Wood floors are known for their durability and easy maintenance requirements.
But, you might be hurting your floors or the finish that protects them by cleaning them the wrong way.
The wood floors in your home are designed to last for many years, if not the entire life of your home – if you take care of them properly.
In this article, we outline four methods you should avoid when cleaning your hardwood floors.
Wet mopping can cause your wood floors to swell
The rule of thumb here is that water and wood do not mix. Wood can act like a sponge when it’s around water. Too much, and it will start to swell up. Too little, and it the boards can shrink as they dry out.
For wood floors to be stable they need to be kept in a consistent environment when it comes to humidity and temperature.
Putting a lot of water on your floors as you mop them can lead to problems including:
- Boards that cup or swell
- Discoloration of the finish
- Squeaks and other noises
Instead of a bucket of water and a mop, use a microfiber mop head to sweep up dirt and debris and a recommended hardwood floor cleaning solution.
Steam cleaners are not safe for wood floors
We know that water and wood do not mix – especially when it’s super heated and injected in-between the boards of your flooring!
This is more or less what a steam cleaner does when used over wood flooring. They will certainly get your floors clean and shiny, but the added moisture to your floors can cause the same or worse issues as wet mopping can.
Most factory and site applied finishes for wood floors are not designed to withstand extreme temperatures. They can peel, flake, or become discolored if exposed to high heat.
For tough stains or grime, use a wood floor cleaning solution and a damp rag. Save the steam cleaner for your tile or vinyl flooring!
Vacuum beater bars can scratch your wood floors
Vacuums are a great way to quickly suck up dirt, hair, pet dander and other debris from your floors, but they can also cause problems:
- Vacuums with hard plastic wheels can scratch or scuff your wood floors.
- Beater bars can put scratches or buff marks in your finish.
Be careful that you use a vacuum that has smooth rubber wheels and turn off the brush or beater bar when you use them on your wood flooring.
Using the wrong cleaner can damage your wood flooring
There are a lot of products in supermarkets and home improvement stores that claim they are “wood safe.” Many people end up using these on their wood floors, even though they are not certified as truly “wood safe.”
Here are the types of products that can do damage to your wood flooring over time:
Polishes and other wood renewal-type products.
These can leave a residue or build-up on your floors over time that may help them look shiny and new for a while, but will eventually become dull and waxy.
They will also prevent you from professionally re-coating your floors someday. Instead, you’ll need to sand your floors down to bare wood to put a new coat of finish on.
Oil soaps and waxes
Some floors are finished with a hardwax or penetrating oil finish. These floors require special manufacturer approved cleaners that condition and restore the oil finish.
Using these cleaners or soaps on a regular urethane coated floor will cause a hazy buildup and be very difficult to remove.
Check with your floor or finish manufacturer to see which cleaning solution they recommend.
Vinegar, ammonia, or other alkaline products
These may be a great option for tile or vinyl flooring, but ammonia, vinegar or similar solutions – even when diluted – are too harsh to clean your wood floors with.
Over time, these solutions can strip away the finish exposing the bare wood of your flooring.
Instead, use a recommended cleaner that is specifically made for wood floors.
Our recommended wood floor cleaner
For the majority of wood floors that are urethane-coated, we recommend Real Clean Floors Cleaner.
Its natural orange peel extract does a great job of cutting through dirt and grime without leaving a hazy build-up like other cleaners.
Simply follow these instructions to clean your wood floors:
- Sweep or vacuum your floor to remove dirt and debris.
- Spray Real Clean Floors Cleaner lightly over the area you are cleaning.
- Wipe off with a Real Clean Floors or similar microfiber mop in the same direction as the wood grain.