Cleanliness is important to building a comfortable, healthy home, and so is protecting your home’s best assets. Real hardwood floors are an incredible feature everyone loves, but they are well known for needing extra care compared to other flooring types.
If you have hardwood floors and are wondering how to maintain their warmth and prevent scratches, we have answers. In this ultimate guide to caring for hardwood floors, you will learn:
- How to clean hardwood floors
- Everyday care
- Weekly cleaning
- Monthly deep cleaning
- What cleaning products to use
- Can you clean wood floors with vinegar?
- Can you steam clean hardwood floors?
- How to maintain hardwood floors
- Other tips on how to care for hardwood floors and prevent scratches
Here’s how to help your hardwood floors last for decades to come and ensure they look great along the way.
How to Clean Wood Floors
When dirt, crumbs, or debris gets stepped on, it is crushed and scraped against your wood floors. As a result, regular hardwood floor cleaning prevents scratches and helps keep floors in good condition.
The best cleaning schedule for hardwood floors involves:
- Putting in a bit of work every day
- Getting more thorough once a week
- Deep cleaning once a month
Everyday Care for Hardwood Floors: Dusting
The National Wood Flooring Association recommends dusting hardwood floors daily; but many of us don’t have time to dust every day.
If life has other responsibilities in store, opt for every few days or just focus on high-use areas, like hallways and kitchens. Or, skip the chore altogether by investing in an automatic floor cleaner, like a Roomba.
If you prefer not to purchase an automatic cleaner, a dry mop or dust mop can make dusting faster and easier. Mops with a microfiber cloth work particularly well because microfiber has a static charge that attracts dirt and debris.
You can also sweep, but it may take longer and be less effective. When sweeping, use an angled and soft-bristled broom that will be gentle on your floor, and sweep with the grain.
There’s no such thing as a dust-free home, but dusting regularly will do wonders to extend the beauty of your floor by keeping dust from settling in the grain and between floorboards. If you own pets, their fur adds to the dirt.
Bonus: Regular dusting reduces the allergens in your home.
Weekly Cleaning for Wood Floors: Vacuuming
Once a week, it’s time to vacuum and get anything your dusting ventures may have missed. The stronger the vacuum, the better it will remove any remaining dirt from your floorboards’ nooks and crannies.
Important: Vacuum brush rolls can scratch wood floors. When vacuuming hardwood floors, use your vacuum’s hard floor setting to deactivate its brush roll, use a vacuum made exclusively for hard floors, or use a flat vacuum attachment.
Monthly Deep Cleaning for Wood Floors: Mopping With Cleaner
Aim to deep clean your floors once a month. Unsure how to deep clean hardwood floors? All you need is a mop or Swiffer and a cleaner made specifically for your floor and finishing.
Follow the directions on the back of your cleaner with care, especially if you have to dilute it with water.
Protect your floors while mopping: Too much liquid can damage hardwood, so be careful how much liquid you put on your floor while mopping. Always wring your mop out until it’s only damp to prevent putting standing water on the floor. We recommend using a microfiber mop. Unlike cotton mops that push a lot of water around, microfiber mops use 10 to 20 times less liquid. If it’s particularly humid on the day you mop, turn your fan or A/C on to speed up the drying process.
What to Use to Clean Hardwood Floors
The best way to clean hardwood floors is with a wood-specific cleaner. You can match your cleanser to the type of wood floor and finish you have, but your best bet is to find out what cleaner the manufacturer of your floor’s finishing recommends.
If you don’t know the manufacturer, aim for a pH-neutral, non-toxic, and biodegradable wood floor cleaner.
Avoid soap-based and chemical cleaners as these leave a residue or hazy film over time. If you accidentally used a chemical cleaner, you may be able to remove the hazy film with a warm, water-dampened microfiber cloth.
For the healthiest home possible, look for a GREENGUARD certified product.
Can You Clean Wood Floors With Vinegar?
If you’ve been wondering how to clean hardwood floors naturally, you might have considered or come across suggestions to use vinegar. Vinegar is a common household staple that is great for cleaning a variety of surfaces; however, you should not use vinegar for hardwood cleaning.
Vinegar (and baking soda, while we’re at it) will eventually damage and dull your flooring’s finish. The acidity of vinegar eats away at the finish and wood, and baking soda is an abrasive cleaner, meaning it can leave scratches.
Can You Use a Steam Mop on Hardwood Floors?
You should not use steam mops or steam cleaning of any kind on hardwood floors. Steam cleaners use heat and water, and both damage wood. Forcing water vapor into floorboards can also cause damage over time.
How to Maintain Hardwood Floors
In addition to regular cleaning, maintaining hardwood floors means polishing, recoating, and refinishing them when the time comes. These larger maintenance tasks are crucial steps to protect your floor’s surface and keep its brilliant color and shine.
Fortunately, you don’t need to do these tasks nearly as often.
Polish Four Times a Year
Polishing your wood floors will help protect them from getting stripped, extend their life, and restore their shine. Homeowners should polish hardwood floors every three months, vacuuming first to pick up any dirt.
But before you polish, determine what finishing your wood floor has. Protective finishes are more common nowadays, but if your floor has a penetrative finish, you should wax instead of polishing. The good news is that waxing comes with its own protective benefits and can be done less often (between one to five years, depending on the type of wax you use).
Recoat Every Three to Five Years
If your floors are starting to look worn down, adding a new coat of finish could be what it takes to revive them. It’s best to recoat hardwood floors every three to five years.
Refinish Every Few Decades
It’s easy to confuse recoating and refinishing, but homeowners should know the difference. Recoating adds another coat of finish, whereas refinishing sands the floors down and then adds a new finish. The goal of refinishing is to restore your wood floors to their original condition completely.
Some sources recommend refinishing your floor every five to ten years, depending on your lifestyle, but the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) recommends refinishing every few decades. You can follow their more infrequent recommendation as long as you also follow their advice to recoat every three to five years.
We advise hiring a professional to refinish your floors when the time comes. A professional will be able to determine the best type of finish for your floors and whether it’s safe to refinish your floors if they are old. Sometimes hardwood floors are too old or thin to withstand the sanding process.
A professional will also finish your floors the right way to protect them for years to come.
Other Tips on How to Care for Hardwood Floors
Sticking to a regular cleaning schedule and following hardwood floor maintenance requirements will go a long way, but everyday wear and tear is inevitable. These other tips for caring for hardwood floors will help minimize the impact of daily use.
Tips to Prevent Scratches
- Use furniture pads on all main pieces of furniture, including chairs, tables, and beds.
- Use furniture sliders any time you move or rearrange your furniture.
- Consider using decorative rugs and doormats in high-traffic areas.
- Don’t wear high heels on wood floors (put them on by the door).
- Regularly trim and file your pet’s nails.
Tips for Moisture Protection
- Always wipe up spills as soon as you see them, using a dry or mildly damp cloth.
- Implement a no-shoe policy and take wet shoes off outside.
- Keep your house between 30% to 50% humidity (your A/C or a dehumidifier can help).
Tips to Make Hardwood Floor Care Into a Routine
Keeping up with hardwood floors can be difficult when it’s not a part of your routine. Use the following tips to make it easier:
- Find a time within your daily routine that you can quickly dust mop.
- Choose one day to vacuum every week. If you have a cleaning day, add it to this routine.
- Schedule your monthly deep clean and quarterly polish in your calendar now.
- Find a local service that can recoat and refinish your floors, and ask them how far out you can schedule or to follow up with you.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Hardwood Floors
Now that you know everything you need to clean and care for your hardwood floors, all that’s left is to get to know yours a little better. Hardwood floors will tell you when they are unhappy, but it’s much easier to catch the signs when you know what your floors look like now. Look a little closer the next time you vacuum, so you don’t end up asking yourself, “Has that always been there?”
Signs to look out for include scratches, cracks or splitting due to dryness, or swelling or cupping due to water. If you spot any of these, have a professional diagnose the source and fix it as soon as possible.
As long as you do that and follow the other tips in this guide, your hardwood floors will last for a long time.