This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in February 2015.
Hardwood floors are my fave for many reasons – durable and long-lasting, beautiful, warm, bright, and easy to maintain. When it comes to cleaning them, there’s not a lot you can do wrong, but some products and techniques certainly work better than others.
Here’s an overview from my 30 years of experience living with hardwood flooring:
- The invention of microfiber was a hardwood floor cleaning game changer. These dry mops are convenient to use on a daily basis – a quick pass throughout the house captures so much dust and dirt! And it’s the dirt you have to work hard to keep cleared, because it grinds in when you walk over it which contributes to scratches.
- A must-have if you have pets who shed, because it collects all of those fur drifts really easily.
- If your mop has fringe, it’ll serve some double duty by dusting your baseboards when you sweep around the perimeter of your room.
- The microfiber piece is removable and washable, and you can buy (or DIY) extra cloths in a pinch. Microfiber cloth by the yard is available for ~$15-20/yard, which is enough for 8-10 cloths based on the specs of my mop. Microfiber is commonly used as an absorbent layer in cloth diapers, so if you’re having trouble finding it, you might find a good deal by searching for “cloth diapering DIY materials.”
Hardwood floor vacuums:
- Again, keeping dirt off the floor will help keep the floor surface scratch-free.
- The rotating brush on normal carpet vacuums have the potential to damage hardwoods, so look for vacuums that have a flat-surface floor setting, which will stop the brush rotation.
- They’re lightweight, and you can even find cordless options for a more convenient cleaning experience. The Hoover Linx gets great reviews.
- Use the retractable extension on your normal vacuum to tackle dust that gathers in hard to sweep spots, like under furniture, along thresholds, and along the perimeter of the room.
- Best used on sealed surfaces, not unfinished floorboards. Be more cautious when using one on hardwoods where the steam can penetrate between floorboards, because it can contribute to moisture warping. If you keep it moving and avoid making “hot spots,” you’ll be in the safe zone.
- A quick pass will help kill germs without chemicals, so it’s a tool that I find really useful in areas where the kids are playing on the ground regularly, and on the steps into our sunken living room that they climb up and down. I have a basic HAAN model that disperses the steam through a microfiber layer, and the tool has served me well for years.
- Not that this is a post about tile floors, but steam cleaners also rock for sanitizing tiles surrounding the toilet in the bathroom. Thumbs up!
- Clean liquids that spill, or rain/snow that are tracked in over your hardwoods immediately. Avoid storing shoes over a hardwood surface unless sitting in a plastic bin. Even rubber backed floor mats can leach moisture into the floors!
- Repair damaged hardwoods before cleaning. Cleaning with liquids is safest when the boards are secure and sealed.
- Likewise, never pour liquid cleaning solution directly on your hardwoods – alternatively, use a spray solution like Bona (regular or Professional) or EcoMist to prep the floor in small areas as you clean.
- When you’re trying a new product on your floors, test it out in an area of a well-lit room. Once the floor is cleaned, you might notice streaks or residue left from the cleaner, and that shouldn’t happen. Both products listed in the previous bullet have worked well for me without leaving a film when I maneuver the mop or cloth in a circular motion, but I have had streaks and a greasy film left behind by “general” multi-surface floor cleaners.
- Oil-based products like Murphy Oil Soap are great in concentrate in small areas if you’re trying to polish scratches. A thin application will protect for an extended period of time. For example, consider where those pesky dining room chair legs that left little scratches under the table – massaging a dab of Murphy will help treat it in a way similar to how it can be used to protect wooden furniture (add little felt cushions to the bottom of those chair legs, while you’re at it!). For cleaning whole rooms, I diluted it way down (1 Tbsp into 1/2 gallon of water) and used a soaked and very wrung out rag to wash floors by hand. I dry the floors off with an old towel as I go. Elbow grease is undoubtedly the most effective way of cleaning dirty hardwoods… even if you clean your hardwoods with a mop regularly, you’ll be amazed how much dirt you can scrub by hand.