How to Clean Your Hardwood Floors the Right Way, According to Experts

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How to Clean Hardwood Floors the Right WayRoger Davies

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While hardwood floors are beautiful in nearly any home, they can also come with their fair share of maintenance. Pet hair, wine and food stains, and even just general dust and debris from your day-to-day living can scratch your floor and cause serious damage—which isn’t the look you’re going for when you have installed beautiful hardwood floors or want to maintain the original hardwood flooring of your home.

However, with some proper care and maintenance, you’ll be able to keep your hardwood floors looking brand new for years to come. “As long as you regularly mop or vacuum your floors (at least once per week), you shouldn’t have to deep clean your hardwood floors more than every three months,” says Jennifer Rodriguez, founder of cleaning service Pro Housekeepers. “Hardwood floors can be delicate, but there are ways to keep them shining all year long.”

Here's how to clean hardwood floors, straight from the pros themselves.

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Determine what kind of flooring you have.

All hardwood floors aren’t created equal, and it’s important to take note of the type you have in order to determine how best to care for it. There are generally three different types of hardwood floors, all requiring different levels of maintenance.

Solid hardwood flooring: The most expensive option (but also the most durable), solid hardwood flooring can be made from any type of hardwood (oak, maple, teak, walnut, or ash) cut from one solid piece of wood and cut into strips. These stain the easiest and require the most maintenance.

Engineered hardwood flooring: This usually comes manufactured by gluing together several thin plies of hardwood. The layers are stacked with the grains running in different directions to strengthen the floor pieces. They’re very durable and easy to maintain, so you won’t need to deep clean as often.

Laminate wood-look flooring: This flooring contains no hardwood, and is simply melamine resin over some fiberboard. In this case, simply spot treat stains as needed, and vacuum regularly.

Bring out the mop.

Before you deep clean your floors, Rodriguez recommends making sure to dry mop weekly, and to absolutely to do so before deep cleaning. “I suggest using a microfiber mop, which can get dirt and debris out easily,” she says. Simply wipe down as needed.

Don’t forget to vacuum.

“I recommend a weekly or biweekly vacuum for hardwood floors, simply to remove dirt, dust, pet hair, or other debris that could scratch the floor,” says William Cotter, CEO of home cleaning company HappyCleans. “Don’t use a vacuum with a beater bar attachment on it, however, as that could damage the surface of the floor. Use the floor-brush attachment instead.”

Create a homemade solution (or buy one) for cleaning your hardwood floors.

Every few months, a deep cleaning is required for your floors, as dirt, oil, and grime can build up over time and aren't completely removed by a weekly dusting. Here’s how to deep clean your hardwood floors:

  1. First either create a cleaning solution that consists of soap and water (one part soap to three parts water, according to Rodriguez), or diluted vinegar and water. You could also buy a specialized cleaner for hardwood floors. If you choose to go the vinegar route, however, note that you need to have the exact right proportions, as too much vinegar can actually be too acidic and discolor your floors. Cotter says the correct proportion is half a cup of vinegar with a gallon of warm water. “If you’d like to go the extra mile, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to the solution for a refreshing scent,” he adds.

  2. Spray your cleaning solution across the area that you’d like to clean, making sure to coat the floor evenly.

  3. Dip your mop in a bucket of water and wring thoroughly. Using the dampened mop, spread the cleaning solution over your floor using wide, easy strokes, periodically wringing out excess water as you go.

  4. After you’re done, wait about 20 to 30 minutes for the solution to dry before walking back over it or adding your furniture on top.

Products to Avoid When Cleaning Hardwood Floors

While it’s incredibly important to know what to do when it comes to cleaning your hardwood floors, sometimes, it’s equally important to know what not to do. “Some common mistakes I see people making with hardwood floors is using sticky wood oils, waxes, or furniture sprays without the proper knowledge of how to apply them, or not having the patience to wait for them to dry completely,” says Cotter. “It requires sanding to take them off, which can be frustrating for anyone. Also never use anything abrasive, like full-strength ammonia and bleach-based cleaning products. This can actually remove the sheen and color from your floors.”

In addition, using more vinegar than water will damage your hardwood floors, according to Rodriguez, which is why you should keep in mind the right quantities when mixing both.

When to Get Your Hardwood Floors Cleaned Professionally

If you don’t have time to deep clean your hardwood floors regularly, or are seeing stains that just refuse to come off, it might be time to see a professional. Most professional cleaners will charge between $200 and $400, depending on stains and surface area, and may be able to evaluate your floors to see if you’re making any daily choices that are causing more permanent damage. And if you have excessive dents, scratches, or water damage, you might need your wood floors refinished, which can also be done by reaching out to a professional.

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