How To Clean Hardwood Floors (advice from a Wood Floor Pro)

how to clean hardwood floors, hardwood floor cleaning

The topic of how to clean hardwood floors is a huge one. I don’t mean in the depth of information that is needed or even available. I mean that the number of people searching and learning about this is pretty big. Far bigger than the subject of sanding and refinishing floors.

The answers are fairly simple, and I will be upfront with the basic info, but I will go deeper towards the end of this post.

How to clean hardwood floors: Cleaning hardwood floors can be done with no more than a mild detergent. First, vacuum or sweep the floor to remove loose dust and grit. Second, use a damp mop or rag to apply the cleaning solution and scrub the floor clean. You may dry with a clean towel.

Yep, pretty simple really. Vacuum the floor, and clean with a diluted cleaning solution. Like many things, what is also important to learn, is what not to do. I hope you read on so I can clear up some of the myths and misconceptions surrounding hardwood floor cleaning practices.

Using a mop and bucket

Using a mop and bucket to clean your hardwood floors is a big no-no. I have seen many floors ruined in my career, by cleaners carelessly dumping puddles of water onto hardwood floors.

That doesn’t stop google pushing articles such as this to the top of their rankings. They describe how to “mop floors the right way” with a picture of a puddle on top of a laminate floor no less. Seriously.

As soon as a large amount of water hits a wood floor, it starts flowing down the sides of the boards to the subfloor, where it often sits and absorbs on the underside of the board. Leading to what is known as cupping.

cupped floor cupping hardwood floor

Cupping is caused by too much moisture in the underside of the board and thus is more expanded, than the top side, forcing the board to warp and curve with the edges of the boards turning up.

Now you might be thinking, “yes Ben, but I ring my mop out before I put it on the floor.” This might be all well and good but in my experience, cleaning floor with a barely damp mop is a bit of a pain. So let me propose a solution…

Spray the cleaning solution on your hardwood floor

Awesome. This way, you get great coverage of cleaning solution on your floor without there being so much that it goes down the sides of the boards. What’s more, you can leave it there for a moment for the solution to soak the dirt and work its magic.

Why I (strongly) recommend the Bona Spray Mop

For a few years, I had been giving my clients free spray bottles of cleaning solution. The main reason I did this is that people forget who sanded the floors very quickly in my experience. I wanted to put my logo and contact details on something that they will keep in their house for a long time.

This way, they could remember who I was when it came time to recommend me!

Unfortunately, one of the many issues I had was that you couldn’t really spray the bottle in a downward direction. It didn’t seem to work well when trying to spray the floor. I had to spray it into the air and just let it settle. It was annoying.

I was also giving my clients a flat mop. The flat mop was ok, but the pole was flimsy, and it just felt awkward.

One day, yet another client told me they didn’t want the mop or cleaning solution as they had a Bona Spray Mop. She started telling me about how easy it was to use and that she used it on all her hard floors.

Bona Spray Mop (click here to get current price)

Finally, I decided to get one and try it for myself, and I have to say I am so glad I did. Now I am working on buying them in bulk to give to my customers, instead of the cleaning packs I give them currently.

Spray directly on the floor

The Bona spray mop has a trigger on the handle, making it easy to spray the solution. The solution sprays on the floor directly in front of the mop. No bending down and awkwardly spraying useless spray bottles. Just pull the trigger and start scrubbing the floor with the microfibre mop head.

Replaceable pads

Talking of microfibre mop heads, the bona spray mop pads are great. As soon as you feel the pad is getting a touch too grubby, rip it off (hook and loop, nice and easy) and put the next one on. These pads are fine in the washing machine, meaning you can have a perfectly clean pad every time you want to clean your floors.

Ok, I have said my piece. Hopefully, you have taken my recommendation. Let me get into the nitty-gritty.

What type of finish is on the surface?

There is a huge difference between lacquered and oiled floors. Lacquered floors are much easier to clean and maintain. A lot of my clients tell me they want to get their oiled wood floors sanded because they feel that they “just can’t quite clean it well enough.”

Indeed, very often, even the slightest of spills can permanently mark their floors. I don’t want to get into another rant about how much I’m not too fond of oiled wood floors. Suffice to say; oiled wood floors need some special attention. If you have oiled wood floors, you can get the cleaning solution for oiled wood floors here. Or buy the Bona Spray Mop with the Oiled Floors Cleaning Solution here.

Most people have lacquered or varnished floors which is great. For those who have oiled floors here are my recommendations.

Oiled Floors

This is not “oil-modified urethane.” This is vegetable-oil-based penetrating or hardwax oil.

First, try to ascertain who finished the floor. If it is a prefinished floor, contact the company who sold you the floor and ask them. If it was finished on-site, contact the floor finishing company and ask them. You need to try and find out what product was used on the floor. You can contact the product manufacturer and get their specific cleaning and maintenance recommendations.

If you really want to get the most out of your floor, I really recommend doing this even though it may be a little tedious.

Yes, you will probably be fine just using the cleaning solution for oiled floors (as mentioned above). However, there are some finish manufacturers or even the flooring producers themselves, who will invalidate the warranty on your floor if you don’t use their cleaning solution.

Coincidentally, it is oiled floors that seem to be the subject of relentless attacks with food-based cleaning potions… Perfect segway…

What not to put on your hardwood floors

For some reason, there are myriad different bizarre things that people put on their floors. A lot of it is unfortunately from the information they have found on the internet. A common one is Almond Oil.

Whenever I think of almond oil, I think of walking into peoples homes and my feet sticking to the floor. I feel it’s impolite to ask why there is a sucking sound every time I lift my feet of the floor. Sooner or later I ask what they have been using to clean their floors and often it’s almond oil.

Another one is vinegar or even apple cider vinegar. Again, you wouldn’t clean your bathroom or your desk with vinegar, why put it on the floor?

If your floor is correctly sealed, it’s is not wood that you’re cleaning. Instead, it’s the finish that is on the surface.

In the case of polyurethane lacquer, that is essentially a plastic coating. Again, why would you put a food-based product on a plastic surface?

People say that they need to “feed their floor.” You don’t need to feed your floor; it isn’t hungry.

Just one more thing.

It is recommended that you have a bristly matt outside of your house and a softer, more absorbent matt inside. The bristly mat will remove all the dirt and grit from the bottom of your shoes. At the same time, the absorbent mat will dry your shoes.

The combination of dirt, grit and water is what is going to cause your floor to wear out fast. That’s why the area with the highest amount of damage is right next to the front door.

Taking this small precaution will help to ensure that your floors are looking beautiful for as many years as possible.



Ben Osborne is the owner of He is a professional wood floor refinishing specialist with 15 years of experience. Ben is responsible for almost all the content on this website. He also owns a floor sanding and restoration company.


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