You’ve got to learn how to clean hardwood floors. Once you’ve decided to replace that carpet or laminate flooring with beautiful wood floors, you want to keep them in tip-top shape. In fact, a simple deep clean is the main ingredient for the longevity of these glossy, brown surfaces.

When it comes to sparkling wood floors, it doesn’t matter if your home is sporting solid, engineered, or reclaimed wood: The general upkeep routine should be the same. Luckily, the regimen isn’t too rigorous. But there are still nuances that are pivotal for maintenance, which is why we called on the experts for their advice.

To get the full rundown, we consulted Brett Miller, vice president of technical standards, training, and certification at the National Wood Flooring Association; Mark Whatley, production manager at Bay Area retail showroom and contracting company Amber Flooring; and Tommy Sancic, owner of Ohio–based custom antique reclaimed and wide plank flooring manufacturer Olde Wood. Here’s what you need to know about cleaning wood floors so you don’t damage the finish of them.

Vacuum regularly

It goes without saying that dirt and grime buildup can be a major hurdle to clean hardwood floors. “Keeping debris off the floor is key,” Miller says. Plus, regular cleaning is advised. But it’s not just that it looks filthy: “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.” Even pet hair has the potential to damage your wood floors, so it’s best to be proactive.

Try to do a simple sweep daily, if possible. Then, follow up with a dry mop or dust mop to pick up any remaining dust and dirt. You could even use a microfiber mop or cloth that you don’t wet. If you can’t sweep your whole home every day, aim to hit high-traffic areas, like entryways or hallways, as often as possible. Making a simple cleaning routine could help ensure you’re tackling every room and space consistently and effectively.

You’ll also want to vacuum regularly. This will help pick up any fine particles that sweeping alone may miss, and the strong suction of a vacuum cleaner is extra useful to pull up dust and debris in cracks and crevices and between planks. Just make sure that you’ve turned on the hard floor setting, which turns off the brush roll or beater bar, to avoid scratching. You could also use a flat attachment to protect the floor from bristles because the last thing you want to do is scuff the floor you’re trying to clean.

Identify the right cleaning product

When it comes to choosing a cleaning product for a deeper wash, there isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. Different finishes require different treatments, so all three experts suggest listening to the product recommendations of your finish and flooring manufacturer.

However, it is safe to say there are cleaning products to always avoid. “I don’t recommend any kind of harsh chemical to clean any hardwood floor,” Sancic says. “Chemicals applied to the finish will create hazing. This can really build up over a period of six months to a year, and doesn’t look very good.” If you’ve made this mistake in the past, a damp microfiber cloth dipped in warm water is a simple way to remove that cloudy film.


According to Miller, you also “don’t want to use anything that says it’s going to polish, or shine, or rejuvenate, or revitalize the wood floor.” Although it may sound promising, these “cleaning solutions” aren’t actually doing your hardwood floors any favors. “That’s basically telling you that you’re laying out something that’s a supplemental product,” Brett explains. “It’s putting something on that surface that’ll make it pretty for a short period of time, but it’s not designed to wear.”

When in doubt, go back to the basics. For a DIY hardwood floor cleaner that won’t require an expensive purchase on Amazon, combine four cups of warm water with a few drops of Murphy Oil Soap. Water and white vinegar is another long-standing homemade cleaning solution, though its effectiveness is debated.

Keep the floors (pretty) dry

Once you’ve found the right wood floor cleaner, use it on the floors with a damp mop. “You don’t want to bring out a wet bucket and start soaking the floors because that’ll cause the wood to swell,” Miller says. For this reason, consider a microfiber mop instead of a cotton mop, as the former requires less water, and it won’t leave you with a dripping wet mop. In fact, according to Bona—a worldwide industry leader in hardwood floor care—microfiber mops use about 20 times less liquid and are the best mops for the job. You’ll also spend significantly less time trying to wring out the mop head, making it a win-win for you and your wood floors.

Brett also advises against using steam and a steam mop. Though it may provide a deep clean for wood floors, it allows vapor to enter small spaces and damage the floors in your living room.

Know the warning signs

Knowing how to clean hardwood floors isn’t the only thing to consider when it comes to immaculate wood flooring. The environment that surrounds your floor is also a big component of their care and durability. Wood reacts dramatically to temperature and humidity, so it’s important to understand these elements too, even if they’re out of your control. Your best line of defense is being aware of red flags. “The nice thing about wood is that it’s a natural product, so it’ll tell you if it’s not happy,” Brett explains.

If there’s too much moisture on, around, or below the wood, it will cup. Eliminate the source of the water, especially any standing water, to stop this from occurring. Exceedingly dry conditions induce gapping, cracking, and splitting. Here, a humidifier should do the trick. “Adding a little moisture to the air will allow your floor to settle back down. It’ll make it happy again,” Brett says.

Touch up surface scratches

Though it hurts when you scratch floors, it’s completely normal. “It’s part of owning a wood floor,” Brett says. If you do want to fix surface scratches, it’s a relatively simple DIY project. Just use a stain marker from a wood furniture touch-up kit.

A simple area rug or doormats could be another way to add personality to your space while also acting as a floor protector.

Recoat before it’s too late

When the floor is starting to wear down, it’s time to step in and recoat. “A recoat doesn’t involve sanding,” Whatley says. “It’s actually applying another coat of finish to the top of the floors to bring back the luster and life of that finish, so you don’t have to go through the sanding process.”

This exercise can prolong a floor’s life for many years by adding a layer of protection each time it’s needed. There are many different floor finishes on the market, and the best choice for refinishing may come down to the needs and specifications of your wood floors. “The beauty of wood floors is that they can be repaired and refinished and recoated,” Miller says. “A lot of normal wear and tear can be taken care of on a wood floor.”