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If you're wondering how to clean wood floors and maintain their integrity, the key is to clean them often and methodically. After all, wood floors take the greatest amount of wear and tear in our homes. Think about all the dust, dirt, grime, and debris you bring in from the outside. Adding children and pets to the mix creates a whole new level of dirt and mess.
Dirty wood floors aren’t simply unclean, but can be damaging to the wood itself, which is expensive to repair, refinish, or at the very worst, replace.
Melissa Witulski, the business operations manager for Merry Maids, stresses the importance of regularly cleaning your floor before it becomes a major task or unmanageable. “I suggest doing a quick cleaning a couple of times per week to your floor to keep it from getting really dirty,” she says.
Is there really a best way to clean wood floors? It depends on your needs as well as your lifestyle. Various kinds of wood flooring, whether solid wood, laminate, or composite, may need to be maintained differently. This applies to how these surfaces are cleaned as well as the products used to maintain them.
First, invest in the right cleaning tools
“The best way to clean hardwood floors is to use a microfiber dust mop to remove dust, dirt, and whatever other particles were brought into your home. The microfiber dust mop will not scratch your floors as some vacuums might.”
The Casabella Magnet Mop ($24.99; bedbathandbeyond.com) is a great microfiber mop for hardwood floors and works just as well on other surfaces including tile, marble, linoleum, and vinyl. Just make sure to have plenty of clean microfiber mop refills ($12.99; bedbathandbeyond.com) on hand. This is also better for the environment than using disposable pads.
If you are wondering how to clean wood floors daily or the best way to clean laminate wood floors, especially when you are short on time—it’s easiest to use a robot vacuum. The Ecovacs Deebot M81 ($299.99; wayfair.com), is a smart choice because it both vacuums and mops. It can also be programmed through an app to clean when you are away from home. Just make sure the wheels and other components are free of dirt and debris every time you use it.
How to clean wood floors naturally
According to Witulski, vinegar is the best cleaner for hardwood floors, and it also happens to be natural, safe, and inexpensive. Witulski suggests making a solution by mixing a quarter cup of apple cider vinegar with a gallon of warm water.
If you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand, alternatively you can add half a cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water to clean any type of floor. If you don’t like the scent of vinegar, just add a few drops of essential oil to mask the smell.
Using this DIY solution not only cleans your floors thoroughly, but it’s also safe for people, pets, and children. Another bonus of cleaning wood floors with apple cider vinegar and water is that it doesn’t leave a film or require rinsing like many store-bought or chemical-based cleaning products. This can also be a good timesaver.
Witulski suggests starting by dusting the surface to remove any dust particles, then fill a bucket with the homemade vinegar solution. After that, use a flat mop with a microfiber cover, dip it into the water mixture and begin cleaning. As you clean, it’s important to remember never to get wood floors too wet because it can remove the finish or potentially cause warping or deterioration.
Keep in mind that finished wood floors don’t necessarily need to be cleaned with vinegar. You can use water only, but be careful that too much doesn’t seep in or it can remove the finish.
How to clean wood floors without water
If you want to clean wood floors without water—that’s also easy. Just choose a product like Method Squirt and Mop Hard Floor Cleaner ($12.80; amazon.com). It requires zero rinsing and it also won’t leave a sticky residue. The shower spray style nozzle also makes the product easy to dispense—no puddles or pooling. This allows you to control the amount you use, so nothing will go to waste. Another bonus is the fresh, earthy scent.
Tips for keeping wood floors clean
Wood flooring can go from sparkling clean to completely filthy in a matter of seconds. A spill, a pair of muddy shoes, or even a dirty dog that comes charging into the house can suddenly become a great nuisance.
Then there is the everyday dirt that’s a result of people coming and going from the home. Witulski says the best way to deal with this is to prevent messes in the first place. She suggests making your home a shoe-free zone. If that isn't something you are comfortable with, purchasing a doormat ($38.99; wayfair.com) and wiping your feet before entering is another alternative. Encourage your guests to do the same.
And don’t forget to wipe down Fido’s paws before he comes back inside from a walk. Consider keeping a portable paw-cleaning device ($14.99; amazon.com) just outside your door or purchase some paw wipes ($16.97; amazon.com).
How to clean unsealed hardwood floors
Unsealed wood floors are different from finished hardwood floors because water can be easily absorbed through the wood, having a greater impact on the life and condition of the flooring. “I suggest using a dust mop regularly, so there is never too much build-up. When you need to do a deeper clean, use a damp microfiber cloth (as needed) and dry immediately with a dry microfiber cloth,” says Witulski.