How to Properly Clean Your Wood Floors at Home


Is there anything more elegant than gleaming hardwood floors? On the other hand, is there anything that makes your home look more disheveled than a neglected wood floor that proudly displays every dust bunny and bit of dirt?

If you have hardwood floors, you're no stranger to that two-sided phenomenon. Chances are you're already in the habit of sweeping or vacuuming regularly. But here's added incentive: ground-in dirt (and rock salt) can seriously damage wood floors. You can cut down on tracked-in debris by placing a doormat at each entrance of your home, but if you want to take your floors to the next level, consult this wood floor cleaning guide.

First Things First: Figure Out Your Floor's Finish

Your wood floor's finish is the most important cleaning consideration, not the type of wood, as popular opinion would have you think. (For a primer on different finishes, check out HouseLogic's article.) If you're not sure what kind of finish your floor has, rub your finger across it. This will tell you whether you have…

  • Surface-sealed floors. If your finger doesn't leave a smudge, your floor is surface sealed (most new hardwood floors are). Good thing, too: these wood floors are resilient and easiest to clean.
  • Oil-treated, lacquered, varnished, or untreated floors. If your finger leaves a smudge, you have one of these wood floors, and they require a little more care. They aren't resistant to moisture.

Now that you've nailed down what type of finish your floor has, let's move on to how you clean each one.

Surface-Sealed Wood Floor Cleaning Tips

For starters, you don't want to use oils or waxes on surface-sealed wood floors. They make the surface too slick and can lead to serious injuries. You also don't want to use abrasive cleaners or alkaline products that can sully the finish.

Having said that, here's how to make these floors shine:

  1. Opt for pH-neutral soap as your cleaning agent. Be sure to check your floor's warranty, though – it might specify the exact product you should use. Add a quarter cup of the soap to a bucket of water. (For tips on selecting green cleaning products, check out our post "How to Pick Safe Cleaning Solutions for Your Home or Office."
  2. Hone in on high-traffic areas. The dining room and kitchen will probably need to be mopped at least once a week.
  3. Get mopping. Though sealed floors are more water resistant than their counterparts, you still don't want to soak them. Dip your mop into the bucket full of soapy water and wring it out thoroughly before you start. You'll want to mop in the direction of the wood grain.
  4. Rinse the floor. To finish, go over the entire area with clean water. Again, make sure the mop is just damp – there shouldn't be any puddles on the floor.

Oil-Treated, Varnished, Lacquered, or Untreated Wood Floor Cleaning Tips

To get these floors back in fighting condition, do not attempt a regular mop job. Instead, you're going to need a wax stripper that the floor manufacturer recommends or mineral spirits. Waxes come in both liquid and paste form, and there are pros and cons to either choice. In short, liquid wax is easier to apply, but it offers less protection and staying power than a paste wax.

Follow these steps about once or twice a year to apply a fresh coat of wax:

  1. Vacuum the floor thoroughly. You don't want to get dirt or dust particles trapped under the wax.
  2. Strip away the old wax coat. Follow the directions of the wax stripper you selected. Remember to keep the area ventilated and to keep children and petsaway while you work. Let the floor dry before moving on to the next step.
  3. Apply a thin coat of wax. You'll use an applicator to apply liquid wax and a cloth for paste wax. Let the wax dry before moving on to the next step.
  4. Buff the waxed surface in the direction of the wood grain. Though you can buff the floors with a cloth, you'll save time by using a buffing machine (you can rent one from a local hardware store).

Lastly, stand back, admire your handiwork, and enjoy your freshly polished hardwood floors!

Columbus Wood Floor Cleaning Done Right

Don't have time to pamper your hardwood floors? Let our Dirt Specialists help out. Whether you have wood floors in your foyerkitchenbedroom, or your whole house, we can get your Columbus home's floors clean in no time. Just book an appointment with us, and we'll hammer out a plan that fits your schedule and your budget.