How to clean hardwood floors without damaging them

If someone asked you how to clean hardwood floors, you’d imagine a mop and bucket, right?

In fact, there is much more to it than that. Depending on your flooring type and finish, the best products and techniques will vary. For example, you may have one of the best vacuum cleaners, but that vacuum could actually be scratching your floors.

Don’t worry – we’ll walk you through the best method of cleaning your hardwood floors here, step by step. So you don’t have to worry about causing damage while cleaning; Plus, you can expect streak-free results. Here’s how to clean hardwood floors.

How to clean hardwood floors

What you will need

Microfiber mop or broom

vaccum cleaner

Cleaning solution for hard floors

Wood floor wax or floor wax (optional)

1. First, lift everything off the floor and move obstacles to the side, such as chairs. It is a good idea to check that no one will need access to the space before cleaning it as well; The last thing you want is dry paw prints on the finish!

2. Then immediately pick up the dust with a microfiber mop such as the Turbo Microfiber Mop Floor Cleaning System ($ 39.95, Amazon) or a dustpan and broom. Work your way across the entire floor, making sure to go under furniture and into corners. This is all you need to do for a light daily cleaning.

3. If you have heavier debris scattered around, like crumbs and dried mud, then it’s time to break the vacuum. Before jumping with the weapon, be sure to use the hard floor setting or lift the brush bar manually; this will prevent it from potentially scratching your floors.

The wheels on your vacuum cleaner are also worth checking out; plastic can scratch, while rubberized ones will be kinder to your floors. Alternatively, you can use one of the best robotic vacuums to save you the time and effort of this step.

Someone vacuuming hardwood floors next to a sofa

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

4. Now that your floors are clear of debris, next come the mop and bucket. Again, a microfiber head design is recommended. You will need to use a hard floor cleaning solution; Follow the flooring manufacturer’s instructions on which brand of cleaner to use.

Water alone can damage certain hardwood floors as it can swell and discolor the wood, so resist this urge. The mop head should only be damp, not soggy, and you should be prepared to rinse it regularly. Avoid leaving standing water on the floor, especially if it is pre-finished wood.

If you want an easy way to apply your hard floor cleaning solution, some flat mops come with built-in dispensers, like the Bona Hardwood Floor Premium Spray Mop ($ 37, Amazon).

Do not use a steam cleaner unless instructed to do so by your flooring manufacturer, as they can damage hardwood floors. You should also be careful with electric vacuum mops, as most are only suitable for sealed floors; again, check with your flooring manufacturer for guidance.

If you want to use a natural cleaner, such as vinegar combined with water, you should also test it on an inconspicuous area first, as vinegar can dull and damage the surface.

A mop wrung out in a bucket

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

5. Divide each space as the mop passes so that no part is lost, and consider where it will stop once you are done cleaning; You don’t want to corner yourself and end up walking on the freshly cleaned floor. .

6. Now you want to help the floor dry as quickly as possible. Here are a few options: you can leave windows and doors open to ventilate the room, you can turn on ceiling fans, or you can wipe the floor with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

7. If you want to go the full thirty feet, you can also apply wood floor polish or floor polish once the floor is dry to better seal it and protect it in the future. This also adds a nice shine.

Note that you should only do this every few years or as often as recommended by the manufacturer. You also shouldn’t wax laminate wood or engineered wood floors. Check with your manufacturer if you are not sure. We recommend Rejuvenate Professional Wood Floor Restorer and Polisher ($ 21, Amazon).

How Often Should Wood Floors Be Cleaned?

You need to clean the floor quickly or sweep it as often as possible; If it is a high traffic area, dust at least a couple of times a week. Weekly vacuuming of hardwood floors is recommended. It is important to maintain this routine, as dishonest stones carried by shoes and pets can easily scratch the floor.

We recommend mopping hardwood floors as often as necessary, although every three to four weeks is the best practice. You need to wax or finish your floors much less often; this should only be done every few years.

Tips to keep your hardwood floors clean and undamaged

Someone takes off their shoes and puts on slippers as they walk to the hardwood floor

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

  • Taking off your shoes – Sounds like common sense, but be sure to take your shoes off at the door. Placing a mat inside the door can also help collect debris that comes through.
  • Do not use the brush bar – Make sure your vacuum is set for hard floor cleaning and the brush bar is raised. This is to avoid scratching your floor while vacuuming.
  • Protect your floor: Invest in rugs and protective pads to place under furniture legs. That way you won’t end up leaving scratches when you move the furniture.
  • Pick up a spill as quickly as possible – Don’t leave a fresh stain on your hardwood floors, this will only make it harder to remove later.
  • Keep up your cleaning routine – If you haven’t already, get in the habit of cleaning and maintaining your hardwood floors. They will last longer and look better.

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