How to Clean Wood Floors

Dust mopping a hardwood floor

It doesn't take a lot of time and energy to learn how to clean wood floors. You can keep your wood floors looking fabulous by following a few simple steps.

Basic Steps for Cleaning Hardwood Floors

As long as your hardwood floor is properly finished with polyurethane or another penetrating seal, you can follow the steps below to keep your floors looking great.

  1. Sweep the floor with a good quality, fine bristle broom to remove dust, dirt, and debris.
  2. Vacuum the floor with a soft bristle attachment to remove dust and dirt from between planks.
  3. Wet a soft terrycloth mop with water, and wring it out until it is only slightly damp. Too much water can soak into wood flooring and cause cracks, warps or other damage.
  4. Mop the floor smoothly following the grain of the wood. If the floor is exceptionally dirty, several passes with the mop may be necessary.
  5. If necessary, use a dry mop or cloth to dry the floor and remove excess water.
  6. Buff the floor with a soft cloth or dry mop to restore its sheen.

Cleaning High Gloss Floors

To clean a high gloss floor you must first recognize that the wood is treated with one of two things:

  • Polyurethane: Deep, durable, and extremely long wearing
  • Penetrating seals: An oil or wax based finished which has permeated the wood and sealed it from the inside out

Both these treatments will allow you to keep your floors clean and shiny with some every-other-day minimal effort.

Materials for Cleaning

  • Broom (preferably nylon bristles) or a lightweight vacuum
  • A mop that has a sponge (not braided yarn) for its head
  • A lambs-wool floor duster or a flat-head broom with a reusable terry cloth cover
  • Water


  1. Use the broom or lightweight vacuum without a beater bar to clean up crumbs and debris.
  2. Dip your mop in clean, warm water and wring out the excess leaving your mop damp. Too much water could mean you'll have to remove water stains from the wood later on.
  3. Keep an even pressure on the mop and mop the floor in even strokes.
  4. Allow the floor to dry thoroughly.
  5. Using a rough texture back sponge (not a plastic scrubby) or extremely fine steel wool, get down on your hands and knees and treat stubborn spots by rubbing them with direct, applied pressure to those spots only.
  6. Using a lambs-wool duster or mop -or a mop having a reusable terry cloth cover- polish your floor with long even strokes. Lambs-wool mops have natural oils in them, which make them great tools to use to buff and polish your high gloss hardwood floors.

Choosing a Cleaner

If you would rather use a store bought cleaner, use one that is designated as being safe for hardwood floors. These cleaners have a low ph (lower acid) level and will not eat through the coating the wood has been treated with prior to being installed. The use of a highly acidic cleaner will quickly dull the shine of your floor and lead to a more expensive cleaning method down the road.

Deep Cleaning Tips

If your wood floors are due for a major cleaning due to excessive dirt or stains, you can try the following suggestions.

  • Consider using a very fine steel wool pad to lightly scrub out the stain.
  • Try using a little rubbing alcohol to remove stubborn stains.
  • Finish by applying a little polish for added protection, and buff it in for a nice shine.
  • If a stain persists, you might opt to sand the area to remove the mark.

Tips for Cleaning Common Stains and Spills

Wiping up a spill

It is virtually impossible to keep wood floors immaculately clean at all times. When spills happens, quick action is needed. Coffee, wine, juice or ink can be removed from hardwood floors effortlessly with a rag or paper towel dipped in a solution of detergent and water, provided you catch them shortly after they spill.

Other stains and spills must be treated more aggressively, including:

  • Blood: Sponge the stained wood floor with a cloth lightly dampened with cold water. Remove any remaining blood with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Grease: Apply an ice pack to the stain to congeal the grease, and then scrape it off with a knife or paint scraper. Remove any excess residue with a clean rag.
  • Crayon: Apply toothpaste to the mark and rub off with a dry cloth.
  • Lipstick: Combine a little dish detergent and warm water, then use a scouring pad to rub out the stain.
  • Scuffs: Use a pencil eraser, ultra-fine wool or a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.
  • Pet Urine: Immediately clean with a damp cloth and liquid dish detergent. For stubborn stains, use a solution of bleach and water, but always rinse well with clean water. Take care not to let the solution seep below the finish or it will discolor the wood.

Minimize Wear and Tear

All hardwood floors will gradually discolor over time since the stain and wood are susceptible to ultraviolet light and frequent use. However, you can minimize these effects with some simple steps.

  • Regularly rotate the placement of area rugs to be sure the floor is exposed to traffic and light evenly.
  • Use rugs or mats at the entryway or wherever spills are likely, but do not use mats with rubber backing - the backing can damage the floor.
  • Wipe up spills immediately so they do not have an opportunity to soak into the floor.
  • Use soft pads underneath furniture legs to avoid scratches, and never drag furniture across a hardwood floor.
  • To avoid nicks, scratches, and dents, trim pets' nails and avoid walking on a hardwood floor in firm heels such as stilettos or cowboy boots.

Long-Term Maintenance

Stripping a hardwood floor

To keep your floor looking its very best:

  • Plan a regular cleaning schedule or add sweeping and vacuuming the floor to your chore list so dirt and dust do not build up.
  • Avoid cleaners with oil and ammonia, as these can damage the finish and discolor the floor.
  • Avoid the use of vinegar and other acidic cleaners, which may remove the finish from the floor.
  • Do not wax a hardwood floor. Wax will create a dull buildup that makes the floor dangerously slippery.
  • Plan to strip the floor's finish and reapply it every few years to keep the wood in superb condition and renew its shine.

Consider Your Efforts an Investment

If you know how to clean hardwood floors, you can easily enjoy this beautiful type of flooring in your home without fear of stains, scratches, or discoloration. A clean, well maintained floor adds value to a home and makes it a brighter and more enjoyable living space. Now, get more tips about cleaning your floors with homemade wood floor cleaners.

Was this page useful?
How to Clean Wood Floors