How To Clean Wood Floors

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Your hardwood floors add beauty and value to your home. Here’s how to keep them clean using a homemade spray that removes grime.

The best way to clean hardwood floors is by sweeping daily to remove pet hair and dust, vacuuming or dry mopping them at least once a week, and damp mopping them as needed. Use my homemade hardwood floor cleaning spray and you’ll remove grime and footprints without having to rinse.

How To Clean Wood Floors

Time needed: 30 minutes.

Whether your floors are exotic wood, hardwood, engineered, or laminate flooring, you can keep them clean and protect their luster with this routine.

  1. Sweep or Dry Mop Often

    Routine cleaning protects your floor’s finish from abrasive dust, sand, and dirt. Use either a soft-bristled broom or a dry dust mop to pick up debris. (I use the Bona microfiber dusting pad.) For best results, do this daily in high traffic areas and every few days throughout the rest of your home.

  2. Vacuum Weekly

    Choose a vacuum with a hard floor setting, or one that allows you to turn off the beater bar or brush roll which can damage your flooring’s protective finish. Be sure to get beneath tables, chairs, sofas, and beds where a lot of debris collects. Use the soft-bristled dust brush to go around the crevices at the base of your walls, too.

  3. Damp Mop After Vacuuming

    The best way to mop hardwood is with a microfiber cloth mop and the homemade hardwood floor cleaning spray since this ensures your floors won’t get soaking wet. You may not need to mop your hardwood floors every week, but make sure you always vacuum before mopping, or dust and dirt will cause streaks. Too much moisture can damage wood flooring, so never use a soaking wet mop or a steam mop.

    Other things to avoid include Murphy’s oil soap and Castile soap since their oils can leave a film on your wood floors that will dull their shine. Avoid using furniture polish or floor wax, too, which will leave your floors dangerously slippery.

  4. Deep Clean them Seasonally

    It’s important to deep clean hardwood floors every few months. This involves moving furniture to clean beneath and behind it. At that time, you should also roll up area rugs and vacuum beneath them to remove any grit that’s filtered through their pads. Vacuum and then mop your bare floor, using an old toothbrush to dislodge grime collecting in the corners.

  5. Protect Them from Damage

    Plan on refinishing your wood floors every 3-5 years, or however often your flooring manufacturer recommends. You can prolong the time between refinishing by protecting your floors from scratches and damage.

    The easiest way to do this is by using doormats at all entrances to catch dirt, banning shoes (especially heels and cleats) indoors, using felt pads and floor protectors beneath furniture, and keeping your pets’ nails trimmed. Also, make sure to dry spills quickly and never put houseplants directly on your wood floors since pooling water will cause them to warp.

Homemade Wood Floor Cleaning Spray

This simple DIY spray cleans and shines wood floors without leaving a residue. Use it after vacuuming or dust mopping to remove footprints and grime.

You will need:

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup plain 70% rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • 3 drops of mild liquid dish soap
  • 3 drops of a pet-safe essential oil (optional, for fragrance)

Add everything to a clean spray bottle and swirl gently. Lightly spray a 3’x3′ area and go over the area with a microfiber mop. Change mop pads once they start to look dirty, so you don’t leave streaks. Repeat until you’ve finished cleaning your wood floor. There is no need to rinse this cleaning solution, so sit back and enjoy the shine.

How To Get Rid of Marks on Wood Floors

You probably already know you should go shoeless in your home, and make sure every piece of furniture has a felt pad on the bottom to protect your wood floors. You may still find other kinds of stains and marks on your wood floors, so here are quick ways to clean them.

Scuff marks on wood floors come up quickly when you rub them with a tennis ball. If you have a lot of scuffs on wood floors to remove, cut an X on the top of the ball and stick it on the end of a broom or mop, so you don’t have to bend over to clean them.

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Greasy marks on wood floors are easy to clean with the pink eraser on the end of a pencil. Just rub them away.

Glue or adhesive tape residue on wood floors needs a little oil to help dissolve the bond. Olive, vegetable, or even coconut oil will work. Rub on a tiny amount and let it sit for a few minutes, then go over the area with a damp microfiber cloth. Spray the area with hardwood floor cleaner and wipe it again to remove the oily film.

Water stains cause white marks on wood floors when moisture gets trapped between the wood and its protective finish. Your goal is to remove that moisture without damaging your wood floor’s finish. Using one or both of the methods below will fix it.

  1. The oil-based solution: Spread a thick layer of full-fat mayonnaise over the spot and leave it in place overnight. The oils in the mayo will soak into the wood and displace the moisture. Wipe the mess away with paper towels then use a spritz of floor cleaner and a microfiber cloth to get rid of the rest.
  2. The heat-based solution: For this, you’ll need a clothes iron and a clean towel or an old t-shirt. Spread the fabric over the water spot and run the warm iron (no steam!) over it for 10-15 seconds. Lift the cloth to check your progress and repeat as needed.

Nail polish and paint spills on wood floors need a two-step approach. First, sprinkle sugar or cornmeal on top of the liquid to absorb it and wipe that away with a paper towel. Then use rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol to remove any residue. (Related: How to Clean Dried Nail Polish Stains.)

Pet stains on wood floors should be cleaned immediately with a paper towel, then spray the area with 3% hydrogen peroxide (the kind in the brown bottle) to remove the stain and odor.

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10 Comments

  1. Lily de Grey says:

    You’re awesome, Katie. Thanks for posting this informative, comprehensive article. My dog has really scratched my hardwood floors, so we decided to replace an area in our home where it was the worst. I wish I would have seen your article before we did that; maybe we could have cleaned them! Your do-it-yourself cleaning solution seems like it would really clean my floors! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Castile can leave behind a film.

  2. Great advice. Thank you. When you say “drops of dish soap”, how do you define a drop since dish doesn’t drip like an essential oil? Is it a squirt or the smallest drop you can achieve? Thanks for your help.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      We’re looking for a very tiny amount here, just enough to help dissolve the bond between grime and the floor’s surface — too much, and the soap will leave streaks. I’d say 1/16th of a teaspoon, but most people don’t have a tiny measuring spoon like that.

  3. Bonnie Raville Hutchins says:

    A broom and dustpan are used instead, kinder to the floor! Need it done quickly in between sweeping? That’s what dust mops are for!

  4. What could you use if you dont have alcohol

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Hi Mary,
      You can skip the alcohol if you’re out. Without it, the mixture won’t dry as fast, so you might want to go over your floor with a dry towel to prevent streaks.

  5. Could I use 90% alcohol?

    1. Katie Berry says:

      No. Stronger concentrations of alcohol will leave streaks.

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