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How to Clean Hardwood Floors Properly Without Damaging Them (4 Easy Steps)

How to Clean Hardwood Floors Properly Without Damaging Them

We at Cozy Home Hunter love hardwood floors. But we have seen our fair share of damaged and dull wood floors from improper cleaning rituals. So, what is the best way to clean hardwood floors?

Start by removing all the dust and debris from hardwood floors. Use a damp mop (not wet) to mop the floors regularly. Only use non-corrosive and hardwood-safe products to clean hardwood floors. If you notice any stains or scuffs, scrub it gently with a damp sponge. 

For anyone with hardwood flooring in their house, you don’t have to dread cleaning day. With the proper cleaning routine, your hardwood floors will last for decades and shine like it is brand new. Here is a step-by-step guideline of how to clean hardwood floors without damaging them. 

How to Tell If My Hardwood Floors Are Sealed?

How to Tell If My Hardwood Floors Are Sealed

Before proceeding to the cleaning process, you need to determine whether or not your hardwood floor is sealed if you do not know that already. You can very easily tell if your hardwood floors are sealed with this simple test. 

Find an inconspicuous area on your floor and pour a drop of water. Wait a few minutes to see if it soaks in or beads on top. If the water drop beads on top of the floor, you have a sealed flooring — meaning you can use a water-based cleaner to clean your floor. 

If the floor absorbs the water drop, you do not have a protective layer on your floor to protect it from moisture-caused damages. Click here to learn how to clean unsealed hardwood floors. 

How to Clean Hardwood Floors 

How to Clean Hardwood Floors 

Step 1: Remove all the debris

Dirt and grime build-up can be a major hurdle to cleaning hardwood floors. Keeping dirt and debris off the floor is key. Dust particles act like sandpaper when you step on them and scratch the surface. They can also get into the wood textures, which is a pain to clean up. It is recommended to sweep or vacuum high traffic areas daily. You can also run your Roomba in places like the kitchen, dining area, family living, etc. You can run the vacuum or sweep once or twice a week in fewer traffic areas. 

After the daily sweep using a broom, you can use a dry mop or dust mop to pick up any remaining if you are not going to mop the floor. You can also run dry (microfiber cloths) to clean up the fine dust that the broom hasn’t picked up. Make sure you use a soft-bristled broom and, of course, move with the grain when cleaning. Use the hard floor setting on your vacuum to avoid scratching the hardwood with the brush roll.  

Step 2: Choose the right cleaning products

Before moving on to the mopping part, let’s discuss which products are safe to use on hardwood floors. We cannot stress this enough, but using the right cleaning product will make your floor clean and look brand new. Keep in mind that different finishes require different products. So, ask your manufacturer to find out which type of finish you have and find a suitable product. 

Experts recommend avoiding hard chemicals to clean any hardwood floors as they can create hazing. Also, avoid anything that says it will polish, shine, rejuvenate, or revitalize the wood floor. These will only create unnecessary product build-up when used too often and make the wood floor look cloudy after a few months. Avoid using straight ammonia, alkaline products, or abrasive cleaners, as they dull and damage the surface. 

You can use something as simple as a few drops of Murphy Oil Soap diluted in warm water to mop your hardwood floor. Another great DIY alternative is a cap full of vinegar and a few drops of dish soap (half a pinky nail worth) mixed in with a bucket of warm water. Vinegar is a mild disinfectant and cuts through grease and grime without leaving any streaks. Use warm water instead of cold water as it dries up quickly.

Step 3: Use a damp mop to clean the hardwood

For the best mopping result on your hardwood floor, keep five key things in mind –

  1. Use a damp mop, not wet
  2. Use a flat microfiber mop or microfiber twist mop
  3. Mop in an “S” pattern
  4. Dry the floor quickly by either using a ceiling fan or microfiber cloth
  5. Mop along the grain of the wood

Prepare your mopping solution and soak the mop head in the bucket for a few minutes to soften. Put the mop in the wringer and twist until almost dry. If you are using a flat head mop, slide it against the dryer at least 3 to 4 times. Start mopping from a corner using an “S” shaped pattern and mop your way out of the room. 

When mopping a large area, divide the floor into sections for the best result. To be extra diligent, you can take a microfiber cloth and do a quick wipe down, so no water is left behind. Change the water once it becomes dirty. A quick rule of thumb is to change the water once you can’t see the bottom of the bucket. Rinse and re-dampen the mop often to avoid streaks. 

You should mop high-traffic areas at least once or twice a week. For less-trafficked floors, you can get away with mopping once per month or once a season. Avoid mopping against the grain for the best results. 

Step 4: Treat any scuffs or scratch

Regardless of how well you sweep or mop, you will find stains and scratches that the mop just won’t get rid of. The best way to get rid of stains and scuffs on hardwood is to get on your hands and knees and treat them individually. 

To remove any scuffs or stains, use a damp sponge and dish soap and gently rub the area. If it doesn’t remove the stain, apply some baking soda to the spot and rub it using a microfiber cloth. Remove all baking soda residue from the area and wipe it dry. 

Hardwood floors are prone to scratches, especially if you have pets. You can use a liquid scratch concealer that forms a permanent seal when dry. This seal will not come off when you mop next time. You can also use something as simple as stain markers to fix surface scratches. 

5 Things You Should Do to Avoid Damaging Hardwood Floors

5 Things You Should Do to Avoid Damaging Hardwood Floors

Clean up spills immediately

Never leave wet or sticky spills on any wooden surfaces. Wipe up spills immediately using a damp cloth and dry the area. 

Avoid using the wrong broom or vacuum

Using a broom made for harsher surfaces such as concrete or a vacuum suitable for rugs can scratch up the surface and scrape off the hardwood seal. 

Only use safe cleaning products 

Make sure any cleaning products you are using on the floor mention that they are safe for use on your particular hardwood seal. Stay on the safe side by using a pH-neutral cleaner in low concentration to remove grimes and oil from the floor.

No steam cleaning

Never use steam on the hardwood as it is highly vulnerable to moisture.

Be cautious of excess water on the floor

Overly wet mops and water drips can sneak moisture between boards and through tiny tears in the finish, which is caused by the expansion and contraction of the wood with the weather. Over time, this moisture can damage the wood.

Is It Safe to Use Vinegar to Clean Hardwood Floors?

Vinegar has antibacterial properties, making it one of the best homemade floor cleaners. It also cuts through oil and grimes and leaves a streak-free finish. However, cleaning hardwood with vinegar is not considered safe by the experts, especially at a high concentration. The low pH of vinegar can damage the hardwood seal and cause them to wear out faster. If you use vinegar to clean the hardwood floor, use it at a low concentration (2 tablespoons in a bucket of warm water).

Do you have any tips and tricks about how to clean hardwood floors? Comment below and let us know.  

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