Follow our easy steps on how to clean hardwood floors. Transform your floors from dull and grimy to gleaming, gorgeous and clean!mariakraynova / Shutterstock / mariakraynova
Modern style mop being used for cleaning a wooden floor; Shutterstock ID 244788607; PO: today.com
- Surface-sealed floors: Most new wood floors are sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. Surface-sealed floors are stain and water-damage resistant and easiest to care for and clean: Sweep, mop and you're done!
- Penetrating-seal-treated and oil-treated floors: Also common, a penetrating seal or oil finish soaks into the wood grain and hardens. This type of floor must be pampered and protected with liquid or paste wax.
- Lacquered, varnished, shellacked and untreated floors: Although technically surface finishes, lacquers, varnishes and shellacs are not as resistant to moisture, spills and wear as the other sealants mentioned. Treat floors with these finishes and floors with no finish as you would penetrating-seal-treated and oil-treated floors.
- Not sure what kind of finish you have? To tell the difference in a pinch, just rub your finger across the floor. If no smudge appears, the floor is surface sealed. If you do create a smudge, the floor has been treated with a penetrating seal, oil finish, shellac, varnish or lacquer, and then waxed.
Cleaning surface-sealed floors: do's and don'ts
Don't use oils, waxes or furniture sprays. Oil leaves a residue, furniture spray creates a slippery surface (think ice-skating rink!) and wax takes time to apply and makes re-coating difficult.
Don't use straight ammonia, alkaline products or abrasive cleaners. They'll dull or scratch the finish.
Do use a floor-cleaning product recommended by the floor finisher or opt for plain soap and water. If the recommended product is hard to find or costly, and other floor cleaners contain ingredients that violate your floor's warranty, try soap and water. I add a quarter cup of mild or pH-neutral soap (like liquid dishwashing soap) or Murphy Oil Soap (despite the name, it doesn't contain oil) to a bucket of water.
Don't rely on water alone or a vinegar and water solution to clean hardwood floors. Mopping with water will result in dingy-looking floors and won't-budge dirt buildup. Vinegar and water is not as effective as soapy water and—some suggest—may dull floors sooner. (Eventual dullness and the need to recoat are inevitable no matter what you use. See Tackling Simple Wood Floor Problems.)
In high-traffic areas, like the dining room and kitchen, you should sweep daily, if possible, and mop once or twice a week. Mop less-trafficked areas once a month or once a season.