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How to Clean Hardwood Floors

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are aesthetically pleasing, but cleaning them is a whole other story. 

The best way to keep our hardwood floors clean is through a strict regular cleaning regimen with proper dusting, sweeping, vacuuming & using suitable floor manufacturer-specified cleaners.

Specific stains will require particular cleaning solvents like mineral spirits, thinners, or the old warm water with dish soap. 

What product to use will entirely depend on the type of stain. We can follow the steps and scenarios below to keep our hardwood floors squeaky clean.

Tools Required

  • Microfiber cleaning pads or mops
  • Cleans rags/Sponges
  • Manufacturer specified cleaning product
  •  Stain specific cleaning solutions
  • Vacuum Cleaner (Avoid ones with beater bars, slide thick bristles mode off while using the vacuum)
Cleaning products for hardwood floors
Rights Free Image Master Site/Flickr

Things to Consider

  •  Do not use steam on the floors. It will damage the layer of finish on the top.
  •  Do not let water drip on the floor. Moisture will lift and warp the wood as water is the natural enemy of wood.
  •   Do not use straight ammonia, alkaline or abrasive cleaners, especially bleach.
  •  Do not use scouring pads or anything with wired bristles.
  • Do not use string mops; it’s very hard to avoid drip of excess water while using these mops even if we wring it out.
  • Hardwood floors nowadays get a coat of finish mostly of polyurethanes. Putting wax or cleaners with wax additives will only create a layer of film on top and will dull the finish in the long run.
  • Floor cleaners are differentiated according to compatible floors and finishes. Be sure you get the right floor cleaner. We recommend manufacturer-specified cleaners or PH neutral cleaners equivalent to those brands.

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Follow the cleaning process stated above to clean hardwood floors.

Dust and Sweep the Floor

The first thing to do is get all the dirt and dust swept up from the floors. Use a soft-bristled broom or an electrostatic mop to clean off dust from the floor. Do not use hard-bristled ones. These bristles will scratch the finish off the floor. After you have done a thorough sweeping of the floor, use a vacuum cleaner to get rid of any dust left.

 Please do not use brush settings, beater bars, or roller attachments on the vacuum cleaner. For most vacuum cleaners, you will have a button to slide back the brushes. We should be focused on getting the dust; we do not need to bristle the floor again. We recommend using the default attachment with brushes slid back.

vacuum-cleaner-on-hardwood-floor
HS You/Flickr

Clean of All Grimes & Stains

After the floor is clean from dust, now is the time to remove any grimes, adhesive, or stains collected on the hardwood floor. 

All you need is a damp cloth or sponge for normal grimes and dust. We do not need wired brushes, scrubbers, etc.

Clean those specific stains with the damp cloth with a back-and-forth movement and clean it immediately with a clean rag. Mixing a small amount of dish soap liquid in water is fine. Just a couple of drops will be enough.

Wood finishes don’t normally react well with anything acidic or chemical-related. If there are bigger stains like urine, adhesive, follow the instructions below:

Just Removed the Carpet ?

Please focus on the things listed below as soon as you take off the carpet.

  •  Adhesive/Glue material
  •  Padding Patches
  •  Staples used to hold the carpet into place

The first go-to method is the damp cloth with just plain old water. After we wipe it, use a plastic putty knife on the adhesive or the padding patches and scrap it gently. If it still isn’t coming out. Use a damp cloth with warm water and mild dish soap.

Try using a small dab of mineral spirits on a cloth and wipe down the adhesive or patch for stubborn glue. Note that these will harm the floor if left on for a period. Clean it with a damp water cloth and use a dry rag to clean that too.

An alternative to the mineral spirits can be vinegar diluted to 1 cup per gallon of water or peanut butter. Apply the peanut butter on the adhesive and let it dry. Once dry, scrape it up, clean the residue with a cloth dampened by water, and immediately clean it with a dry rag.

There are also specific carpet removal solvents found at our local hardware stores. While buying these products, check if it’s made for wood surfaces and use that one.

The principle for these solvents is the same, do not leave them on the floor for a long time; they will ruin the finish. Do a quick dap to get the adhesives out, clean it with water-dampened cloths, and dry rag the area immediately.

Do not forget to pry out any carpet staples with a plier.

Dried Paint on the Hardwood Floor

Paint is a sticky substance and does not come out easily. The first step is always to clean the whole area. Use a water-dampened cloth, wet the stain gently, and try scaping the Paint with a plastic putty knife. This process should get a few spots of Paint.

Try adding a drop or two of mild dish soap on the dampened Paint and try rubbing it back and forth with a damp cloth. Clean the area immediately with a dry rag afterward.

If the above method is not helping, you can opt for a few other ways like commercial paint remover. Make sure you buy the remover according to the paint type.

Water-based paints are easier to get rid of compared to oil-based Paint. We can also get a spray paint stripper at our local hardware store.

Other alternatives include denatured alcohol cleansing pads or old school way of just using mineral spirits.

All these options are paint removers but are hard on the surface. Please use small quantities at a time and make sure to clean it afterward as they will ruin the floor if left unchecked.

Urine on the Hardwood Floor

It doesn’t matter if it is animal or human urine. The smell and stains it creates are disastrous. There are a couple of things to try out in this scenario.

First, use a rag to soak up any puddles made of urine. Diluted vinegar of 1 cup per gallon is a good option. Use a dampened cloth and apply it gently with a back-and-forth motion. Once done, clean it with a dry rag.

The next way is to use baking soda, put some of this powder on the damp urine-soaked area. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes and scrape it up. Repeat the process if necessary.

There are also various enzymatic cleaners and stain removers in the market which work wonderfully for urine stains. These cleaners are specifically made for animal-related odors or stains.

Wipe Down the Whole Floor

Once specific stains on the hardwood floors are taken care of, use a damp cloth with plain old water and wipe down the whole hardwood floor. Use a dry rag afterward to have no moisture left on the floors. We can also use microfiber mops for this job.

Moping hardwood with rag
Triangle Carpet Specialists/Flickr

Apply Hardwood Floor Cleaner

Once the Harwood floor is clean, use a manufacturer-specified floor cleaner and apply it on the floor. Most brands offer spray bottled cleaners that are easy to use. Some of the most famous brands are Bona, Rejuvenate, Astonish, Parker & Bailey, etc.

Our floor installers will most likely recommend one of these brands. Use a padded microfiber mop or cloth to get the job done. There are also microfiber embedded mops that have sprayers built into them. These products make the cleaning process very efficient as we can spray and mop simultaneously.

We emphasize manufacturer-specified cleaners because some companies void the warranty on these wood floors if customers use other types of abrasive solutions on them and later call to report the problem with the floors.

Let’s not leave any loopholes for these companies. Once the cleaning process is done, use another clean cloth or microfiber mop and do a final pass on the floor.

Real Hardwood VS Engineered Hardwood Comparison

The cleaning process for both types of wood flooring follows the same protocols. They both get damaged from water and require a cleaner product to be wiped down. 

The difference between them arises in the long run. As years pass by, both will start to have scratches, scuffs. Real hardwood can be refinished by sanding the wood down to its bare bones and applying a new coat of finish. This process can be done seven to ten times in the wood’s entire lifespan.

 Engineered wood, however, can only be sanded once or twice at the best-case scenarios, provided it has a wear layer of a minimum of 3 mils.

Things to Consider While Maintaining Hardwood

There are a couple of things to remember while maintaining any species of hardwood floors like Walnut, Oak, Ash, Beech, Mahogany & Maple.

  • Use Doormats outside of rooms. The best way to keep hardwood clean is to minimize the amount of dirt and dust on the floors.
  •  Use felt pads on furniture to reduce scratches and scuffs.
  • The greatest threat to our hardwood floor is humidity. Maintain humidity of 35 to 50 percent always. Use a humidifier to maintain if necessary. Moisture affects hardwood floors severely.
  • Clean any spills immediately.
  •  Sunlight is a threat. Excessive sunlight will discolor the wood. Use blinds inside rooms.
  • For outdoor decks and such, there isn’t much you can do except use proper outdoor sealers. Follow the considerations above for cleaning.
  • Recoat and refinishing floors every seven to ten years is important.

Cleaning Might Not Be Enough Sometimes

Buffing & Recoating can be possible for hardwood floors with light scratches and scuffs. We can rent a hardwood buffing machine from our local hardware store.

The process of buffing removes the finish layer of the wood. After buffing is done, apply a new finish, and the floor will look brand new.

If there are deeper scratches, the only viable option is refinishing it by sanding the floor into bare wood and applying a new coat of finish.

Buffing Hardwood
Truman’s Hardwood Floor Refinishing & Cleaning/YouTube

Related Questions

Why can’t I use a mop on hardwood floors?

There are specific mops that we can use on hardwood floors. String Mops are discouraged. The reason behind it is that string mops hold more water. Even when we wring it out, there is still a chance of water dripping on the floor.

Water is the natural enemy of wood, so any drips created, or water seeping in the seams of these wood will warp them and later cause lifting issues. Microfiber mop pads are the best mops to use for hardwood floors.