How to clean wood floors without damaging them

After living with wall-to-wall carpeting, old laminate and chipped tiles, you’re finally living in a new place with beautiful hardwood floors. Congrats! Or, you’ve been living there for a while and the fact that you’re blessed with wood flooring hasn’t occurred to you until now — the moment you’ve realized that you’re not quite sure, exactly, how to clean wood floors.

There’s vacuuming, of course, or sweeping if you’re old school. But maybe your floors seem to have lost a bit of their brilliance and are looking a little dull these days. Or perhaps, like me, you’re thinking that you own a bunch of different cleaning products and supplies (we like things tidy), but you’re unsure what’s safe to use on these natural beauties. No matter your particular predicament, you’ve come to the right place.

It’s not difficult to clean wood floors, but there are certain dos and don’ts to be aware of, so we spoke with a pro who walked us through them all. Before getting into the details, it might be a relief to know that, no matter what type of wood flooring you’re living with, “cleaning them follows the same process,” says Michael Clarke, a contractor and the founder of Pulled, a home services platform. Many types of wood are used in hardwood flooring, Clarke tells us, like oak, maple, cherry, bamboo, walnut, ash, and mahogany and exotic species like teak, jarrah, and mesquite. Engineered hardwood flooring is another “type” of wood that’s become popular because it’s a “veneer of real wood glued to several layers of wood underneath, like plywood, that’s durable and low-maintenance,” he adds, but they all clean up in the same way.

Check out all the steps for cleaning wood floors below.

Dry cleaning

First thing you’ll want to do is pull out your vacuum or that manual broom, if you prefer, and get rid of all the pet hair, crumbs, dirt, and general debris that collect on floors over the course of a week’s worth of living, but make sure you’re on the correct setting. “Use the vacuum’s ‘hard floor’ setting to deactivate the brush roller and only use suction,” Clarke says. The brush inside the vacuum is meant to get deep into carpets and some are so stiff that they can scratch your floors.

Wet cleaning

Making sure there are few particles left behind makes the rest of this simple process that much easier. After vacuuming, Clarke recommends using something like the Swiffer WetJet Wood Floor cleaning system, especially on high-traffic areas like in front of doors and near the kitchen. To keep wood looking polished and good as new, Clarke likes to add a few sprays of Bona Hardwood Cleanerto floors while using the WetJet once or twice a month as needed. The cleaner is fast-drying and great for removing any lingering residue to help floors shine their brightest.

Mind the don’ts

Now that we know what we’re proactively doing to keep our floors in tip top shape, Clarke gave us a few don’ts to keep in mind so we’re not accidentally making it all that much harder for ourselves. One major thing to be aware of is standing water. “Standing water or pools of liquid cleaner can damage the wood, and this is especially critical for pre-finished hardwood floors,” he says. Steam mops also aren’t your friend when it comes to cleaning hardwood floors, unless the product itself clearly states that it’s designed to be used with wood. If you’re keeping up with those few simple steps, steaming likely won’t be necessary.

While we love a great DIY hack with pantry staples, your hardwood floors aren’t going to be quite as receptive. “Don’t use vinegar to clean your floors or any other homemade cleaning product because they can damage the finish,” Clarke says, adding that harsh chemicals in vinyl and tile floor cleaner also won’t play nice with hardwood.

Knowing these simple steps and taking a few minutes each week or month to give your wood floors some TLC will result in an enviable characteristic of your home. Just don’t forget to look up every now and then as you’re walking around your home constantly looking downward, admiring your handiwork.

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by Food52 editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.


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