How to clean hardwood floors

Spotless, gleaming hardwood floors are a sight to behold, lending your home a cozy, sophisticated vibe. If you live with roommates, attaining this level of cleanliness might seem like a pipe dream, but it’s actually (thankfully) not. All you need to do is set up a cleaning schedule, assemble a few household products, and get in those nooks and crannies.

cleaning a hardwood floor

Table of contents

What to use to clean hardwoodHow to do a basic cleanHow to deep clean your floors in 3 easy stepsTroubleshooting tough stainsPreventative care for hardwood

Dirty wood flooring is expensive to repair and refinish, not to mention replace, so you’ll want to clean it regularly. Experts recommend doing a quick cleaning a couple times a week to keep dust and dirt from accumulating and a deep cleaning four to six times a year.

What to use to clean hardwood

Microfiber dust mops are your best friend when it comes to cleaning your wooden floors naturally and sustainably.

Commercial cleaning products for hardwood floors, like those by Buna, do a fine job, or you can go natural by creating your own cleaning solution, combining a quarter cup of distilled white vinegar with a gallon of warm water in a bucket. This mixture is strong enough to clean the floors and you won’t need to rinse, since it dries streak-free. Because vinegar can dull certain hardwood flooring finishes, be sure to first test the mixture in an inconspicuous spot.

You can also combine one teaspoon of Castile soap, four cups of warm water and 10 drops of your favorite essential oil in a spray bottle. Simply spray on the area you’d like to clean and wipe with your microfiber mop head.

How to do a basic clean

For routine cleaning, simply sweep your floors with a soft-brush broom. You can also vacuum—just be sure you’re using a shift-brush attachment to avoid scratching the floor with your beater bar (which houses the spinning bristles.)

If you’re cleaning a small spill, a simple paper towel or cloth should do the trick. If the liquid is sticky, you can try a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water to loosen the stain.

How to deep clean your floors in 3 easy steps

Wear, tear, dust, grime—your wood flooring takes a beating. For a deep clean, follow these steps. 

  1. Dampen your microfiber mop with the cleaning solution of your choice. Make sure to wring the mop so that you don’t leave little puddles as you mop around the house.

  2. Move the head of the mop with the grain of the wood. If you’re using a vinegar solution, you won’t have to rinse. If you’re using soap, mop in small sections that you can manage rinsing quickly and effectively. 

  3. Add cleaning solution to your path with a spray bottle by aiming a steady mist—about a half teaspoon per two square feet—as you mop. Make sure to wring out the mop when it starts to look dingy, and be careful to prevent standing water on the floor. Only rinse the mop if the cleaning product requires it.

Troubleshooting tough stains

Sometimes stains require more than a mop. Here are a few tips for tougher jobs:

  • For water stains that look white and hazy, you’re likely handling a discoloration of your floor’s lacquered finish. For these types of stains, which tend to be found on newer wood floors, you may need to try a range of cleaning options. First apply a thin layer of mineral oil using a soft microfiber cloth. Wait a few minutes, then apply the oil again. This should break down the stain within 24 hours. If the oil doesn’t work, try the same process (apply and wait for 24 hours) with mineral spirits or a paste of baking soda and water. 

  • For darker spots and pet stains, first rub the stain lightly with a #000 steel wool (the softest kind), being careful to rub even lighter around the edges of the stain where your dark spot meets the unstained wood. Next, dampen a clean rag with vinegar and let it lie on the stain for five to ten minutes. This should lighten the stain. If it doesn’t do the trick, you can also try the same process with a solution of one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water, working your way up to a stronger solution if the stain is still visible. Be sure to apply mineral spirits to the area afterwards. Keep in mind that replacing your floorboards may be necessary if the wood stain can’t be removed.  

  • To remove dark spots and pet stains, first rub the stain with #000 steel wool and floor wax. If the stain is still visible, apply vinegar and allow it to soak into the wood for around an hour, then rinse with a damp microfiber cloth.

  • For heel marks, use a fine steel wool to rub in floor wax. 

  • For oil-based stains, first rub the stain with a microfiber cloth as well as dish detergent to break apart the grease, rinsing the stain with water. Repeat as necessary. When dry, smooth the raised grain with fine sandpaper.

Preventative care for hardwood

If you find that you’re doing a lot more spot cleaning than you’d like, it might be time to institute a no-shoes policy in the house or encourage all residents and visitors to use the welcome pad to brush off dirt before venturing further inside. Having a designated shoe rack or boot removal area outside the door can help keep water or dirty snow from seeping into your floors.

To prevent scratches and scuffs, make sure you have floor protectors under all of your furniture. 

Looking for a home where monthly cleaning is always on the books? Bungalow offers private rooms in shared homes that are more affordable than solo housing options in the same neighborhoods. Wifi, utilities, and monthly cleaning are set up before you move in, so that coliving is seamless. Find a Bungalow near you.

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