How to Clean Hardwood Floors So They'll Look Shiny and New

Tierney McAfee
·5 min read

From The Pioneer Woman

When it comes to flooring, hardwood floors are as good as it gets. They complement traditional and contemporary living room, bedroom, or kitchen decors, and bring a warmth and coziness that other surfaces simply can’t deliver. Heck, they're even more comfortable, since they're naturally less fatiguing to stand on than other options such as tile. Real wood floors are also incredibly durable, but you need to know how to clean hardwood floors properly for them to remain looking their best through the years.

Unfortunately, cleaning your floors isn't a task you can save for spring cleaning time. Prevention is key when it comes to caring for hardwood floors because no amount of cleaning can restore surfaces that have been damaged by standing water, hard-heeled shoes, or furniture scratches. With improper care—or even just the wear and tear of daily life—the surface can dull, especially in high traffic areas.

Here’s how to clean hardwood floors, and maintain them so they continue looking shiny and new.

How to clean and shine hardwood floors.

Photo credit: cyano66 - Getty Images
Photo credit: cyano66 - Getty Images

To clean old hardwood floors, use a cleaner recommended by your flooring manufacturer about once a month. If you don’t know the company (or you lost this information years ago), stick with a general wood floor cleaning product. Some products need to be rinsed, some don’t, so read the label and follow the instructions. Don’t use tile or vinyl cleaners, which may harm hardwood. When using a mop or rag with the cleaner, wring it out until it feels nearly dry. You never want puddles of water to sit on your floor.

If want a very shiny appearance, take heed: Your floor’s original finish dictates how shiny it will appear. A gloss finish is shiniest and reflects the most light. Matte finishes offer the least shine and reflect the least light, but they’re also better at hiding scratches and wear. So, just be aware that if your floor finish has a low sheen, no amount of product will make it look super-shiny.

It’s also not a good idea to use oils or waxes, which leave a residue and can make the floor dangerously slippery.

One good way to test your floor's finish is with the water test: If water beads up, your floor’s finish is still good, and you can ask a floor professional if an additional protective coat is a good idea. But if water immediately soaks into the surface, it’s probably time to get it refinished by a pro.

How to clean hardwood floors naturally.

Photo credit: CentralITAlliance - Getty Images
Photo credit: CentralITAlliance - Getty Images

First of all, you're right to want to avoid abrasive cleaners or straight ammonia. But even though “natural” cleaners like lemon juice and vinegar are often suggested as DIY alternatives, they’re acids which can actually dull and damage the floor’s seal over time.

Instead, mix a little castile soap and water for an eco-conscious alternative. You can even add an essential oil like peppermint or lavender to keep your floors and your home smelling fresh. Once your floors are squeaky clean, here's how you should maintain them.

Sweep often.

Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images
Photo credit: Westend61 - Getty Images

Every day or so, do a quick once-over with a dry microfiber mop, a broom with exploded tips, disposable electrostatic cleaners, or your vacuum’s special hardwood floor head. Never use the beater bar attachment, which can damage the floor. Wipe up spills as they occur because they can stain the finish or even warp the wood if left to sit long enough.

Keep the sun off your floor.

Photo credit: Ingo Bartussek - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ingo Bartussek - Getty Images

Over time, sunlight can discolor floors. Limit exposure with sheer drapes or blinds, and pay attention to the angle at which the sun comes indoors, which changes with the seasons.

For example, a part of your floor that isn’t exposed to sunlight in the summer may get late afternoon winter sun because the sun is lower in the sky during that time of year. Also, be sure to use a humidifier in the winter to prevent the wood from shrinking and moving—which is what creates those annoying squeaks!

Protect your floors from dents and scratches.

Footwear such as sports cleats and high heels can dent hardwood floors so you may want to consider adopting a no-shoes policy in your home. This will also help keep your floors free from dirt and debris!

For chairs and stools, you can place inexpensive felt pads on the bottom of the legs so they aren’t constantly scraping back and forth across your floors. Check them periodically because they do wear out fast. If you have to move other pieces of furniture, lift—don’t drag— them across the floor.

We humans aren't the only ones who can cause damage to hardwood floors. While you’re pulling out all the stops, make sure your pets get their toenails trimmed regularly so they won’t scratch the floor.

Don’t let grit get carried indoors.

Photo credit: Thomas Northcut - Getty Images
Photo credit: Thomas Northcut - Getty Images

Place doormats inside and outside all of your entryways to trap dirt and grit. Be sure to shake these out or vacuum them frequently so particles don’t get carried into the room. Even tiny bits of dirt or sand can cause scratches. Remember, you won’t be able to restore scratched floors without a professional refinishing job.

Once you're done cleaning your hardwood floors, it's time to sit back and soak in the satisfaction of all your hard work. We have no doubt you'll be floored by how clean and shiny your hardwood floors look!