How to Clean Wood Floors

How to Clean Wood Floors

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Wood floors add a warmth and unique look to all styles of home decor and most are easy care if they are finished and cleaned properly. One important key to cleaning the floors properly is knowing what type of wood or wood-look floors are installed in your home: solid hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, or laminate wood-look flooring.

  • Solid hardwood flooring can be installed in planks or strips. The flooring can be any type of hardwood (oak, maple, teak, walnut, ash) that is cut from one solid piece of wood.
  • Engineered hardwood flooring is manufactured by gluing together several thin plies of hardwood. The layers are stacked with the grains running in different directions to give the floor pieces strength. The surface layer can be a thin veneer or a thicker layer of hardwood that can be sanded and refinished over time.
  • Laminate wood-look flooring contains no hardwood. The surface is actually a photographic image of wood covered by a thick layer of melamine resin over fiberboard.

Tools for Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Keep these essentials on-hand to keep wood floors looking their best and lasting as long as possible.

Broom and Dustpan

A soft-bristled broom is the best choice for removing crumbs and grit from hardwood floors while preventing additional scratches. The bristles can be made from nylon or rubber. Both types of bristles are static-charged and help to grab particles. Use a dustpan or hand-vacuum to grab the accumulated soil.

Microfiber Mop

It's best to have two microfiber mops: one for dry mopping to capture dust and one with denser fibers for damp mopping. Or, you can save room in your pantry by using a mop like the Clorox Dual-Action Dust Mop that features two surfaces, one for dry mopping and one for damp mopping. Microfiber mop heads attract dust better than cotton or sponge mops and can be easily washed and cleaned. A clean mop equals a cleaner floor.

Vacuum Cleaner

While a vacuum can be used on hardwood floors, choose one that has soft-bristle rollers and a retractable beater bar to prevent scratching. Use the upholstery brush attachment to reach dusty corners of the room.

Cleaning Solution

Since most wood floors are sealed with cured polyurethane or polyacrylic urethane, it is important to choose a cleaning solution that will leave the sealant bright and without streaks. Never use harsh chemicals like chlorine bleach, ammonia, pine oil, or undiluted vinegar. Choose instead a commercial product that is formulated for sealed wood floors. Never apply liquid or paste wax over a polyurethane-sealed wood floor.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Now that you have your tools together, follow these tips to keep solid and engineered hardwoods gleaming.

Tackle Messes as They Happen

Don't allow any type of dry mess or wet spills to remain for more than a few minutes on hardwood floors. This is especially important for mud or any foods or liquids that are dark in color and can leave difficult-to-remove stains.

After cleaning up the spill with a paper towel or cloth, give the floor a final "rinse" with a slightly water-dampened cloth or mop. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain to prevent streaking.

Sweep or Vacuum Daily

Sweep or vacuum daily to remove grit and crumbs that can cause scratches and wear down the finish of the floor.

Dust Mop Weekly

To capture the dust bunnies that seem to appear from nowhere, dust mop wood floors at least once per week.

Damp Mop Seasonally

If you have been taking care of messes promptly and keeping floors free of grit and dust, then you should only need to damp mop with a cleaning product a few times each year. NEVER use a sopping-wet mop. Excessive water can damage every sealant on wood floors and cause them to buckle.

Lightly dampen a microfiber mop and always clean following the grain of the wood and allow the wood to dry completely before walking to prevent spotting. If you live in an area with hard water, damp mop with distilled water. The excessive minerals in hard water can leave the floor finishes looking dull.

If you choose to use a commercial wood floor cleaner, choose one with a spray applicator or a mop that includes a refillable spray feature. Just a heavy mist of about one-half teaspoon per two square feet is adequate for cleaning. Too much product can leave floors sticky and actually attract more dirt.

Cleaning Laminate Wood-Look Flooring

Caring for wood-look laminate flooring is quite easy. Simply wipe up spills as they happen and sweep or vacuum frequently. For deeper cleaning, you can use a steam mop but avoid wet mopping that can cause the underlayers to warp. Avoid harsh cleaners like pine oil or any cleaner that promises to leave a shine. The waxy build-up will leave the laminate looking dull. Opt instead for a small amount of plain dishwashing soap in warm water to dampen your mop.

6 Tips to Prevent Scratches on Wood Floors

Scratches cause floors to look dull and wear out more quickly. Taking a few precautions will help keep away scratches.

  1. Place felt pads on the bottom of chair and table legs.
  2. Never place houseplant pots directly onto hardwood floors.
  3. Never drag heavy furniture or objects across the floor.
  4. Skip stilettos and cleats when walking on hardwood floors.
  5. Place doormats inside and outside entrance areas and clean them frequently. Reducing the amount of grit brought into a home will reduce the number of scratches.
  6. Keep pet toenails trimmed and filed.