How to Clean wood floors

How to Clean Wood Floors

 Most of us choose wooden floors as a feature to be noticed but that also means that the debris and dirt will be noticed as well. Clean wood floors not only look good but stay in good condition longer.  Even relatively small amounts of dirt and debris left on otherwise clean wood floors spoils the effect completely.

Only use a damp mop

Only use a damp mop

And allowing dirt to remain on the surface is not just unsightly. It will damage the floor. The grit in the dirt will rub over the floor when walked on and scratch the wood.


Maintaining clean wood floors is easy. Clean wood floors at least once a week with a soft broom. A hard one will scratch the surface. As with everything else however prevention is better than cure and clean wood floors can be kept that way by avoiding dirt in the first place. A Welcome Mat is a good idea to prevent most of the grime ever entering the room. Getting into the habit of confining wet shoes to the porch will not only reduce the frequency with which you need to clean wood floors but also prevent water and mud from warping or staining the floor.

How to Clean Wood Floors

Use a Hoover with a soft bristle attachment

Use a Hoover with a soft bristle attachment

  • Before you clean wood floors they have to be completely free of dust and debris so dry mop or vacuum the floor first. But when using a vacuum to clean wood floors use a lightweight machine or just use the brush attachment. Attempting to clean wood floors with a heavy vacuum might not only scratch the floor it could even dent it. And be careful not to drop the vacuum on the floor surface
  • Remove as much of the furniture as possible and ensure that no-one (especially pets) can enter the room whilst your cleaning
  • Always clean wood floors using only a damp mop. And ‘damp’ is the key word when using water to clean wood floors. Too much water can stain and even warp the wood
  • To clean wood floors where difficult to remove spots and stains are present you might need a professional cleaning agent such as oil soap. But whatever products
    clean wood floors

    Using a soft mop will avoid scratching the floor

    you use to clean wood floors always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. And if you need to clean wood floors with any product not used on them before, experiment on an inconspicuous part of the floor first to ensure that it doesn’t stain the wood

  • If you are not sure that the surface is suitable for cleaning at all ask for professional advice
  • Always clean wood floors wearing socks only, or very light clean footwear. Walking on damp clean
    Polishing machine for applying finishes

    Polishing machine for applying finishes

    wood floors in shoes will leave footprints or at the very least reintroduce the dirt back onto the clean wood floor

  • Fill a clean bucket with the cleaning solution you choose. Before buying a proprietary brand, it’s well worth trying vinegar (see below). Immerse the mop in the bucket and wring it out until it’s just damp
  • Mop the floor in the direction of the grain starting in one corner. It’s more difficult to clean wood floors against the grain and water streaks won’t show if they run with it
  • Rinse the mop frequently and change the water when the solution appears dirty. To save on cleaning solution, time, and bucket changing when you clean wood floors you could fill a second bucket with just water for rinsing the mop between recharging
  • When mopping is complete use a soft clean towel to dry the floor or allow it to dry in a well ventilated room. Small amounts of water used to clean wood floors shouldn’t harm most wood surfaces but wood should never be left saturated. At best the wood will lose its finish and at worst will warp. Probably the latter

Using Vinegar to Clean Wood Floors

Many, including some professionals, maintain that using a vinegar solution is the best way to clean wood floors. The acid cuts through the grease. The method may work better on some floors than others and if it works to clean wood floors for you, you can simply buy larger catering size bottles of vinegar which are much cheaper per unit than the smaller ones you probably buy already.

And using vinegar to clean wood floors is good for the environment. Vinegar is an organic bi product of grains, vegetables and fruits. It’s completely biodegradable, safe for pets and children, and has an almost indefinite shelf life. It also kills mould, bacteria and even viruses. But always choose white vinegar. Brown vinegar will stain the wood.

Simply replace any proprietary cleaning solution with a bucket containing a solution of half a cup of vinegar to one gallon of water. Take care not to use too high a concentration as high acidity might dull the wood.

Clean Wood Floors covering Smaller areas

It’s practicable to clean wood floors in a limited area using two soft microfibre pads and a wood-safe cleaning solution in a plant spray bottle. Run the first dusting pad up and down the floor. But avoid lifting the pad off the floor at any stage otherwise debris stuck to it might scratch the floor when you start dusting again. Then clean the surface with the other dusting pad in the direction of the wood grain, spraying the solution sparingly as you go.

You can use this method to clean wood floors covering the whole house but it may be quite an ordeal. Kneeling and shuffling around on hard surfaces to clean wood floors is no great pleasure, although you could try knee pads. Detachable microfibre mop heads are however available.

Clean Wood Floors with Wax Finishes

It’s even more important to use as little water as possible when you clean wood floors which have wax finishes. When they’re dry apply more wax polish to the clean wood floors, but avoid using too much or applying further wax too often. Over time the wax will accumulate but you can remove accumulated wax with white spirit and use a scrunched up newspaper to wipe away the remaining residue before applying a new layer of wax to the clean wood floors.

Deep clean wood floors

If the floor is just too dirty, scuffed or neglected for any of these processes to achieve a satisfactory result whilst not yet so far gone it needs stripping down, one option is screening and re-coating. The process involves roughening the current varnish finish either with very fine sandpaper or a machine which can be hired, cleaning it again thoroughly, and applying a new finish. An Orbital Sander with the correct fine sand or screen paper might be suitable but you should ask the hire shop for advice.

When the process is complete a new finish can be applied. Check out our ‘Stripping Wood Flooring’ and ‘Sanding Wood Flooring’ Articles for further advice. Finally it’s advisable to resist the temptation to apply a high polished finish on clean wood floors. It might result in heavy falls and broken limbs.