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How To: Clean Wood Floors

how to clean wood floors

Hardwood floors are elegant and timeless, and protecting them from stains and the the dirt we track in on a daily basis is essential. The following steps will help you to clean wood floors and keep them looking beautiful for years to come.

The finishes on wood floors are designed to protect them from the usual wear and tear, but letting things like dirt or sand that is inevitably tracked in will shorten the lifespan of the finish and cause you to need to refinish your wood floors more often.

A simple cleaning schedule using some of these techniques and cleaners can double life of your floor’s finish saving you money and just making them that much more comfortable under foot.

1. Weekly Vacuuming

Once a week, get rid of extra dust and dirt by vacuuming your floor, especially in those hard-to-reach corners. Don’t use a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar that can damage your floors. Switch your vacuum cleaner to the suction only mode to avoid the extra wear and tear on the wood floor finish.

It’s the dirt or sand on the floor that gets ground in with every step you take that really wears down the finish so keeping it at bay is the best option. This simple step is the biggest thing most of us forget to do to keep clean wood floors.

Want to vacuum less often? Stupid question! Of course you do. Take your shoes off when you come inside and you’ll greatly extend the life of the finish on your wood floors. This may take a little time to get used to, but getting in the habit keeps not only your floors cleaner but also rugs, couches and anything else near the floor.

2. Regular Mopping

When it comes to clean wood floors, dirt and dust are your biggest enemies, right. Routine mopping is the best way to protect your beautiful wooden floors and keep them shiny. Depending on the amount of traffic and dust in your home, you will need to dry mop your wooden floors at least twice a month. Don’t bring out the sopping wet mop for this, dry mops only.

dry mop clean wood floors

A microfiber mop is best and designed to pick up dust and grime. Your mop needs to be washed and dried before you use it to prevent scratching the wooden floor. You can use a broom, but it’s not as effective as a microfiber mop.

Use Quality Wood Cleaning Products  

What should you dry mop with? Avoid using water on your wooden floors. Too much moisture can cause discoloring and swelling that will eventually lead to buckling. Apply products specifically designed for cleaning wooden floors to ensure that the wood is not damaged.

Avoid any products with harsh chemicals, soapy cleaners, and waxes that will leave a sticky, oily residue and cause dullness. Products like Murphy’s Oil Soap were designed to be used on old fashioned waxed wood surfaces NOT the modern polyurethane finishes on most floors today and they can cause a gooey build up.

Even if your wood floors are very old they likely have a polyurethane finish on them. You can determine what kind of finish is on your floors with my earlier post here.

Instead use products like Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner which is one of my favorites. It cleans nicely with a dry mop and leaves no residue since it is designed for polyurethane. Spritz it onto a manageable section at a time and scrub with the dry mop until the area is clean before moving onto the next section.

Don’t Use Too Much Liquid

Lightly spray or apply your cleaner on the surface of the floor. Read and follow the instructions carefully. Avoid using too much liquid to prevent wet spots and puddles from forming that will damage the wood. Then gently use the microfiber mop. If there are patches that are too damp, dry the area immediately.

3. Deal With Spills Quickly

Wood floors can deal with spills no problem as long as they are cleaned up quickly. Whether it’s wine, water, or even urine wipe it up quickly and dry the area so the spill doesn’t have time to soak into the joints of the wood where it can cause bigger issues.

Prompt cleaning is the most important way to keep an innocuous spill from becoming a permanent stain.

4. Don’t Add Polishes

Polyurethane finishes don’t need polishes added every couple years and in fact it can cause damage to the underlying finish. Avoid the temptation to apply the products that claim to rejuvenate or renew the finish. These are usually just a diluted version of a wiping varnish and they can cause sheen discrepancies and have trouble blending in.

Regular vacuuming and dry mopping is more than sufficient for most wood floors whether they are solid hardwood or even engineered wood. Less is more and getting too fancy or clever with the finish on your wood floor is where I see most homeowners running into problems when it comes to getting clean wood floors.

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