Best Way to Clean Hardwood Floors
By Steve Gillman
If you peruse the various answer forums online you'll find
some disagreement as to the best way to clean hardwood floors.
Some people swear by vinegar, others tell you to use only warm
water. We'll explain the possible methods in a moment, but first
let's take a look at how to keep those wood floors clean and
how to avoid damage.
Our number one recommendation is to use rugs. You don't have
to cover the whole floor with area rugs, but strategically placing
rugs at entrances to the room will save a lot of wear and tear
on hardwood floors, and keep them cleaner longer. A good door
mat catches pieces or dirt and sand and other debris that might
otherwise scratch the surface of the floor.
Important note: Do not use rubber-backed mats on your
floor. These can trap moisture and damage the wood surface. Use
a rugs that can breathe and allow moisture beneath them to dry
through them. Shake them out regularly as well.
Another consideration is pets. If you want your wood floors
to continue looking beautiful, you might consider doing something
about those nails. Trimming your dog's or cat's nails will help
prevent scratches, but probably not stop them completely. For
indoor cats, you can buy nail covers. These plastic nibs, sold
online or at a pet store, are glued in place and last for a month
or more, preventing any scratches.
For light cleaning you can sweep the floors. You can also
use a vacuum cleaner, which might pull out some of the debris
between the boards. Beyond that, a quick cleaning with a damp
mop (water only) can be enough if the floor isn't too dirty.
Unfortunately there may not be one best way to clean hardwood
floors, since they come in different types. If you know where
the floor was purchased or have any of the original paperwork,
call the vendor or manufacturer to get their recommendations.
Other wise you will have to guess and try one of the following.
Plain white vinegar is used by many people with good results.
Some lay it down full strength with a mop, but a cup mixed in
a gallon of warm water will work fine. Vinegar will not degrade
a polyurethane finish. It also won't leave a residue. The smell
goes away quickly after cleaning, and this is one of the few
cleaners that is entirely safe for pets and small children.
Murphy Oil Soap is also used by many people, and there are
a few varieties to choose from. Some authorities recommend against
oil soaps, saying they will dull the finish over time. You can
test this or any other cleaner in a small area behind a couch
or in a corner before applying it to the whole floor. If you
see any discoloring, hold off on the cleaning; the floor may
Other hardwood floor cleaners can be tested similarly, to
see if they work before you try to clean the whole floor. You
are looking for cleaners that do not discolor the floor and which
do not leave a residue. If they all give you trouble, use a water-dampened
cloth or mop for now and get professional advice.
- Don't use ammonia cleaners, which can dull and damage the
- Use a damp rag for cleaning spills--and get them quickly.
- If the floor has a urethane finish, don't use wax.
- Damp is best; getting the floor too wet can cause permanent
If you find that it's difficult to clean those hardwood floors
and return them to their original shine, it might be time for
a minor or major work. "Screening" is grinding down
the surface to allow a new coat of polyurethane to be applied,
which can make a floor look brand new. Sanding and refinishing
is only required if the floor is severely damaged. Ask a professional
about your options.