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How To Clean Hardwood Floors – 2022 Guide

By Maria Hernandez / March 28, 2022 / 26 Comments

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    Whether you have had a hardwood floor for years or just had it installed, it’s important to preserve your pricey investment and learn how to clean hardwood floors.

    Finding the right vacuum, mop, and cleaning solution for this flooring type is essential to prevent damage. Equally as important is knowing the cleaning products that can harm your hardwood floor and potentially void its warranty.

    Routine Hardwood Floor Cleaning Steps

    Most hardwood floor can be cleaned with minimal effort and in most cases, you will not need to buy any extra cleaning tool that you don’t already have in your home.

    For routine cleaning you can follow the four simple steps below. Later in this article we will discuss more hardwood flooring cleaning suggestions for special cases.

    Step 1: Prep The Area

    Clear the area as much as possible before you begin. For deep cleaning days, you can remove furniture or other items.

    Clear furniture before cleaning hardwood floors

    Tips:

    • It is very important to use furniture movers. It is worth investing the time to use furniture movers otherwise your floors could get severely damaged and lead to costly repairs.

    Step 2: Grab a Vacuum

    Use a vacuum to pick up any large dust particles or debris that could scratch and dull your hardwood floor.

    A vacuum designed for hard surfaces should be used for hardwood flooring. It needs to have good suction for removing dirt and lint, while having wheels that don’t scratch the floors. A lightweight vacuum is better for easy, quick cleaning. If the vacuum has a beater bar, ensure it’s removable or adjustable. 

    Some folks prefer an robot vacuum such as a Roomba or Shark. Robot vacuums have come a long way in their cleaning performance and can cut cleaning times way down. See our Shark vs. Roomba head to head comparison.

    vacuum hardwood floors

    How to Vacuum Hardwood Floors

    1. Start at one end of your floor at the wall and begin vacuuming with the grain of the hardwood to the other end of the wall.
    2. Go slow to allow the vacuum to pickup the dirt or dust.
    3. Use attachments to get to hard to reach spots.

    Tips:

    • Set your vacuum to the hard floor setting to prevent scratches. This raises the vacuum and deactivates the brush rolls (also called the beater bar or bristle bar). If your vacuum does not have this setting, check the manual to ensure it is safe for hardwood floors before using.
    • Ensure the wheels of the vacuum are clean as abrasives such as gravel, salt, and coffee grounds can become embedded in the hard-plastic vacuum wheels.
    • Aim to vacuum at least once a week.
    See our list of the best vacuums for hardwood floors.

    Step 3: Grab a Dry Mop

    Grab a dry mop next.

    Microfiber mops are also known as dust mops. Dust mops replace your standard bristle head with a head wrapped in a microfiber cloth. Depending on the model, the cloths are either disposable or reusable and machine washable.

    The benefit to dust mops is that they do a great job of attracting and picking up dirt, dust, and hair instead of just pushing it around the floor into a pile. You may still get a pile of dirt when you’re done, so don’t throw out your dust pan.

    dry mop hardwood floors

    How to Mop Hardwood Floors

    1. Spray your dust mop head with dust mop treatment 24 hours prior. This helps the dust stick to the mop.
    2. Start by dust mopping the perimeter of the area while keeping the leading edge facing forward.
    3. You can then either mop in a figure eight pattern on in straight lines.
    4. Shake out dirt and debris. Do this away from wall edges so it is easier to gather.
    5. Use a broom and dust pan to collect and remaining dirt that did not stick to the microfiber mop.

    Tips:

    • Avoid using a hard-bristle broom or mop.
    • Clean up spills as soon as possible with a microfiber cloth or mop.
    • If you are thinking about using a Swiffer for your mop, ensure you buy the pads that are specially for hardwood. Note: Swiffer says you can use their products safely on hardwood floors, but we suggest you check with your manufacturer before using as wet mopping is not recommended by most manufacturers.
    See our buying guide for the best mops for hardwood floors.

    Step 4: Apply A Floor Cleaner

    To take you cleaning a step further, you can use hardwood floor cleaners. They can come in high and low gloss finishes and can also help fill in scratches. Always use a product that is approved by your flooring manufacturer so it does not void the warranty.

    Before you begin to spray your new cleaner everywhere, it’s always a good idea to test it on your floor in a closet or corner of the room that isn’t noticeable. Spray the cleaner on a small area, wait a couple of minutes, then wipe it off. Look for any discoloration, residue, clouding, or bubbling of the floor finish.

    There are some general guidelines you should always follow when choosing a hardwood floor cleaner. The most important is that it needs to be pH-neutral and designed specifically for urethane-finished hardwood floors. This is where it really pays to read the label because some products labeled as safe for hardwoods are not.

    If your floors are finished with wax, oil, or Monocoat, avoid using water. Manufacturers make their own cleaners for these finishes, which should only be used as directed.

    Don’t Use Water To Clean Hardwood Floors

    The video below shows the negative affects of using water with vinegar. You begin to see some damage to the floor after 10 cleanings and much more after 20 cleanings.

    Tips:

    • We found the Bona hardwood floor cleaner to be one of the most effective cleaners.
    • Most manufactures also recommend their own branded products.
    • Always apply any product with the grain of the floor.
    • Turn on a fan to help dry the floor and avoid any foot traffic until completely dry. A microfiber cloth can also be used to help dry the floor.

    What Cleaning Products To Avoid On Hardwood Floors

    First and foremost, do your best to steer clear of internet misinformation and ‘cleaning hacks’ as many of these methods can do more harm than good. If you are ever unsure, consult your flooring manufacturer for recommended cleaning products and methods.

    There seems to be a lot of confusion on what kinds of products, particularly store-bought, are safe to use. Using an inappropriate cleaning solution on your hardwood can be devastating and expensive. These can leave an impossible-to-clean residue that leads to discoloration, delamination, wood splitting, and bubbles or ripples in the finish.

    What To AvoidWhy To Avoid
    WaterLarge manufactures such as Shaw and Mannington clearly state to avoid wet-mopping with water. It can cause warping, swelling, and possibly void the warranty.
    Wax, polish, oils, soaps, shine enhancersManufacturers say they can dull your floors (counterintuitive!). Also, avoid products that contain lemon, citrus, tung oil, or silicon.
    Steel wool or scrub brushesThis is practically like taking sandpaper to your hardwood. One exception is for cigarette or candle burns, Mannington says it is ok to use fine steel wool that is lightly coated with mineral spirits.
    Steam cleaners, steam mop or buffing machineThe intense heat drives the moisture deep into the wood and causes irreparable damage. After just one or two cleanings with a steam mop, planks can shrink or swell, buckle, splinter, delaminate, and look aged well beyond their years.

    A few well known cleaning products you should avoid are:

    What Cleaning Products To Use On Hardwood Floors

    While there are general guidelines when it comes to hardwood care and maintenance, the specific type of hardwood and finish you have may require special considerations. You will want to check with the manufacturer if you aren’t sure.

    ProductCategory & Our RatingWhat We Like
    Microfiber Wholesale Professional Microfiber Mop
    Microfiber Wholesale Professional Microfiber Mop
    View on Amazon –>
    View on Walmart –>
    Dust Mop

    Overall Rating: 4.9
    – Easy to use/setup, has an extra wide cleaning head, and is reasonably priced
    – Customer support is 5 stars!
    – Extended reach of 70 inches 

    See the full review and all of our best hardwood mop picks
    Shark Rocket Ultra-Light HV320
    Shark Rocket Ultra-Light HV320
    View on Amazon –>
    View on Kohl’s –>
    Vacuum

    Overall Rating: 4.8
    – Price, versatile, easy to store, multi-stage filtration, warranty

    See the full review and all of our best hardwood vacuum picks
    Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray
    Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray
    View on Amazon –>
    View on Walmart –>
    Floor Cleaner

    Overall Rating: 4.8
    – Safe for all unwaxed, unoiled, polyurethane finished wood floors
    – Water-based cleaning formula
    – Premixed
    Safer Choice certified – very low VOC emissions
    Flerise Furniture Moving Kit
    Flerise Furniture Moving Kit
    View on Amazon –>
    Only sold on Amazon
    Furniture Movers

    Overall Rating: 4.6
    – Durable and can be reused many times
    – Aesthetically appealing (can be left under furniture legs
    – Affordable

    10 Preventative Hardwood Floor Care Tips

    1. Use door mats. They can help collect dirt, sand, and oils. Ensure mats you use do not have a foam or rubber back as that can discolor your wood floor.
    2. Aim to keep you home humidity level between 35% and 55%. A humidifier is recommended to minimize the expansion and contraction of hardwood.
    3. Remove shoes. Walking with heels or tracking in dirt and indent and scratch your hardwood floors.
    4. Use UV treatments or solar shades on windows. Prolonged exposure will cause fading.
    5. Lay down rugs. Ensure rugs and furniture is rearranged from time to time so the floor can age evenly.
    6. Use furniture sliders.
    7. Trim pet nails frequently.
    8. Sweep and vacuum regularly. Ensure the hard floor setting is used on vacuums. Never use a steam cleaner on hardwood.
    9. Avoid wet-mopping.
    10. Follow the care and maintenance instructions from the manufacturer.

    Pro tip: If you have a lot of square footage to cover, it can be a real chore to keep your hardwoods looking good. Believe it or not, the best way to spend less time cleaning your floor is to do it more often. This may sound like an oxymoron, but spot cleaning saves time in the long run.

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    Specialty Hardwood Cleaning Advice

    How to Remove Sticky Residue or Wax From Hardwood Floors1. Fill a plastic bag with ice and place it over the affected area to harden the substance.
    2. Then gently scrape with a plastic scrapper or credit card.
    3. Clean with a white cloth.
    How to Clean Hardwood Floors Without Streaks1. Do not use water.
    2. Use a vacuum, dry mop and floor cleaner such as Bona.
    3. Use a small amount and spread the floor cleaner along the grain (do not oversaturate or let the cleaner sit for too long).
    How to Disinfect Hardwood Floors1. Ensure the floor is clean of dirt and debris.
    2. Apply a disinfectant such as Nova with a spray bottle and microfiber mop.
    3. Let the product sit for 10 minutes.
    Important: ensure your flooring manufacturer approves the use of disinfectants before using.
    How to Get Stains Out of Hardwood Floors1. Mist a pH-neutral cleaner onto the stain.
    2. Wipe with a clean cloth.
    3. If stain remains, pour one cap-full of isopropyl alcohol (or odorless mineral spirits or Goof Off) and let it sit on the stain for one minute.
    4. Use a red Scotch Bright pad to very lightly scrub the stain.
    5. Clean off an excess with a very damp white cloth.
    How to Clean Dirt in Grooves of Hardwood Floors1. Use a vacuum set to hard floor mode.
    2. Spray a floor cleaner such as Bona and mop the area.
    How to Deep Clean Hardwood Floors1. Vacuum the floor to remove large pieces of dirt and debris.
    2. Apply a dust mop treatment to the a drop mop 24 hours prior and then mop the floor.
    3. Apply a manufacturer approver floor cleaner.
    4. Look for any problem areas (stains scratches, wax build up, etc.) and follow specific cleaning procedures listed by the floor manufacturer’s care guide.

    Professional Hardwood Floor Cleaning Service

    When the job get complicated or too difficult to handle on your own, it’s best to call a professional cleaning company.

    They can help ensure the job gets done properly, save you money by not having to buy expensive cleaning tools, and ensure compliance with your flooring warranty.

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    FAQs


    What is the best wood floor cleaner and polish?

    Only approved wood floor cleaners and polish should be used for hardwood flooring. The cleaning products should be pH-neutral and designed specifically for hardwood floors with urethane finishing. Hardwood floors with wax, Monocoat, or oil finishes should not be cleaned with any water. Specific cleaning products for these types of floors should be used.

    One of the best hardwood cleaners our team likes is the Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray.


    What is the best thing to use to clean hardwood floors?

    One of the easiest and fastest ways to clean hardwood floors without damaging them is using a vacuum designed for this type of floor cover. It should provide good suction, be lightweight with wheels that don’t scratch the floor, and have a removable beater bar. 

    Upright, canister, and cordless stick lightweight vacuums are the best types to use for cleaning hardwood floors.


    Is Steam Cleaning Safe for Hardwood Floors?

    No! Despite what the appliance companies would have you believe, you should never use a steam mop on a hardwood floor. The pictures on the company websites and boxes of these gadgets often feature a person cleaning and happily ruining their hardwood floors with this expensive appliance.


    Is it OK to clean wood floors with water?

    No. Water as it can lead to cupping and damage the floor.


    Is vinegar a good cleaner for hardwood floors?

    No. Vinegar will damage the surface of the floor and as the floor ages it will lose it shine and look more dull.


    How often should you clean hardwood floors?

    With the right tools and cleaning products, hardwood floors should only need to be cleaned two or three times a month. High-traffic areas will need to be cleaned at least once a week. Low traffic areas may benefit from the occasional spot cleaning. Otherwise, clean them every second week. Deep cleaning of hardwood floors can be done two or three times a year.


    How do you clean and protect hardwood flooring?

    When cleaning hardwood flooring, make sure you use tools such as mops, brooms, and vacuums designed for this type of floor. Many brands carry their own cleaning products, so ensure you use approved cleaners designed for specific hardwood floors. 

    Furniture movers and felt pads are excellent products for protecting hardwood flooring. Heavy-duty blankets work well when you want to move furniture on cleaning days without damaging the hardwood flooring.


    Can you mop hardwood floors?

    Dry mops with a microfiber head are fine to use on hardwood floors. Wet mopping is not recommended and can void your warranty.


    Can you use Dawn dish soap on hardwood floors?

    Using Dawn can cause delamination and joint-line separation, and void the warranty.


    Can you use Pine Sol on hardwood floors?

    Using Pine Sol can cause swelling, warping, and void the warranty.

    Final Thoughts

    Your hardwood floor is a long-term investment that, with the right amount of care, will last for years. With cleaning, like all good things, a little here and there goes a long way. Learning how to clean hardwood floors is essential in preserving their health and prolonging their lifespan.

    Keeping your hardwood floors looking like new doesn’t have to take up every Saturday for the rest of your life. With the right tools and supplies, quality hardwood cleaning products, spot cleaning, and knowing what not to do, you can spend less time cleaning and more time living.

    What will you do with all the time you saved? Do you have any safe hardwood cleaning tips? Tell us in the comments.

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    About Maria Hernandez

    Senior Floor Critic, 25 years of experience in residential and commercial cleaning

    Maria Hernandez has 25 years of experience in residential and commercial janitorial and cleaning services. From hardwood to carpet to marble floors, Maria has developed a deep expertise in cleaning and maintaining many different flooring types. Visit Website.

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    26 thoughts on “How To Clean Hardwood Floors – 2022 Guide”

    1. Hi, my hardwood flooring is: Bausen Hardwood Flooring, European Oak, English Forest Collection. Is there a product or process you could recommend to clean the grain of the wood in high traffic areas? I’ve been using the Bruce Hardwood floor cleaner. I cannot seem to clean the grain of the flooring. So, some of the high traffic areas (in the kitchen) look a bit darker or older. Many thanks!

    2. I had dark patches on my 1968 hardwood that had been under carpet for its life.. but after the company i hired sand it and refinish it the patches were still there but i just covered them up with a couch and went on with life for 13 years.. going to move and when i pulled the couch out, there they were along with planks separating lengthwise just in that small section.. so i simply poured hydrogen peroxide on the black patches and blotted with a damp rag making sure to leave some peroxide standing on the surface of ONLY the dark parts.. left it to evaporate put another coat on, let it evaporate then i took a light dish scour, despite what the “expert” said above and went against the grain again only on the dark patches using enough peroxide to wet the sponge.. then waited to dry and the dark patches were completely gone.. think they were pet stains from previous owner., but along with the dark patches gone, so was much of the finish along with it.. and despite the “experts” advice i used a solvent rejuvenating floor cleaner and went heavy around the patches.. this basically removed a small layer of the finish from the floors and evened it all out around the entire floor. Made sure to try and blend where the dark patches were and things looked great.. the dark patches were gone and for the planks separating, before i used the rejuvenator i simply took some of the most moisturizing hair conditioner that had vitamins and minerals (the expensive salon stuff) and poured it and massaged it in between the boards in the gaps.. i used no water and just took a dry rag and wiped up the surface of the floor leaving the gaps full of the conditioner. Let it completely dry and when i came back the planks were dern near back together.. this worked for me as i assume the previous owners cleaned the carpet with something that seriously dried out the wood and shrank it good… dunno how but this was visable from the wood turning up on the ends where it separated.. but the conditioner put moisture back into the wood in the right places and it expanded out. After the floor rejuvenator it looked to have resealed the planks there pretty well but i am going to apply a single stage sealer to the entire floor to make sure it seals in that moisture or whatever it absorbed because used no water.. and wood isnt soft or any worse for wear.. this was a trial on the spots just using some common sense and not really caring too heck of a lot as it wouldnt make it any worse but seemed everything i did was exceeding any expectations i had trying it.. i figure wood is wood, it expands and contracts.. put certain chemicals on it and it reacts the same way in any other wood would.. and if hair can be shined up like it is than wood can as well, used conditioner on leather also and works better than any other stuff ive seen.. but thats my experience with hardwood flooring.. good luck to anyone with issues and remember if it cant hurt, it can only help or your right where you started, no harm no foul.. 🙂

    3. If you want your premises cleaner in quicker time, then Karcher 15-Inch Surface Cleaner is for you. This is one of the best surface cleaners. It cleans 4X faster with 15-inch covering.

    4. great article very helpful I live in Denver so it cold and wet in the winter and lots sand. I had some calasmoke glow in the dark epoxy hardwood flooring installed from calabrese flooring co and I really love it but I’m having a hard time keeping it clean so the epoxy can charge well for the night glow. I have 5 dogs and 7 cats and I’m using bruce cleaner but I see and feel the residue it leaves and it’s making my glow in the dark flooring look bad How can I fix this problem?

      please help

    5. Fan bloody tastic article that basically sums up the wisdom my Mom taught me about taking care of hardwood, with some corrections that I will share with her! (No more vinegar Mom!)
      So glad I scrolled past the sponsored sites (Pine sol, mr clean, etc) to this one. They were all the first ones to pop up when I googled how to clean hardwood!
      Thanks, your attention to detail is awesome and the advice here is to help people take good care, but have time to live
      Cris

    6. I don’t know the manufacturer of my flooring. I don’t know if it is hardwood or not. What is the best and safest cleanser to use?

    7. Thank you for this information, I came across it as I’ve been searching for items for our new home. I do not rely on people to clean our home and have always done my own housekeeping. After reading your article I found I’ve been cleaning hardwoods incorrectly. I will be using your information to re-tool my arsenal of cleaning products and re-educate myself on the cleaning of floors.

    8. I’ve been using Bona Hard Wood Cleaner on wood floors that were recently refinished (sanded, stained and sealed with a matte finish). Have found (after only a few months) that they have lost a bit of sheen, and am changing over to Pledge products (Clean-It and Revive It). I have so much faith in that company’s products — particularly Revive It which is fantastic. My question, for anyone who might be able to answer it, is: Can I use the Clean It product in my Bona Dispenser. I hope to use the cleaning pad rather than get down on my hands and knees to do this manually — which is a bit awkward and difficult given that I am age-challenged (a senior in her 70’s)!

    9. I have Brazilian cherry floors throughout my home for the last 17 years. I do use Bona cleaner and in do polish them once a month with Bona polish. They are beautiful floors but i am finding that i have “rough patches that look dirty “ in the corners. If it was any other flooring I would be using a Brillo pad to smooth it out and take off the dirt. I obviously cannot. What could i use to clean this?

    10. Use a gloor rag, and wring by hand. Much quicker, easier and efficient. Water and wood dont mix so keep it damp rather than wet, and dry the floor. Overhead fans help alot.

    11. Hey Sarah,

      Thanks for sharing this. In fact, proper floor care is very important, and many people underestimate it. The result can be disastrous, and the restoration of the floors can be quite expensive.

      Regards,
      Joseph

    12. I have a Brazilian cherry hardwood floor by Bella wood. The first year the floor looked beautiful. Now it appears to have a film on it and anytime you walk on it, you can see your footprints. It’s been installed two years now and I have only used the Bella wood floor cleaner. Do you have any suggestions on how to get rid of the smudges and film? Your advice would be greatly appreciated.
      Thanks, Christine

      1. I’ve been doing hardwood floors for over 39 years and I come across this complaint
        Over cleaning can be the issue. even if you follow recommended clean practice.
        If you are washing your floors on a regular bases I find that even cleaners will build up and create a film over the floor. and it will seem almost greasy to the point of leaving foot prints everywhere.
        My suggestion is to (and I know this will seem a bit harsh and extreme):
        This will be a hands and knees job ,
        1. have a bucket of warm water with a mild house hold cleaner ( clean rag to start)
        2. have a second bucket clear water ( no cleaner add) ( use a separate rag to rinse)
        3. going with the grain and as far as you can reach wash that section of floor with the cleaning water
        4. then directly after rinse off the what you cleaned with the second bucket of water. ( ring out excess water on damp rag before rinsing floor)
        5. take access water on rag and ring out in cleaning bucket. ( this allows your rinse water to stay clean )
        6. as cleaning rag begins to become dirty discard that rag and switch rinse rag in place of cleaning rag and get a new rinse rag.
        7. change cleaning water when it get to dirty
        8. continue this process to the remainder of your floors.
        That’s it. it may seem gruelling but you should be back to normal.
        Tips to avoid this on the short term:
        1. only spot clean where necessary
        2. dust floor more frequently
        3. don’t wash floors as frequently as suggested (depending on your family life style)
        4. use indoor shoes or footwear (don’t go barefoot or sock feet as grease may be present )
        DooA TEST SPOT IN THE LIGHT TO SEE IF THIS IS YOUR ISSUE
        Let me know if this worked for you.

      2. I have the same Brazilian Cherry wood floor, and I have had the same issue with smudged footprints for the past 10 years. I was using Bruce floor cleaner as directed by salesperson.
        I recently cleaned it with a tiny amount of soap, vinegar and water just to get the buildup off. Not sure what to use on a regular basis now?

    13. Dear Sarah, Unfortunately, I used the Swiffer Wet Jet on some of my wood floors before knowing it was possibly damaging them. The easiest way to describe this is if you are in your socks, the areas I didn’t touch are smooth and you can slide easily. The areas where I used the Swiffer have a sticky residue and I can’t slide on them at all. Any damage to the actual flooring however, is not visible, there’s just this stickiness. How can I get that residue off those floors without causing further damage? I appreciate your insights. Thank you.

      1. I’m noticing a touch of that in areas where I cleaned with bleach. I look forward to the advice you receive. It will help me too.

      1. I’m so glad I found your article this morning. I have a puppy making big messes & needed to know the best way to tackle them. I was debating a steam mop – you ruled that out. And I’ve made the mistake of cleaning with bleach a couple of times in his most accident prone areas. I’ll surely stop that. I’ll stick with my dry mop & various appropriate sprays.

        Do you have a best recommendation for keeping up with a puppy & all of his messes?

        I have also noticed gaps in my planks and what I’ll describe as chips in the floors in a few spots; as well as, uneven surfaces (1958 floors). What causes this & can I fix it? I am in FL & have concerns of moisture under the house.

      2. Hi Sarah,
        I have dogs that have urine accidents on our hardwood Floors. I have been using
        Nature’s Miracle Enzymes to clean up mess. Is this a bad idea? What can i use that is safe ? Thank you!

    14. I used Proteus Floor Cleaner for hardwood and I am very satisfied with the result. There are lots of floor cleaner that can’t be used on different surfaces. This Proteus can be applied to almost all types of surface.

    15. What kind of bucket is that? I bought an O-Cedar and it doesn’t wring out the mop hardly at all. What’s the best wring mop that will get the mop almost dry?

      1. Use a gloor rag, and wring by hand. Much quicker, easier and efficient. Water and wood dont mix so keep it damp rather than wet, and dry the floor. Overhead fans help alot.

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