If you live in a home with hardwood floors, chances are high that you love the way the floors look, but hate how hard it is to keep them clean. Over time, hardwood floors can look somewhat dull and lose that gorgeous sheen. But routine maintenance, deep cleaning—and the right tools— can help prevent the damage and put the shine back in your floors. Here’s how to deep clean hardwood floors, and how to keep them in good condition year-round.
Set Up a Cleaning Timeline
The first thing you’ll want to do is to create daily, weekly, monthly, and every-once-in-a-while routines to keep your wood floors clean. Making sure your hardwood stays in the best possible shape will involve daily and weekly touch-ups; monthly deep cleanings; and other maintenance routines on occasion.
The National Wood Flooring Association recommends the following cleaning timeline:
- Sweep or use a floor duster daily. The machine washable cloth and comfortable grip on this floor duster makes it easy to use as part of your everyday routine. You can also use other dry tools like a long-handled microfiber dust mop with a wide sponge, or a reusable microfiber cloth, which holds more dust than a cotton towel.
- Vacuum weekly using the bare floor setting, or you can use a special floor brush attachment.
- Use a wood floor cleaner monthly to deep clean your hardwood floors; see below for tips.
- Apply a new coat of finish every three to five years.
- Sand and refinish every few decades. It’s a good idea to use a water-based polyurethane wood finish that’s compatible with your wood floors.
How often you clean, and with what products, may also depend on what the manufacturer recommends. If you know who made your wood floors (and you might not), check with the company to find out what they suggest when it comes to a cleaning method. If you don’t follow the manufacturer’s instructions, you could potentially void your warranty.
Use the Right Tools and Steps to Deep Clean Your Wood Floors
Here’s what you’ll need when you’re deep cleaning your wood floors once a month:
- A cleaning solution specifically designed to be used on wood floors. This is critical. If you use the wrong type of cleaner, you can damage the floors. Some experts advise staying away from oil-based cleaners.
- A microfiber flat mop: You can fill up this microfiber spray-mop with your cleaning solution of choice, plus it has a scrubber that slides out to make it easier to spot-clean tough areas.
These are the steps for deep cleaning your hardwood floors:
- Perform a spot test with your wood cleaner first to ensure the product works on your floors. Try to do this in an inconspicuous area of the home (let’s say the corner) to be on the safe side. That way, if the product doesn’t work properly, it will only affect a small patch of your floors.
- Fill up the bottle on your spray-mop, or spray the cleaner directly onto the head of your microfiber mop using two or three sprays.
- Clean only the areas that need it, and leave the rest of the floor alone.
Avoid Using Water to Clean Your Hardwood Floors, Even If They’re Heavily Soiled
Although this might sound counterintuitive, you’ll want to stay away from water when you’re cleaning your wood floors.
“You want to avoid spraying water directly on a wood floor,” says William R. Griffin, president of Seattle-based Cleaning Consultant Services Inc. “There is a side or butt end joint between every plank where the water can sink in and damage your floor. When moisture gets into the joints, it will over time damage the wood, popping out filler, and creating larger pits and holes.”
The only exception is if you have a floor scrubber that puts water down on the floor and sucks it up quickly, Griffin says, provided you use the machine carefully.
If the floor is in good condition but heavily soiled, here’s what he advises instead of water:
Squeeze a few sprays of wood floor cleaner on the floor and clean the area with a scrub or deck brush. This scrub brush features durable bristles that can pick up dirt, and a contoured, comfortable handle that makes it easy to use. As you’re cleaning, make sure you’re brushing with the grain. Then immediately wipe up the cleaning solution with a microfiber cloth.
Create Household Habits That Will Help Keep Your Wood Floors Clean Year After Year
Keeping hardwood floors clean is easier than trying to fix damaged floors.
Here are some year-round tips Griffin shared with us:
- Place floor mats or carpet around highly trafficked areas like doorways, hallways, or entrances to other rooms to keep sand and grit from getting onto your hardwood floors.
- Take your shoes off when you get home.
- Keep a cleaning cloth near any area with hardwood floors. If you accidentally spill some water on the floor, it’s best to wipe up the spill as soon as possible. When moisture gets into the wood, it can damage it.
- Whenever you notice your entryways getting dirty or you see leaves piling up, sweep or leaf-blow those areas to prevent tracking in dirt or debris that can scratch your floor. This extendable broom has soft-tipped bristles that collect dirt, and a dust pan with a flexible lip that conforms to surfaces and doesn’t let dirt slip out.