A hardwood floor is a beautiful part of a home because it elevates the overall aesthetic. Carpets can get dirty and worn out, but a hardwood floor lasts a lifetime if you care for it properly.
Wooden floors are harder to clean as they actually need you to be careful with them. Carpets can usually take (relative) punishment. On the other hand, a hardwood floor is very easy to score, scar, and damage when you apply too much force.
To avoid that, here are some tips for making sure you can clean your hardwood floor without issue.
In this post we'll cover:
- Common Problems with Hardwood Floors
- Tips to Care for Your Hardwood Floors
- How to Clean Hardwood Flooring
- Common Questions about Hardwood Floor Maintenance
Common Problems with Hardwood Floors
If you’ve had hardwood floors for a while, you know that they require more maintenance. Each season brings new challenges for your floors. During the winter months, hardwood floors can take a beating from exposure to water, snow, ice, and salt. During the warmer months, the rain and mud can really make your floors look lackluster.
Then of course there are those scratches and dents that seem to appear out of nowhere. Even when you pull out a chair, it can cause a scratch if the chairs don’t have protective pads on the bottom.
But, if you appreciate hardwood flooring, you know that well-maintained hardwood floors have a beautiful shine and high-end look.
Tips to Care for Your Hardwood Floors
Now that you have beautiful hardwood floors, all that matters is that they stay that way.
Careful and Frequent Vacuuming
- In terms of using a vacuum cleaner, people make the mistake of doing this bi-weekly. Do it once every few days and you can keep the floor sparkling and shiny.
- Use an oval brush if you can, and make sure you always are light with the cleaning. The harder you are, the more likely it is that you will damage and depreciate the quality of the flooring.
- Just always be very soft with the vacuum and if yours has a rotating brush, do not use it. The speed and pace of the brushes can cause cracking and damage to the flooring on a micro level, but it will still be noticeable and will only be liable to get worse in the future.
- Another important thing is to vacuum regularly. According to Brett Miller, Vicepresident of the National Wood Flooring Association, the most important thing to do is keep the floor free from debris and crumbs. “If there’s a piece of debris on a wood floor and you walk across, it’s like sandpaper on the bottom of your shoe. It can ruin or scratch that surface”.
- Use strong suction when vacuuming between the floorboards, as this can pick up the dirt stuck in the cracks.
Don’t Walk on the Floor with Outdoor Shoes
- Always take your shoes off when you come in the door. This stops any dirt from being trailed through and makes sure that your floor is not going to need you to dig in hard to lift in caked-up dirt, making it much easier to clean. Dirt is also an abrasive substance and over time it will begin to cause tiny scratches to appear on the surface of the wood, damaging it immensely.
Use Water Sparingly
- Avoid excessive use of water when cleaning, too. Many people are excessively liberal with water usage when it comes to their hardwood flooring, and this can have problems. If you do need to use water, be very conservative with the amounts needed as too much water can begin to puddle and leave a really dull, empty look to your hardwood.
- When you do clean it, use a natural floor cleaning product.
Clean up Spills Immediately
- If something spills on the hardwood flooring, handle it now. Don’t leave it for five minutes, and don’t leave it for two. Get it now. They will only help to weaken and dull the finish of the flooring, leaving you to deal with some rather damaged hardwood flooring. If you are looking to maintain a level of opulence about your home, then make sure you get any spills with an absorbent cloth, and then us a slightly damp towel to buff it off and to get rid of any residue left over.
Use Furniture Pads
- Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid scratches but keep in mind that a scratch is the hardest to fix on hardwood floors. That’s why we recommend furniture pads. Add the pads to the legs of your sofa, tables, and chairs to prevent scratches when you move the furniture. Even if the furniture stays unmoved, it can still leave marks and small scratches when directly in contact with the hardwood.
Sweep and Clean Daily
- As time-consuming as it sounds, sweeping daily will prolong the life of your hardwood floors. You don’t have to deep clean, but make sure that there are no crumbs, debris, or dust on the floor. If left unswept, these leave marks on your floor. Dust, as well as pet hair and dander, settles between the wood grains. So, vacuum, sweep, and mop as often as you can.
Re-finish every 5 years
- Hardwood floor is different from laminate because it needs to be refinished every 3 to 5 years to maintain its beauty. Over time, the flooring starts to look dull but that’s not a problem because it can be renewed. Simply recoat the hardwood with a new coat of high-quality wood finish.
How to Clean Hardwood Flooring
It’s easy to keep hardwood floors clean and hygienic if you use the right products for the task. In this section, we’ll suggest the best products to help you keep floors spotless.
What tool to use
Here’s why you need this type of mop:
- it is durable and sturdy
- you can refill it with water and a cleaning solution
- the microfiber pads pick up all the dust and dirt
- the pads are reusable and washable
- has a 360-degree rotary mop so it rotates as you clean those hard to reach places
- can use it wet or dry (use damp when cleaning hardwood floors for best results)
Take into account the finish of your floor
Hardwood floors come with a variety of different finishes. These protect the wood and also enhance the grain to make the floors look gorgeous. Let’s take a look at the top 5 finishes for hardwood floors.
- Water-based Polyurethane – this is the classic clear finish for hardwood floors. It gives the wood a smooth and lustrous kind of look. Think of it as a wet look, so it always looks like you can glide across it as you would on ice.
- Oil Sealer – this type of finish enhances the grains and really brings out the color of the wood. Best of all, this finish is easy to apply at home. It is a non-glossy finish and most people use it on antique and vintage wood. You can always do touch-ups when the wood looks worse for wear.
- Hard-Wax Oil – this is a low-luster type of classic wood finish. This is susceptible to stains but it’s easy to re-finish and should be done every couple of years.
- Aluminum-Oxide – this is the most durable type of finish that lasts up to 25 years. This finish is only available on the prefinished wood you buy at the store.
- Acid Cured – this is another very durable flooring but it gives a smooth finish. It is also ideal for textured woods and exotic woods as it offers more protection.
What is the best thing to use to clean wood floors?
The best tool to clean hardwood floors is a mop.
Then you also need a washable microfiber pad. Use that to dust and remove any allergens, dust fibers, and dirt. A high-quality dusting pad attracts and traps dirt, microparticles, and common allergens floating around your home.
What products to avoid when cleaning hardwood floors?
Avoid using the popular water and vinegar mix. Also, avoid soap-based cleaners that are not specifically formulated for hardwood flooring. Finally, don’t use any wax or steam cleaners. The steam vapors enter the small spaces in the wood and damage it.
What products to use to clean hardwood floors
Clean hardwood floors with products specifically formulated for this type of flooring.
Look for products that are suitable for both unwaxed and waxed hardwood floors. Plus, if you can, choose a biodegradable and safe formula. This type of formula keeps floors looking shiny and clean without damaging the wood.
This is a natural cleaning solution that’s been used for over 80 years and customers still love it! It gives your floors a deep clean and sheen.
Don’t soak the floor with water
A common mistake many people make is that they use a mop and bucket. When you put lots of water onto the floor, you are essentially soaking it and therefore causing damage. If you soak the wood with too much water, it causes the wood to swell and your floors become uneven.
Always use a semi-damp mop and avoid oversoaking.
How to Touch-up Scratches
Scratches are practically unavoidable. At some point, you’ll pull out a chair quickly and it will cause some visible scratches. When this happens, don’t fret. It’s important that you touch-up the scratches immediately before they get deeper.
So, the best solution is a wood stain marker. Simple swipe the marker and color in the scratch and let it dry. This is an easy way to keep the floor looking beautiful.
These Katzco markers are an affordable wood furniture touch-up solution with a variety of marker colors:
Common Questions about Hardwood Floor Maintenance
Perhaps we missed answering some of your questions, so in this FAQ section, you can find additional information about hardwood floor maintenance and care.
How do I get my hardwood floor to shine again?
When the floor starts to look dull, it’s definitely time to bring back the shine.
All you need to do is use a special polish that restores the color and richness of hardwood floors. It adds a protective layer and fills in the small holes and cracks to make floors look flawless. And finally, this kind of product makes the floors nice and shiny again.
Simply lather on this product with a damp mop pad and your floors regain their natural beauty.
How can I restore my hardwood floors without sanding?
When sanding just isn’t an option, there is a second way to restore the hardwood floors. Use a technique called screen and recoat. Simply scuff up the finish using a goof floor buffer. Then, apply a refreshes coat and let it dry. The results won’t be as perfect as with sanding, but it still makes the floors look great.
How do you clean and shine hardwood floors naturally?
If you prefer to use natural products in your home, it’s understandable. After all, we all know about the dangers of chemicals in our home. So, we are sharing this natural hardwood floor cleaner, and chances are you already have these ingredients in your kitchen.
Use a combination of water, lemon juice, and olive oil. Mix them and put them in a bucket to use with your mop.
Store-bought cleaning products tend to leave a dirt-attracting film behind on your hardwood floor. Therefore, dust settles down quickly. Olive oil is a much better alternative. It hydrates and polishes wooden floors naturally. Best of all, it doesn’t leave that sticky film residue.
So, with this homemade natural cleaner, you can polish and clean simultaneously and bring dull spots back to their original sheen.
Can I use water and vinegar solution to clean my hardwood floors?
Contrary to popular belief, this is not a good idea. Many DIY articles claim that vinegar and hot water mixture is the best way to clean hardwood floors naturally. But, this is simply not true. Natalie Wise is an expert on natural cleaning solutions and she doesn’t recommend using vinegar for cleaning any wooden surface. In fact, if you use vinegar to clean on a regular basis, it will damage your hardwood floor. It damages the floor’s seal and so you’ll start seeing discoloration and more scratches.
Using the above, you should find it a bit easier to manage hardwood flooring. Being light and gentle is the order of the day, as this kind of flooring is usually easy to damage permanently. Always clean up messes as soon as they happen because the longer you leave them, the more damage they cause. And remember, a good microfiber mop or simple broom and dustpan go a long way.
I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor, content marketer, and dad. I love trying out new equipment, and together with my team I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.