Do you want your hardwood floors to sparkle? Discover how to clean your hardwood floors and what products to use without causing permanent damage.

Properly cleaned floors are not difficult to acquire, especially if you remain on top of things. Install tough-bristled mats, leave muddy boots and shoes at the door, sweep, dry-mop, or vacuum frequently, and when the floor appears dull, get into all the nooks and crannies with a moist mop and a neutral solution.

Steps for Cleaning and Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Wood floors should be cleaned at least four to six times a year in most homes.

Floor installer Michael Dittmer, who lives outside Chicago, dispatches a robot vac daily to keep an eye on his entire first floor. “I then scrub the kitchen floor once a week and the other rooms twice a month.” He has a yard, dogs, and adolescent boys, of course. This regimen should suffice for the majority of households.

4 Floor Cleaning and Maintenance Methods

Choose a soft-bristled broom angled. Take proactive action to get into corners and be wide enough to promptly accomplish the job—moving with the grain, of course.

Use a gentle floor nozzle to vacuum; carpet beaters and brush rollers might damage the finish. Robot vacuums do the work for you; look for one that does not vacuum itself into a corner and can run for at least an hour before needing to be recharged.

Attack sticky material as soon as possible with a damp clean cloth, a squirt of wood floor cleaner, and a thorough rub; If you don’t enjoy crouching, plant one foot on a rag. Lift off dust and pet hair with a microfiber mop head, ideally coated with a positive electric charge so it can capture negative-ion ephemera. Continue to move the mop head with the grain.

When it appears dingy, use a damp-mop with a flat-head mop and microfiber pad, or a microfiber string mop that has been properly wrung out. Move with the grain and use a spray bottle to manage the amount of cleaning solution, aiming for a thick mist or gentle squirt of about a half teaspoon per 2 square feet. There is no need to rinse. No need to buff either; however, cloth diapers and soft socks do work well here.

5 Ways to Avoid Significant Damage

Ignore any wet or sticky spills. They are not going away on their own. Did an ice cube just shoot under the table? Get it now.

Don’t bring in any large machinery. You can harm the finish by using a garage broom or a floor-cleaning machine built for harder flooring.

Avoid using the incorrect cleaning product. According to experts, Murphy Oil Soap might leave a residue on polyurethane. Paste wax merely makes it slick. What about the acrylic polishes that claim to erase the glow while adding more? They can fade polyurethane—just clean it, and it will shine again.

Keep an eye out for floods in the area. Standing water and overly wet mops send moisture between the boards and through the finish’s microscopic tears, which form when the wood shrinks and expands with the weather. Over time, dampness can destroy the wood.

There is no steam cleaning. Never on wood. It should only be used on tile, linoleum, and vinyl.

What Should You Use to Clean Hardwood Floors?

A pH level of about 7, or matched to cured poly, is ideal for a neutral solution; higher is excessively alkaline, and lower is fine for an all-purpose cleaner, but not here. Bona’s free and simple Hardwood Floor Cleaner ($18; Bona) is one example.

Is it safe to clean hardwood floors with vinegar?

Use neither vinegar nor baking soda solutions. Traditional cures such as vinegar or dish detergent do not work as well as today’s multi-functional products and can actually harm or dull polyurethane.
Unfortunately, the solution is sometimes worse than the grime. “Too much water, any amount of steam!” exclaims Brett Miller, a National Wood Flooring Association technical expert.

Other no-nos: strong vinegar or baking soda treatments that can breakdown polyurethane, and “glow” enhancers that sound as if they would work on your hair.