How to Clean Hardwood Floors

First thing’s first– hardwood and moisture do not play well together. So never clean your hardwood floors with excessive amounts of moisture. We’ll discuss how wet is too wet in a minute, but for now just know that moisture will warp your floors and cost you a lot of money. 

The next thing you should know is that every flooring manufacturer will provide you with cleaning and maintenance instructions. This will be what they consider to be the best way to clean your floors. They may even suggest specific cleaning products to purchase. If you follow these instructions exactly, you will protect your warranty in case anything goes wrong with your floor. 

That being said, most hardwood floors will have the same basic cleaning requirements. The following tips will give you some guidance on how to clean your hardwood floors the right way and avoid causing undue, costly damage. 


To prevent scratches and wear on your finish, use a soft bristled broom to sweep you hardwood floors. Do this on a regular basis as well as directly before doing deeper cleanings. Regular broom cleaning will help prevent scratches and wear that are caused by shoes grinding dirt and debris into the floor. 

Deep Cleaning

For this you will use a sponge or rag mop. Dilute a cleaner specifically for hardwood floors in a bucket. Follow instructions on the label precisely. Two costly mistakes people make here: First they do it too often. This should really only be done once a year or twice if you really have to. The second mistake is excessive moisture. 

Your sponge or rag mop should be wrung out until it feels slightly damp. If it feels damp, it’s too wet. The point is to leave as little moisture on your hardwood floors as possible (there is one exception that we will cover later). If water gets into the cracks of the floor it will cause warping. Run the sponge or mop over your floors and the built up oils and other messes should come off fairly easily, especially with the newer finishes on floors today.

Spot Cleaning 

Sometimes you’ll get a mark that you want to get off your floor, but it’s not quite time for a deep cleaning yet. Before you start, take note of the type of finish on your floor. Most newer hardwood floors will have hard finish like Urethane. You’ll know you have this if the stain is just on the surface. For this all you’ll need to do is wipe it up with a soft, clean cloth. The softer the better. Never use anything abrasive such as steel wool as this will scratch up the finish. There are some exceptions to this if your floor has a soft oiled finish.  

If you live in an older home, your hardwood floors may have been finished with a soft oil. If the stain has made it to the wood, then you know this is you. Spot cleaning will be a little more difficult with this type of finish. After removing the mark you may need to re-stain the section then wax and buff the area to get it to match the rest of your floors. 

Every case is a little different when dealing with this type of finish. Here is a short list of what to use in specific situations. 

  • Scuff marks from shoes– A fine steel wool should do the trick. Use it to rub in the floor wax. 
  • Pet stains or darker spots– Use a number 000 steel wool to rub in the floor wax. If the stain is really stubborn, you may need to use a little bit of bleach or vinegar. Let it soak on the spot for 1 hour and then use a damp cloth to rinse. 
  • Water marks– Again use a number 000 steel wool and floor wax. If the stain is pretty deep you’ll have to use fine steel wool and odorless mineral spirits to sand the floor. 
  • Oil stains– Use a mild dishwashing detergent and a soft cloth to help break down the grease. Then use some water to clear. Repeat as necessary. Then use fine grade sandpaper to smooth down the raised grain. For the safety of children and animals, keep them out of the room until you are finished with the detergent. 
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