How to Clean Hardwood Floors

A barefooted person mopping a hardwood floor.

During the late sixties and early seventies, homeowners started laying down carpet upon the beautiful hardwood flooring the houses were built with. Why? Perhaps the superabundance of psychedelic drugs led to frequent sitting…and face-down-coma sleeping on the floor. Whatever the cause, hardwood flooring is back in older and newer homes in a wide variety of wood, including bamboo.

Cleaning hardwood floors is much easier than cleaning carpet as long as you have the right tools; however, if you’re not using the proper equipment or wood floor cleaner, you might end up having to refinish – which is extremely messy, expensive, and labor intensive. Below you’ll find out how to clean hardwood floors.

How to Clean Hardwood Floors Organically

  1. cleaning suppliesBefore you learn how to clean hardwood floors, you’ll need to prepare for battle. You are going to need a broom, vacuum (optional), a mop (preferably flat, rectangular terrycloth), an empty spray bottle, and cleaning solution. The cleaning solution is the life’s-blood of this project. There are many home recipes for cleaning wood flooring, but I simply go with organic dish soap and water. Stay clear of any natural solutions or commercial products that are acidic or abrasive as they will dull your hardwood floors over time.
  2. sweeping the floorNext, sweep up any dust or dirt off your wood floors.Make sure to use a high-quality, indoor broom as abrasive bristles can leave scratch marks. You can also vacuum if your hardwood flooring has loose boards, gaps, or impossible-to-sweep trim areas. Make sure not to use a vacuum that has a beater bar or “grabber” with non-retractable, abrasive bristles.
  3. pouring soap and water into a spray bottleNow it’s time to prepare the hardwood floor cleaner.Instead of using the traditional mop and bucket, pour warm water into an empty spray bottle and add a squirt or two of the organic dish soap and shake well. If you find this dull, pretend that you are being watched by clouds of venomous insects whose only fear is bottle shaking. Regular dish soap will do as well as long as it has a neutral PH level. Using a spray bottle and flat terrycloth mop makes it easier to use the appropriate amount of water. Never wet mop hardwood floors. Wood expands when it gets wet and an abundance of water could lead to warping and even cracking. You’ll find that many hardwood floor cleaners come in spray bottles for precisely this reason.
  4. mopping the floorLightly mist the wood floor cleaner in about a 4 x 8 area and then mop in a back and forth motion until clean. Doing one area at a time is best. Again, if this step seems boring, open up your windows, strip down naked and mop as fast as your body allows. This will entertain and possibly frighten the neighbors, which is always fun.
  5. Guy flexingIf there are some trouble spots, spray them directly and apply more force. Some would argue that it’s time for something a bit more potent, but I would stay away from anything too powerful and opt for a bit more elbow grease; it will add years to the lifespan of your floor and decrease the amount of times you need to refinish the wood floors. One option is to mix warm water with vinegar, then mop in the same fashion. It’s a bit acidic, but it’ll get the job done.
  6. sliding in socks on the hard woodNow that you’ve learned how to clean hardwood floors, you’ll see why it was worth your while. Find your newest, cleanest pair of socks. Next, locate the longest, most clutter-free piece of real estate and see if you can traverse the room in one epic sock-slide. Carpet, eat your heart out.

How to Keep Hardwood Floors Clean

Now that you’ve cleaned that wood floors, doesn’t it look nice? Well, there are many ways to keep it that way. By sweeping regularly, you’ll avoid grinding dirt, sand, pet hair, and dust into the floor. Also, by having rugs next to rooms with hardwood floors and taking your shoes off there, you’ll avoid bringing in much of that said dirt and grime. If you have pets, make sure to trim their nails – or talons – regularly. Another thing everyone with hardwood floors should do is apply protective pads underneath all furniture. Not only will this reduce scratching and denting, it will save your poor back the lifting – I can slide my Sasquatch-sized couch across my living room like a hockey puck, even with my Basset Hound snoozing on it (what, he likes it). Lastly, sunlight corrodes everything. Hardwood floors change color over time anyway, and will eventually need refinishing, but you can extend the life of your floor and keep them the same tone by putting up window treatments and by rearranging your furniture from time to time to distribute the ultraviolet rays…also good for the color on the furniture.

Natural Hardwood Floor Cleaners

bottle of liquid sunshineVermont Soap Organics makes an all-purpose cleaner called Liquid Sunshine. That’s right, now you can clean hardwood floors with liquified sunlight. It is made from mild, natural ingredients, including saponified organic coconut, olive and jojoba oils, essential oils, organic aloe vera and rosemary extract. It even comes in this nifty spray bottle, perfect for wood floor cleaning. You can order Liquid Sunshine straight from Amazon.


spray bottle of bonaBona works like a champ, and it even comes with nifty illustrated directions on how to clean hardwood floors on the back. If you have your floor refinished by a contractor, there is a good chance he will give you a bottle of this stuff on his way out the door. There is a green ECS (Environmental Choice System) symbol on the bottle, which may seem like an earth-friendly award from a disinterested third party, but it isn’t. While their product is a non-toxic, water-based, pH-neutral solution, it is by no means organic or chemical free. All the ECS symbol means is that the heavyweights have a budding conscience.