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A Guide to Cleaning Hardwood Floors

A Guide to Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are a classic, durable choice for your home that require special care, cleaning, and maintenance. Whether you’re planning to install new wood flooring or recently moved into a new home, it’s essential to how to clean your hardwood floors to maintain their appearance and stability.

What Products Can You Use on Hardwood Flooring?

While some products are safe to use on hardwood floors, others can cause irreversible or costly damage. The following are popular and safe options for hardwood floor maintenance:

  • Vinegar: Although some debate whether vinegar is a suitable cleaning solution for wood floors, many have found success with this method. Never use balsamic, red wine, or other flavored vinegar — instead, choose white vinegar. Some home improvement stores may also carry vinegar explicitly for cleaning purposes. Be mindful of using vinegar if your wooden doors have any sealant or coating, like polyurethane, as vinegar could dull the natural sheen.
  • Castille soap: Castille soap is a multipurpose oil-based soap that homeowners can use for everything from floor cleaning and dishwashing to shampooing and pet care. Liquid Castille soap and water may be just what you need to deep clean your flooring, especially if you want to repurpose your cleaner around other areas of the home.
  • Tea and water: Some wooden floors respond well to a tea-infused natural cleaning solution because of the natural, gentle acids in the tea leaves. Boil a pot of tea and steep some tea bags, then add that to your bucket of clean mop water.
  • Wood cleaner: Standard wood floor cleaners available in most supermarkets or home stores are formulated to safely and effectively clean flooring without damage — just be sure the solution you choose is safe for your specific flooring type, including wood materials and sealed or unsealed surfaces.

While these are common options for many homeowners, please note that each wood type and flooring situation differs. Always perform a small spot test with your cleaning agent in an unnoticeable area of your home to see how the wood responds to the solution and cleaning methods.

What Products Should Not Be Used on Hardwood?

Some products will permanently damage wooden floors, leaving you with costly replacement or repair fees. Avoid the following:

  • Commercial floor cleaner:  Most commercial floor cleaners are intended for tile or vinyl floors and are strong enough to cut through grime. However, unless the cleaner is specifically meant for your type of wooden floor, avoid using these harsh agents in your home.
  • Furniture spray: Furniture sprays can be a great way to quickly refresh or shine an end table or entertainment center, but never use them on your floors. It could result in sticky residue, dulled sheen, or other damages.
  • Abrasive tools: Never clean your floors with abrasive tools like sharp-edged mops, vacuums with beater bars, pressure washers, or hard-bristle brooms, as these could scratch and discolor the floor permanently.
  • Steam cleaners: Save steam cleaning for nonwood floors, like the basement or kitchen, as steam contains too much concentrated moisture to clean wood without causing rot or weakening the floorboard’s core.

Regular Cleaning and Maintenance

Set a schedule for yourself or work with a professional home cleaning service to determine when and how often you should care for your wooden flooring, including sweeping, mopping, repairing, and refinishing it.

Know Your Wood

Check with your builder or a local expert if you’re not sure what type of wood your floors are made of, as some cleaning solutions are only suitable for specific wood types. Common wood floor materials include:

  • Oak.
  • Maple.
  • Cherry.
  • Walnut.
  • Hickory.
  • Pine.
  • Bamboo.

Sealed vs. Unsealed Wood

Some wood floors may also be treated with special finishes or sealants. Wood is naturally porous, so many homeowners choose to add a sealant to protect the grains from moisture, staining, and premature wear. Surface finishes are typically limited to the top layer of the flooring while penetrating finishes soak into the wood for deeper protection.

If you’re unsure if your floors are sealed or not, drop a small amount — like the amount you would get from a small eye dropper — onto the floor. If it soaks in, you likely have unsealed wood. If it stays on the surface and doesn’t soak in, it’s probably sealed. You might also be able to tell just from the wood’s appearance, as glossy floors and wood with sheen are often finished with a sealant and finishing wax.

Maintaining Wood Floors

Maintain your wood floors with these tips:

  • Sweep your floors often with a gentle microfiber dust mop or soft broom to avoid dust or debris buildup.
  • Clean all spills, including liquid, sticky substances, and food, as soon as they happen to avoid staining or moisture seeping into the wood.
  • If your wood floor has any minor surface scratches, you can purchase a scratch filling kit from a home improvement store or use a DIY method, like filling the scratch in with a similarly colored crayon and buffing it out until smooth.
  • Consider having a professional sand and refinish your wood flooring every 10 years or as needed to keep them looking good and structurally sound.
  • The best way to clean hardwood floors is by minimizing dirt and damage. Protect your wooden flooring with rugs and furniture risers and limit excessive wear and tear from shoes or pet paws.

How to Clean Hardwood the Right Way

In addition to daily or weekly sweeping, deep clean your wood floors with a mop and cleaning solution at least once per month by following these steps:

  1. Prepare the cleaning solution: If you’re using a floor cleaner made specifically for wooden floors, follow the instructions on the bottle for dilution. If you’re using vinegar, combine one part vinegar with 10 parts warm or hot water and mix thoroughly before mopping. For minor mopping jobs, try using just water and save the cleaning agents for spills or as part of your monthly maintenance routine.
  2. Mop the floor: Use a soft mop or rag to mop hardwood floors, mopping in an “S” motion. Do not oversaturate the floor and wring the cloth or mop thoroughly before placing it on the floor. Use a towel to gently dry any excess moisture when finished.
  3. Apply finishes: If you’re adding finishes or polish, apply it in the direction of the wood grain and only use materials approved for your type of wooden flooring.

Trust Your Hardwood Floors to Maid Bright

Maid Bright is a family-owned and -operated residential cleaning service here to help you maintain your home’s wooden flooring. We’ll provide initial and one-time cleans, recurring cleanings, and more, including a free in-home consultation to assess what we’re working with. Contact us today to learn more and take advantage of our 100% satisfaction guarantee!

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