How To Clean Your Hardwood Floors

Hardwood is commonly used for floors in many homes and while it is more sanitary than carpets and other types of flooring, it’s hard to keep clean.  Properly caring for your hardwood floors can be difficult and time consuming if you don’t have the know how or the right tools.

Proper maintenance and cleaning will keep your floors gleaming.  There are several different tried and true ways homeowners and professional cleaners to get those hardwoods looking shiny, so we’ve compiled a list of the best ways to clean your hardwood floors.




Let’s start with finish – because you can’t properly clean a floor you don’t understand.  Wood floors come with different types of finishes and each require special attention.  Some can be cleaned with the same method but others may require some tips and tricks.

How to tell what finish your wood floor has

To figured out what type of finish you have, just rub your finger across the floor.  If no smudge appears, it’s likely surface sealed.  See a smudge? The floor has been treated with a penetrating seal or other finish and then waxed.

What are the different types of finish for hardwood floors?

Surface sealed wood floors

Most floors are surface sealed, especially if they are new.  A variety of surface sealers are used but they have the same functions.  Polyurethane, Urethane or Polyacrylic will all make your floors resistant to stains and water.

This type of floor is easiest to care for and clean.  Often a sweep and a mop will take care of it.

Lacquer, Varnish, Shellac, and untreated  hardwood floors

These finishes, while often pretty are not very resistant to spills and stains.  They will protect your floor more than leaving it untreated, but as far as caring for your floor is concerned – treating with varnish is the same as not treating at all.

Penetrating  seal treated and oil treated hardwood floors

This type of seal soaks into the wood and hardens.  It is very effective but also extremely difficult to take care of.  It has to be pampered and protectant must be applied for it to keep it’s shine.

Each of these types requires it’s own set of tools and know how.  Read on to find out exactly what your floor needs.  No time to learn?  Call Cleaning Services C and we’ll clean them for you.

Cleaning Surface Sealed Hardwood Floors

First, let’s go over the rules of cleaning this type of wood floor.

Don’t use straight ammonia, alkaline products or anything abrasive.  They will dull and scratch your floors.

Use a floor cleaning product recommended by the manufacturer or opt for plain soap and water.  Not soap you wash with but a more ph-balanced dishwashing soap.  My grandma used Murphy’s Oil Soap exclusively and had shiny floors every day.

If you prefer biodegradable or have a pet around the house, use vinegar and water. Depending on your tolerance of the vinegar smell, use up to ¼ cups vinegar to a quart of water.  Water only can be used but isn’t going to get rid of dirt build up if you have that.




Routine cleaning schedule

  • Sweep high traffic areas daily to keep dirt from building up and scratching the floor.
  • Mop high traffic areas twice a week – low traffic areas can usually get by with mopping once per month.
  • Use a damp mop, not a soaking wet one. Even with sealed floors, water and wood don’t mix well.
  • Mop in the direction of the wood grain and don’t keep going with dirty water. Change it and keep trucking.
  • Always mop the surface using only clean water after using cleaning solution (even vinegar and water)

Wood floor issues that cleaning won’t fix

Scuffs – use baking soda on a damp sponge.

Stains – Use a commercial cleaner or call us.

Cracks – This is part of having hardwoods – don’t try to fill it.  Usually during the summer the floor will expand and close those winter made cracks up.

Finish looking dull – even with the best cleaning, this will happen.  Sand it down and recoat with sealant of your choice.  This needs to be done every 5 to 7 years.

How to clean untreated or varnished hardwood floors?

Hardwood floors that are untreated or treated with penetrating sealants require a ton of attention.  They have a few do’s and don’ts that you need to know so you can keep them looking good for a long time.




Use a stripper to remove buildup of old wax.  A commercial grade stripper is best.  Sometimes the instructions are a bit hard to follow so you may want to hire a professional.  Mineral spirits can also be used but they may require additional knowledge and techniques.

Do use wax.  Liquid or paste is fine, so choose based on preference.  I prefer paste because it provides more protection and last longer.  Liquid wax is easier to apply but doesn’t do a good job protecting the floor.

Don’t short cut waxes.  Stay away from acrylic or water-based waxes, they can turn the floor WHITE!  One step waxes also won’t work, as they trap dirt easily.  Obviously, keep the furniture wax on the chair and not on the floor.  Unless you want to do the Tom Cruise slide from Risky Business with shoes on.

Routine cleaning schedule

Vacuum and sweep the surface every other day.  Daily if possible.  DO NOT mop with anything damp.

Wax the floor twice per year.  Spot wax high traffic areas when needed.

How to wax the floor?

Remove all dust by thoroughly sweeping and vacuuming the floor.

Strip off old wax with stripper of choice or with mineral spirits.  Ventilate the area until the floor dries.

Once dried, the floor is ready for wax.  Apply one thin coat and let it dry.  If you want more protection (say you have kids or pets) apply a second coat of wax.

Buff it out using a cloth or a rented buffer machine.  Always buff with the wood grain.

Cleaning Services C can help fix problems with your hardwood floors.

Here’s a list of common problems with hardwood floors and how to fix them!  You can always give us a call and we’ll take care of your hardwood floor problems for you.

  • White spots – likely water spots and easy to take care of.  A bit of mineral spirits on a find steel wool pad (0000) will take care of that.  Ventilate the area and use a circular motion.  Be gentle when rubbing so you don’t damage the floor.
  • Heel marks – use the steel wool pad (fine 0000) and some wax.  Rub gently and use circular motions.
  • Food stains – use a damp cloth to rub the stain, then dry and wax.

Make sure you sweep and vacuum often.  Wipe up spills, and mud as soon as possible. And use under pads for rugs as well as furniture feet and corners.  If you keep your floors protected and taken care of, they will last you for years to come.

Don’t have time to do the work?  Don’t worry, we do.  Call us and our professionals will make sure your hardwood floors are beautiful and well taken care of.

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