How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Updated: Mar. 23, 2023

Learn how to clean hardwood floors naturally with household staples.

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While hardwood floors are beautiful in a variety of colors and finishes, this type of flooring needs special care. You can't simply mop it once a week and move on to the rest of your to-do list. Though there are plenty of high-chemical cleaners that you can find in your grocery-store aisle for cleaning hardwood, they typically come with fumes and often do damage to the environment. If you're a hardwood floor-owner and natural cleaning methods are your thing, then this list is for you. Brand new or 100 years old, here's how to naturally clean your hardwood floors.

Project step-by-step (7)

Step 1

How to Clean Hardwood Floors: Avoid Water Damage

  • To maintain the sheen on your floors and keep them flat and finished, avoid water damage at all costs.
  • Especially in damp or cold seasons, keep boots and wet shoes off your delicate hardwood.

Even with a high gloss floor polish, wood is still wood, and standing water can do horrible damage to the boards you so carefully picked out or refinished. Even a small puddle left alone can quickly warp wood and sink through to the ceiling below. Years later, you’ll thank yourself for learning how to clean hardwood floors and this dedication to detail.

Step 2

How to Clean Wood Floors with Vinegar and Water

  • Cleaning wood floors with white vinegar and water is highly contested, but it’s definitely worth a try if you’re looking to avoid harmful chemicals.
  • Depending on the strength of acetic acid (the chemical component in vinegar that breaks down oils and sugars) you are looking to apply to your floors, go for anywhere from a half cup to a full cup of vinegar per gallon of water.

Another plus side? If you’re into natural remedies, you likely already have a variety of kinds of vinegar in your cabinet or refrigerator (but probably avoid the red wine variety).

best way to clean hardwood floors

Step 3

Use a Spot-Cleaning Approach

  • In order to avoid water damage, clean small spots frequently with your chosen cleaning solution.
  • While washing wood floors you’re better able to control the amount of liquid you’re putting on the floor and can quickly wash and dry.

This will help avoid large-scale exposure to moisture while still keeping your floors clean.

washing wood floors

Step 4

Give Plant-Based Cleaners a Try

  • Even at the grocery store, you can still find wood floor cleaners that aim to minimize their effect on the environment.

One such company is Method’s Wood for Good line of cleaning products. With everything from daily sprays and polishes to mopping solutions, this plant-based nontoxic formula also smells amazing with a pleasing, non-chemical almond scent (think of freshly baked bear claws and you’ve got the picture). This is the best way to clean hardwood floors and this method even takes it a step further and doesn’t test their products on animals. Natural? Check. Smells good? Check. Appeases the animal-lover in you? Check and check.

how to clean wood floors

Step 5

Minor Floor Repairs Make Hardwood Easier to Clean

  • Pick up a standard wood filler and a putty knife at your local hardware store, and go to town filling and smoothing any noticeable areas.
  • Wait for it to dry, and then work on carefully staining the filled sections to match the original wood.
    • It doesn’t have to be perfect, and the results will astonish you.

If you’re a proud owner of original hardwood flooring in a century-old home, then your boards have likely swelled, shrugged or shrank over time, leaving gaps and crevices. Dust, dirt and even food can easily find their way into these neat little gaps, looking ugly and doing further damage to your hardwood. The solution? Plug those holes.

Step 6

Try Other Homemade Solutions for How to Clean Wood Floors

  • You’ll find a host of ingredients that will do just fine when mixed or diluted with water. Think Castile soap, borax, essential oils and even black tea.
  • Don’t flood your clean wood floors with the mixtures, though, because that could lead to excess water damage. It’s best to just use a damp floor mop.
  • Experiment with the mixtures on a hidden or scrap piece of flooring first to make sure they don’t negatively affect the finish. Here are a few tips for disinfecting hardwood floors.

Step 7

Use Rugs in High Traffic Areas

  • In order to avoid dirtying your hardwood floors in the first place, clean and prep with any of the solutions above, and then carefully place rugs in high traffic areas (think dining room, living room under a coffee table, etc.).
  • However, be sure to regularly clean wood floors underneath the rugs and move them occasionally to avoid uneven wear on your floors from sunlight.