How to Best Clean Your Hardwood Floors: A Simple Step by Step Guide

So you’ve got a hardwood flooring that needs cleaning but you’re so confused with all the information you’re getting from different sources on the internet. But cleaning hardwood floors is not complicated. It’s really simple, and you can follow this step by step guide on how to clean your hardwood floors.

Below are the steps to cleaning a hardwood flooring which I’ll go through in more detail in later sections:

  1. Find out if you have a finished or unfinished hardwood flooring. If you have an unfinished hardwood flooring, check my other article on how to clean unfinished hardwood flooring.
  2. Dry clean your hardwood floor with a dust mop, broom, or vacuum.
  3. Wet clean your hardwood floor with a damp mop, or a soft cloth, using cleaning products recommended by your flooring manufacturer.
  4. Wipe dry your hardwood floor with a clean dry cloth or mop.

If you’re looking for the best floor cleaning tools and materials, check out the best-rated products here on Amazon.

It’s that simple. Let’s go through each step in detail.

1. Finding Out If Your Hardwood Flooring Finished or Unfinished

Water is the worst enemy of hardwood flooring and if water penetrates your floor, it can cause it to buckle, split, warp, and potentially damage your wood flooring to an irreparable state. So as much as possible, you would want to prevent water from sipping in your hardwood floors.

Hardwood floors can be finished or unfinished. Finished hardwood floors potentially are sealed and have a barrier against moisture. It is protected against possible water penetration. On the other hand, unfinished hardwood floors are not sealed and would suck in any moisture it gets in contact with, potentially causing damage.

Before you do any type of cleaning, since you may be using some type of liquid cleaners, it is best to check first if you have a finished or unfinished hardwood flooring.

Most newly installed hardwood floors, and in most modern houses, it will be finished with either a type of urethane that builds a film of coat on the surface, or some kind of wax or oil that penetrates deep within the surface. Both finishes seal and protect hardwood flooring against moisture.

On the otherhand, older houses built probably in the 50s, may have unfinished hardwood floors.

To check if you have a finished or unfinished hardwood floor, choose an inconspicuous area of your flooring and drop a tiny bead of water. If the water beads and settles on the surface of the floor, you have a finished hardwood floor. If however, it gets absorbed by the floor quickly, you have an unfinished hardwood floor.

You can proceed to the next steps if you do have a finished hardwood floor. For cleaning unfinished hardwood flooring, check my other article here.

2. Dry Clean Your Hardwood Flooring

Now that you’ve confirmed that you do have a finished hardwood flooring, we can proceed to clean it by first sweeping and removing any dirt and dust particles that is on the surface.

Any dirt, dust, and tiny particles that linger on the surface of your hardwood flooring could cause small scratches and damage to the finish when you start dragging, wiping, or mopping your cleaning tools. So it is best to sweep and dust them off first before proceeding to the next steps.

You can either use a broom, dry mop, or vacuum to do this. It would be wise to invest in the right types of cleaning tools when cleaning your floors so that you avoid damaging the hardwood flooring.

Using a Broom or Dust Mop

If you’re using a broom, use a soft bristle type to avoid scratching your floor’s surface or damaging the finish.

A dry dust mops are my favorite, as they are static charged and will attract dust, dirt, and even pet hairs. As opposed to just dragging and pushing dirt and dust into a pile, dry mops does a good job attracting and picking up most of the dirt and dust into itself.

You can either use a disposable type or a washable type. Any of these would work well picking up dirt from the floor.

Below are my recommendations for different types of brooms and dry dust mops:

LandHope Rubber BroomThis is a broom with rubber bristles that could easily pick-up dust, dirt, and even pet hairs more efficiently than ordinary brooms.
It has an adjustable handle and it’s easy to clean just by washing under a tap.
Check in Amazon
Superio Kitchen and Home Horsehair BroomA broom with bristles made from soft horsehair and polypropylene good to use for hardwood floors.
It can easily gather dust, dirt, and debris.
Check in Amazon
O-Cedar Dual-Action Microfiber Sweeper Dust MopThis is a sweeper dust mop that comes with a flexible microfiber head.
The microfiber is dense and can pick-up dust, dirt, and hair.
The microfiber is washable up to 50x. Refills are also available if needed.
Check in Amazon

Using a Vacum on your Hardwood Floors

If you prefer using a vacuum, make sure that the vacuum you’ll be using are hardwood floor friendly.

First-off, check your vacuum manual if it can be used on hardwood floors. There will be vacuums that are to be used solely for carpets and will have brush rolls that may scratch the finish of your hardwood floors when used. If you’re buying a new vacuum, go for one that is designed both for carpet and hard floors. Those types of vacuums have a setting to lift or remove the brush rolls.

Also, since you’ll be rolling your vacuum cleaner around, check its wheels for any debris of dirt or dust that may cause scratching the surface. Vacuum cleaners with rubber wheels are preferred, as plastic or vinyl wheels may scratch your floor’s finish.

Below are my recommendations for vacuum cleaners for hardwood flooring:

Bissell Cleanview Upright Bagless Vacuum CleanerThis vacuum has a powerful multi cyclonic suction system that sucks in dirt easily.
Also has multi-level filtration and can be used on various floor surfaces including hardwood floors.
Check in Amazon
MOOSOO Cordless Vacuum 4 in 1It has a 20-35 mins. cordless running time with a very powerful suction power.
Works well with multiple types of surfaces including hardwood floors.
A very light weight vacuum at only 3.3 lbs.
Check in Amazon
Shark Navigator Lift-Away Deluxe NV360 Upright VacuumThis vacuum has an upright mode and a lift-away mode where in you can separate the cleaning pod to use for awkward areas.
You can use this in most surfaces including hardwood floors, and carpets.
Lightweight, weighs 13lbs.
Check in Amazon

3. Wet Clean Your Hardwood Flooring

Now that you’ve swept your floors, it’s time for the wet cleaning. For low-traffic areas, sweeping and dry mopping is enough to clean the floor, but for high-traffic areas, it would be best to also perform a deep clean by mopping or cleaning with a damp cloth.

A build-up of waxy or sticky substance on the hardwood floor’s surface also calls for wet cleaning.

You need to understand that wet cleaning does not mean saturating your mop or cloth with water or cleaning solution. When using a wet mop or cloth, make sure that you’ve squeezed it almost dry and should just be a little damp to the touch before wiping it to the floor.

Also understand that using the wrong type of cleaning solution that damages your flooring would void the warranty of your hardwood flooring. It is then best to always check with your flooring manufacturer for their recommendations on the right type of cleaning solutions to use.

In most cases, using only water is enough to wipe off any dirt, oil, or grime from the surface. A small cap of liquid detergent mixed to a bucket of water can also be used as a cleaning solution if you need help in lifting off build-up of any sticky substance off the hardwood floor’s surface.

There are commercial wood cleaning solutions you can also use to wet clean the floors. Some are mixed with a bucket of water, while some can be sprayed straight from the bottle. In any case, make sure they pH neutral and won’t damage your floor’s finish.

Always follow the cleaning solutions instructions when using them.

If you’re unsure if the cleaning solution is okay to use, try using it first in an inconspicuous area of your floor first. In most cases, a pH neutral cleaning solution will work well with any hardwood floors. Also avoid solutions that have wax and oil in them as they will damage the finish of your hardwood floors.

There are homemade cleaning solutions you can mix and use, with ingredients that are all available in your cupboard. It should be used with caution though as a wrong mixture may dull the finish of your hardwood floor. To learn more about it, check my article on this link.

The best way to mop your floor is to follow the direction your boards are running, it will also prevent your mop from getting caught by the edges of the boards. Work on a small area at a time. Mop towards the direction of the door to avoid backing up into a corner and walking on a newly mopped floor.

Below are my recommendations for mops and cleaning solutions to use for hardwood floors:

O-Cedar Easywring Microfiber Spin Mop & Bucket Floor Cleaning SystemThis is an easy-wring, hands-free microfiber spin mop.
It has a triangular head design for moping at room corners.
Microfiber is washable and can be used for both wet and dry situations
Check in Amazon
BOOMJOY Microfiber Flat Mop with BucketThis a flat mop and also has a hands-free self wringing system.
Pads are washable and can be used multiple times.
Check in Amazon
Murphy 101103 Oil Soap LiquidA pH neutral soap that’s good to use for your hardwood floors.Check in Amazon
Bona Hardwood Floor CleanerA hardwood floor recommended by most hardwood floor manufacturer. It also has a Greenguard gold certification, which means it’s safe with kids and pets.Check in Amazon

Things to Watch Out for When Wet Cleaning your Hardwood Floors

I could not stress enough that water penetration will damage your hardwood floors.

Although finished hardwood floors are sealed, water could still penetrate the surface if there are joints or cracks that got damaged, and where water could sip into. So in order to mitigate this kinds of situation, make sure of the following:

  1. Mops should be squeezed dry and just damp enough to the touch.
  2. Never let water or any type of liquid sit too long on the surface of your hardwood floors.
  3. Wipe dry your floors of any liquid as soon as you can.

You Can Also Use a Steam Mop to Wet Clean your Hardwood Floors

Experts have different opinions about their use but in my opinion, you can use steam mops to effectively clean your hardwood floors by being cautious of how you use it.

Steam mops are great at cleaning and sanitizing your floors at the same time without using any type of harsh chemicals.

When using steam mops, control the flow of steam. Don’t use the strongest setting as you may push moisture into the hardwood floor. Never hover too long on a single area so that you don’t saturate the surface with water.

Also, if you think the finish of your hardwood floor has damage, and steam could get inside through the damaged parts then hold off using a steam mop until you have resealed or refinished your hardwood floors. Revert back to the conventional damp mop for wet cleaning.

Below are my recommendations for steam mops:

BISSELL PowerFresh Steam MopCleans and sanitizes most hard floor surfaces, including hardwood.
It has 3 levels of steam depending on your cleaning needs.
Also comes with fragrance discs for a fresh clean scent.
Check in Amazon
Steam Mop Cleaner ThermaPro 10-in-1This steam mop cleaner can be used for multiple surfaces, including hardwood floors. With the detachable handheld unit, you can also use it for other surfaces besides the floor.Check in Amazon

4. Wipe Dry Your Hardwood Flooring

After wet cleaning your floors, use a dry microfiber cloth and wipe it dry. You can also turn on your AC or electric fan, if the weather is a little humid, to help dry your hardwood floors faster.

Remember, standing water could sip in the cracks or joints of your hardwood floors, so check all the areas of your floor and wipe them dry.

And you’re done!

How Often Do You Need To Clean Your Hardwood Flooring

How often you need to clean your hardwood floors really depends on how the area is being used and how low or high traffic is in the area.

In most cases, low-traffic areas, a weekly sweeping and dry cleaning already do wonders to avoid dust and grime build-up on the surface. You can then do a wet cleaning or mopping once a month.

High-traffic areas such as in your kitchen, dining, or living room would benefit in a once or twice a week of mopping, along with the regular sweeping, of your hardwood floors.

Additional Tips on Cleaning and Maintaining Your Hardwood Flooring

Here are some additional tips when cleaning your hardwood floors.

  1. If you’ll be moving furniture around as you’re cleaning the floor, it’s wise to use furniture pads you can put to the legs of your furniture. This will help you slide your furniture easily aside without scratching your floor.
  2. Lessen dirt that comes into your house by providing a floor mat to trap dirt and dust to both on the outside and inside of your exterior door. It may also be wise to have a boot removal area and a shelf to store your shoes in just outside your door.
  3. Use paw wipes or portable paw cleaning devices for your pets to clean your pet’s paws before entering the house.
  4. Look for Greenguard Gold Certified hardwood floor cleaners. These cleaners are certified safe for use in homes with kids and pets.

Here are products I recommend for these:

X-PROTECTORFurniture felt pads for wood floor protection.Check in Amazon
LuxUrux Durable Rubber Door MatGreat heavy-duty outdoor mat that captures mud, dirt, and moisture from your shoes.Check in Amazon
Dog Paw CleanerA nice portable pet paw cleaner you can use to clean your pet’s paws before they enter the house.Check in Amazon


He is an architect for more than 20 years. He is passionate about design and architecture and enjoys sharing his knowledge and information with people as well.

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