How to Clean Hardwood Floors for a Polished Look

Maintain a polished look with these tips for cleaning wood floors, choosing the best wood floor cleaner, removing stains, and more.

Floors take a lot of wear, including daily traffic and inevitable spills, scuffs, or mishaps. Luckily, hardwood floors are known for their easy-to-clean properties, but even the best materials are subject to messes. The best way to clean hardwood floors starts with smart preventive measures, which not only help protect floors but also cut down on the time you spend cleaning. In addition to daily preventative practices, cleaning wood floors helps keep your home’s flooring in top shape. Learn how to clean hardwood floors, plus how to remove stains from wood floors.

flat mop cleaning hardwood floors


How to Clean Hardwood Floors

For routine hardwood floor cleaning, dust and/or vacuum first, then repeat the following step-by-step tutorial weekly. You can adjust how often you clean hardwood floors depending on the time available and the current state of your floor’s cleanliness.

  1. Dust Wood Floors

    For a quick clean, dust wood floors with a mop that has been treated with a dusting agent to pick up dust, dirt, and pet hair that might scratch the floor surface. Options for the best mop for hardwood floors include those with a microfiber head. This material is designed to trap dust and grime. Follow the mop manufacturer’s recommendations for using wood floor polish or dusting sprays; some mops won’t require an extra cleaning agent.

  2. Vacuum Floors

    When considering how to clean hardwood floors, don’t overlook vacuuming. For weekly or biweekly cleaning, vacuum with a floor-brush attachment. Do not use a vacuum with a beater bar attachment, which can scratch a wood floor’s finish. For quick dusting, use disposable electrostatic cloths ($8, Target).

Mopping with a string mop and bucket of soap and water
Kritsada Panichgul

How to Deep-Clean Hardwood Floors

Dirt, oil, and grime build up over time and aren’t completely removed by a weekly dusting. To deep-clean hardwood floors, use a wood floor mop and wood floor cleaning product diluted according to the label instructions. You may want to do this cleaning in the spring or right before and after the holidays.

  1. Wet the Mop

    Saturate a sponge or rag mop in the water, then wring it almost dry so it feels only slightly damp to the touch.

  2. Damp Mop and Rinse

    Damp-mop the floor, being careful to prevent standing water on the floor. If the cleaning product requires it, rinse the surface with a clean mop dampened in clean water.

  3. Wipe Up Excess Liquid

    Wipe up excess liquid immediately because standing water can damage wood surfaces.

  4. Dry Floors

    If the weather is humid, operate a ceiling fan or the air-conditioner to speed up drying.

cleaning hardwood floors with blue dust mop

BHG/ Danielle Moore

How to Clean Hardwood Floors with Vinegar

To clean wood floors naturally, use a common kitchen staple: vinegar. Learning how to clean hardwood floors with vinegar will save you money on top of providing a safe cleaning method for your floors.

  1. Mix Water and Vinegar

    Clean wood floors with vinegar by adding 1/2 cup white vinegar to a gallon of lukewarm water.

  2. Mop Floors

    Follow the tips for how to clean hardwood floors with a mop, above, to prevent water damage. Then use vinegar to naturally clean other areas in your home.

    Vinegar can dull certain hardwood flooring finishes, so always test your solution in an inconspicuous spot before using the ingredient to clean your floors.

cleaning hardwood floors

BHG/ Danielle Moore

How to Remove Stains on Hardwood Floors

Consider your flooring’s finish before trying to remove a stain from wood floors. If the stain is on the surface, your floor probably has a hard finish. If the finish stain has penetrated through to the wood, the floor probably has a soft oiled finish. For floors with a hard finish, wipe surface stains with a soft, clean cloth. The following remedies are for hardwood floors with soft oiled finishes. If needed, end each treatment by staining the wood, then waxing and buffing the spot to match the rest of the floor.

Never use sandpaper, steel wool, or harsh chemicals because they can permanently damage the finish

  1. Remove Dark Spots and Pet Stains

    Rub the spot with No. 000 steel wool and floor wax. If the area is still dark, apply bleach or vinegar and allow it to soak into the wood for about an hour. Rinse with a damp cloth.

  2. Remove Heel Marks

    Use fine steel wool to rub in floor wax.

  3. Remove Oil-Based Stains

    Rub the area with a soft cloth and dish detergent to break down the grease. Rinse with clear water. If one application doesn’t work, repeat the procedure. Keep children and pets out of the room until you’re done. Let the spot dry, then smooth the raised grain with fine sandpaper.

  4. Remove Watermarks or White Stains

    Rub the spot with No. 000 steel wool and floor wax. If the stain goes deeper, lightly sand the floor and clean with fine steel wool and odorless mineral spirits.

kitchen with hardwood floors

BHG / Danielle Moore

How to Keep Hardwood Floors Clean

Thank yourself later when you follow these tips to prevent hardwood floors from getting dirty in the first place.

  • To lessen tracked-in dirt, place floor mats both outside and inside exterior doors.
  • In snowy or rainy weather, set up a boot removal area to avoid damaging floors with water and de-icing agents.
  • Along with a spot to sit down and a place to store shoes, keep a cleaning cloth or small towel tucked away next to the door to quickly clean up errant puddles on wood floors.
  • Even when the forecast doesn’t call for precipitation, remove shoes when coming indoors to avoid tracking dirt, grime, and germs all over the house.
  • Especially with hardwood floors, scratch-causing heels, and cleats should be left at the door.
  • Prevent marks on hardwood floors by using floor protectors under furniture and adding area rugs in play areas to ensure children’s toys don’t scratch the floor.

Best Hardwood Floor Cleaning Products

If you’re unsure about the best hardwood floor cleaning products for your home, talk to your flooring manufacturer. They can often recommend a specific cleaner to use for their product. But if your flooring isn’t new, or you can’t consult the manufacturer, pick a product specifically made for cleaning wood floors. Don’t use vinyl or tile floor cleaners as these products might damage, rather than clean, wood floors.

If you’re concerned about using harsh chemicals, look for hardwood floor cleaners that are Greenguard Gold certified, which means they’re safe to use in homes with kids and pets. Otherwise, try the natural route with a homemade cleaning solution for your floors.

How Often to Clean Hardwood Floors

How often you clean hardwood floors will depend on a number of factors, including the number of family members, lifestyle, pets, and the traffic your hardwood floors receive. A regular once-over with a broom or dust mop will do wonders for cleaning hardwood floors. For a deeper clean, scrub floors once monthly.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it safe to use natural cleaners on hardwood floors?

    Before using any natural cleaners on hardwood floors, always test in a small inconspicuous area. Baking soda and lemon can damage hardwood flooring. Avoid cleaning waxed or unfinished wood with vinegar, which can cause discoloration.

  • How do you prevent streaking on hardwood floors?

    Make sure to vacuum or sweep before cleaning floors to prevent dust from spreading around when mopping. Rather than letting floors air dry, use a soft cloth or towel to buff them dry.

  • What should you not clean hardwood floors with?

    Ammonia will damage the surface of your hardwood floors, as will glass cleaner. Steam cleaners are also a no-go, as it can cause cupping in the floors from the residual water and excessive heat used.

Better Homes and Gardens original post by Jessica Bennett | June 9, 2023