Everything You Need To Know To Keep Your Hardwood Floors Clean

caring for hardwood floors - woman vacuuming wood floor; woman mopping wood floor

Here’s How To Keep Hardwood Floors Clean

I never needed to know the best way to clean hardwood floors before we had hardwood floors installed in our main living area a few years ago. I had only ever had laminate flooring to worry about before that, and if you’re familiar with laminate floors, you know the best thing about them is how easy they are to clean!

Once I (finally!) got the hardwood floors of my dreams, I realized I didn’t know the first thing about how to keep hardwood floors clean! It took me a lot of trial and error to figure it out, because a lot of what I tried at first was either ineffective, too expensive, or did more harm than good!

But I hope to pass on that hard-won wisdom to you in this post. Learn how to mop wood floors, the best cleaning solution for hardwood floors, and much more below!

A Note About Finishes

This post focuses on how to clean wood floors with a polyurethane finish. This is the most common type of finish used on modern wood floors, so as long as your floors were installed within the past 10 years or so, it’s likely they have a polyurethane finish.

Older wood floors may have a waxed finish and require different cleaning and care. For more information about waxed wood floors, check out this article from Bob Vila.

How To Clean Hardwood Floors In 2 Steps

There are two important facets of keeping hardwood floors clean: dry mopping and wet mopping. Here, we’ll explore the ins and outs of each method, including how often you should do them, and which tools will help you get the job(s) done!

caring for hardwood floors - woman vacuuming a wood floor

1. Dry Mopping

Dry mopping (or dust mopping) picks up loose dust, dirt, and debris from the surface of your floors, and it’s the bread and butter of cleaning hardwood floors. You should dry mop your floors frequently, even as often as daily depending on how dirty your floors get!

The ideal tool for dry mopping hardwood floors is a dust mop with a removable cloth or microfiber cover. Another good option it to use your vacuum’s hard floor setting, if it has one. (You can technically use a standard broom to clean hardwood floors too, but they just don’t work nearly as effectively as the other options.)

One important thing to remember about dry mopping is that while you can do it at any time, you should always do it before wet mopping. Otherwise, you run the risk of accidentally pushing dirt into your floors, instead of pulling it out!

caring for hardwood floors - woman mopping a wood floor

2. Wet Mopping

The other half of the hardwood floor cleaning equation is wet mopping. Wet mopping involves using a damp mop and some sort of cleaning solution to wipe up messes that are stuck to the floor, like spills, muddy shoe prints, etc.

Because hardwood floors can be finicky, it’s important to choose both your mop and your cleaning solution carefully. It’s also important to avoid getting your floors too wet while you’re wet mopping them, because excessive moisture can cause serious damage.

Related: Avoid These 7 Steam Mop Mistakes

One way to avoid this is taking a few minutes to dry your floors after wet mopping them. Use a soft, clean towel to dry off any lingering moisture, or go over your floors again with a dry dust mop.

caring for hardwood floors - O-Cedar spin mop

Which Mop Should I Use?

Here are a couple of different mops that work well for wet mopping hardwood floors:

  1. Turbo Microfiber Floor Mop: This is an ideal mop for cleaning hardwood floors because you can use it dry or wet. So instead of having to switch tools halfway through cleaning your floors, you can simply switch out the microfiber mop cover for a clean one and keep cruising!
  2. O-Cedar EasyWring Microfiber Spin Mop: If you prefer the traditional mop-and-bucket system, consider a set like this one that features a built-in wringer to squeeze excess water out of the mop. This will help prevent problems that can arise due to excess water seeping into hardwood floors, like bubbling and warping.
caring for hardwood floors - spraying Bona floor cleaner on a wood floor in front of a mop

What Is The Best Cleaning Solution For Hardwood Floors?

Unfortunately, picking the right cleaning product for your hardwood floors can feel like navigating a minefield! Products like oil soaps, wax cleaners, and soap-based cleaners can leave a sticky or hazy residue behind on hardwood floors, while acidic cleaners like vinegar can eat away at your floor’s protective finish over time.

Here are a few products that are widely considered effective and safe for cleaning hardwood flooring. None of them need to be rinsed off, nor will they leave behind a film or residue:

  1. Method Squirt + Mop: Like other Method brand products, this hardwood floor cleaner is plant-based and biodegradable, so it’s good for the environment as well as your floors. Simply squirt it onto your floors and mop for beautifully clean floors!
  2. Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner: Bona is a trusted name when it comes to products that work well for hardwood floors. This is a simple and effective water-based cleaner, and it’s also Greenguard Gold certified, meaning it’s safe to use in homes with kids and pets.
  3. Zep Hardwood & Laminate Floor Cleaner: This floor cleaner from Zep is a good option for cleaning dirt-laden and discolored floors, as it packs an extra strong punch on spots, stains, and scuff marks.

Related: The Best DIY Mopping Solution For Shiny Wood Floors

caring for hardwood floors - woman holding a can of glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth

How To Remove Hazy Residue From Hardwood Floors

If your hardwood floors are already plagued by a buildup of hazy residue, a standard routine of dry mopping and wet mopping won’t do you much good. You’ll need to remove the residue first, but afterward, you’ll find it much easier to clean your floors (and keep them clean too!)

To do it, you’ll need ammonia-free glass cleaner, a non-scratch scrubber, and a few microfiber cloths. Start by spraying a section of the floor with the glass cleaner, then let it sit for a minute. Scrub the area to cut through the loosened buildup, then wipe with a microfiber cloth to remove the grime and cleaner.

Continue the process of spraying, scrubbing, and wiping until your hardwood floor is clean and residue free. (It’s not a quick process by any means, but I can tell you from experience that it is extremely effective!)

Related: How to Remove Hazy Residue From Hardwood Floors

How To Protect And Maintain Hardwood Floors: 3 Tips

Dry mopping and wet mopping will keep your floors clean, but they aren’t the only things you can do to care for your wood floors. The three tips below are simple things you can do every day to help keep your hardwood floors looking great for years to come!

caring for hardwood floors - 4 pairs of shoes on a tray

Tip #1: Take Your Shoes Off

Instituting a “no shoes in the house” rule is the best way to keep wood floors clean. Because when you walk on a wood floor with dirty shoes, the particles of dirt on your shoes are rubbing abrasively against the floor.

As surprising as it sounds, those abrasive dirt particles can actually ruin your wood floors over time! Place door mats both outside and inside your home’s exterior doors to help prevent dirt from getting tracked inside, and provide a rack or tray where people can store their dirty shoes.

caring for hardwood floors - woman polishing a wood floor with a microfiber cloth

Tip #2: Don’t Ignore Spills

Don’t ignore wet or sticky spills on your wood floors. Not only is it easier to clean up a fresh mess than an old one, but you’ll have a better chance of avoiding secondary problems like moisture damage and stains.

When you drop an ice cube or see a glob of jelly slide off your spoon, take a few seconds to clean it up right away.

caring for hardwood floors - dog on a rug with his paws on a wood floor

Tip #3: Repair Scratches

Eventually, your wood floors are going to show signs of wear, including scratches (especially if your kids have dogs that aren’t particularly coordinated on slick surfaces!) ;-)

It’s a good idea to address and repair scratches as soon as you notice them, even if they aren’t very deep. Otherwise, they’ll collect dirt and grime and wind up even more noticeable than they were originally!

Here’s an easy way to “repair” a scratch in your hardwood floors:

  1. Find a crayon that matches the color of your floor.
  2. Rub it on the scratch to fill in the gap.
  3. Turn your blow dryer on high and use it to heat up the wax.
  4. Buff the area with a soft, clean cloth.

As long as you give your hardwood floors the proper cleaning and care they deserve, they’ll continue to look great and serve you well for years to come!

What’s your best cleaning tip for hardwood floors?