If you grew up in the 70s you probably didn’t learn how to clean wood floors because you didn’t need to — that decade’s home decor was as bad as its hairstyles. Even though flare-leg pants may be making a comeback, carpeting in the kitchen or bathroom remains as distasteful as poodle perms for men.
With wood flooring in demand among buyers and renters, property owners are looking to increase resale value (or rental income) by replacing old carpeting with wood floors. That renovation isn’t cheap, either: wood flooring costs between $9 and $15 per square foot, which is three times more expensive than carpet.
When you’ve made that kind of investment, you need to know how to clean wood floors properly, so they look good for years to come.
How To Clean Wood Floors
1. Do this every other day.
Dust, pet hair, dirt, and food debris are all abrasive. Keep these things from building up and marring your wood floor’s finish by dust mopping. While a Swiffer might be sufficient for touch-ups, you need a wool dry mop for busy households.
Unlike brooms or disposable pads, a wool mop doesn’t just move dirt around — it holds onto it until you shake the mop outside or wash it in your sink. Buy one large enough, and you can get every floor in your home dust-mopped in a matter of minutes.
2. Do this weekly.
Too much water is bad for wood floors, but you do need to wet mop weekly. Skip the sponge mop and bucket — that’s far more water than you need.
The best way to mop a wood floor is with a good microfiber mop and a spray bottle, so you can control the amount of moisture hitting your floor. Try it with the DIY Wood Floor Cleaning Solution below or use your favorite commercial wood floor-cleaning product.
3. Do this seasonally.
Every few months it’s a good idea to give your wood floors a thorough cleaning with a vacuum that does not use a beater bar (which can damage your wood flooring).
This means using the bare-floor setting, flooring attachment, or even a stick vacuum. It also involves lifting and vacuuming rugs (on both sides) and moving furniture to clean under it. Follow with a thorough mopping using the method described above.
How To Clean Wood Floors: Marks and Stains
1. Scuff marks come up quickly with a tennis ball. Save your back by cutting an X in the top, then slipping it over the end of a broom or mop. After dust mopping, use the ball to buff away scuffs from shoes and furniture.
2. Greasy marks can often be erased. Literally. After dust mopping, grab a pencil and rub the spot with the pink eraser then wipe with a clean, damp cloth.
3. Sticky messes from things like tape should be treated by rubbing them lightly with olive or vegetable oil. Allow the oil to sit in place for a few minutes, then wipe away with a microfiber cloth. Clean the area afterward to remove the oil.
4. Water stains leave white marks, but they’re relatively easy to remove. First, wait a couple of days to let the area completely dry out. Next, cover the spot with a dry washcloth and run a warm iron over it (NO steam), keeping the iron in constant motion, for a couple of minutes. If the stain persists, rub the area very firmly with a microfiber cloth dipped in lemon oil. Wipe the oil away once the stain disappears then follow with a wood floor cleaner to remove oil residue.
5. Nail polish and paint usually comes up quickly with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol if you get them while they’re wet. Here are more ways to clean spilled nail polish once it’s dry.
6. Pet stains should be cleaned immediately by mopping up the mess then wiping with a 1:4 vinegar-water solution to get rid of the odor. For laminate floors, follow my advice here.
DIY Wood Floor Cleaner Recipe
If your wood floor is new, you should follow the manufacturer’s cleaning instructions or risk voiding the warranty. If such things don’t matter to you, or your warranty has expired, a DIY cleaning product is a great way to save money while getting your floors just as clean and streak-free as the commercial counterparts.
You will need:
• 2 cups warm water
• 1/2 cup white vinegar
• 1/4 cup plain rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
• Liquid dish soap (See Note below)
• 5 drops essential oil (optional)
NOTE: Do not use castile soap in this recipe. Do not use a liquid dish soap that is scented, moisturizing, anti-bacterial, or which contains “oxygenating action.” Use a plain liquid dish soap — original Dawn (or Fairy in the UK) works best.
To prepare: Combine the water, white vinegar, and rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Add three (3) drops of liquid dish soap. (DO NOT use more or you will leave streaks!) Add 5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil. Gently swirl to combine.
To use: Dust-mop the floor well, then lightly spray a small area and wipe with a dry microfiber cloth. Repeat until you’ve cleaned the whole floor.
Remember, even with regular cleaning it’s important to use a floor refresher or polish as directed by your flooring manufacturer. This is a task that only needs to be done once a season following a deep-cleaning, or anytime your floors are losing their shine.
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