirt. Sweeping with a broom is less effective, but in a pinch this is still a good way to give your floor a daily cleaning.

Vacuuming is another excellent option. If you vacuum, it is best to use a floor-brush attachment so that you do not risk damaging the floor with the wheels of the vacuum. And, never use a vacuum that has a beater bar as these can be very damaging to hardwood floor finishes.

Clean Spills and Other Messes As Soon As Possible

Anytime there is a spill or a mess, clean it immediately. This is especially true if there is any water-based liquid on the floor. Hardwood floors and water do not go well together. If water gets into the wood, it can cause discoloration, warping, and even mold growth. Always clean up liquid spills right away!

DIY Techniques

The best way to clean a hardwood floor depends on the type of finish the hardwood floor has. There are three basic types of finish: polyurethane, wax, and oil based. Newer floors tend to have polyurethane finishes, while older floors tend to have wax or oil based finishes.

What Type of Finish Do You Have?

If you are unsure of what type of finish your floor has, the best thing to do is ask. If you can’t get the information from the builder or prior homeowner, there are a couple of ways you can figure this out.

If your flooring is relatively new, it is most likely a polyurethane finish—also known as a surface finish. To be sure, place a few drops of water in an inconspicuous spot on the floor. After 5-10 minutes, if the floor turns milky white underneath the water, it is likely an older wax or oil based finish. If no white spots appear, it is likely a newer polyurethane finish.

Another test is to use a clean white rag to dab a small amount of mineral spirits on a low-traffic area of the floor. If the rag turns slightly brown or yellow, then you likely have a wax based finish.

When in doubt, choose the gentlest method of cleaning. Don't risk damaging your precious hardwood floor.

Polyurethane Finished Hardwood Floors

  • Clean spills, spots, and marks with a damp cloth or mop. Do not use a lot of water. The cloth or mop should be rung out almost completely before touching the floor.
  • For areas that are tough to clean, it is best to use a glass cleaner, such as Windex.
  • A water solution with soap, vinegar, or baking soda can also be used. However, beware that regular cleaning with these acidic solutions can cause the finish to wear away over time.
  • When you clean, use a steady, light stroke. Aggressive scrubbing can damage the finish.
  • Carefully clean any excess water from the floor. When you are done cleaning, the floor should be completely dry.
  • Never use wax products on polyurethane finished floors. Wax products cause these types of floors to be extremely slippery.

Oil Finished Hardwood Floors

  • Use a wood cleaner specifically made for cleaning oiled floors, such as Murphy Oil Soap. Dilute the cleaner in a water solution according to the bottle's instructions and allow the cleaner to sit on the floor for several minutes before wiping it up.
  • And, as with polyurethane floors, avoid aggressive scrubbing. With oiled floors, over-scrubbing an area can leave it dry and depleted of oils, which leaves the wood in that spot vulnerable to water damage.

Wax Finished Hardwood Floors

  • The key to cleaning wax finished floors is to use as little water as possible. A cloth or mop that is barely damp is all it takes.
  • Only use cleaners that are specifically designed for wax finished floors.
  • Like other hardwood floors, avoid aggressive scrubbing.
  • Because they are so sensitive to heavier cleaning, is especially important to regularly lightly clean wax finished floors by sweeping or vacuuming.

Give Your Hardwood Floor an Occasional Deep Cleaning

Once or twice a year, it is worth giving your floor a deeper cleaning. A professional cleaning service like Castle Maids can give your hardwood floors a thorough, deep cleaning while being careful to use the proper products and techniques so as not to cause any damage. For more information about our house cleaning services in Frederick MD or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 301.694.9326 or request a free quote online.