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Best way to clean wood floors?

Emily H
January 17, 2014
Do you have a tried and true method for cleaning wood floors that preserves the finish and helps them stay beautiful?

Share your experience! (Photos encouraged)

Park Slope Brownstone · More Info

Comments (249)

  • nattyj21

    I have had great results with using Rejuvenate floor cleaner for hardwood, once floors are dry I follow that by Rejuvenate Shine Refresher. In my previous (my first home) I had high-end laminate "wood floors" installed from the builder, I ruined them by using every cleaner on the market until finally the wax from "quick shine" finally started coming (peeling) off a year later, which is when I discovered rejuvenate for the first time at Home Depot. My home now was a former model home and I've been very careful about using no other cleaner except rejuvenate but I have used a mixture of 1 part vinegar, to two parts water and a couple drops of original Dawn dish soap in a pinch when I've been out of cleaner. The previous home owners who bought my home as it was sold after being a model home, only lived in the home 1 year and she used Bona. I have tried Bona but it's yet to produce good results for me. I like the "shiny look" even though my floors are hand scraped and not shiny. I also have NO idea on the manufacturer, hardwood floor type, sealed/unsealed, etc as I have no product information from the builder as it was sold as a model. I am only guessing the floors are hand scraped, as I really have no idea, if they are or not. One thing I am positive of, is that they are high quality and withstand abuse from my 3 dogs (2 pug puppies & a 100lb black lab) and my 7 year-old rowdy son. The difference between my old laminate "wood" floors and my floors now is like night and day & the laminate floors were supposed to be "higher end" simulating real wood, costing $9/sqft but they warped, got damaged from wearing high heels, chipped easily and separated. Luckily, they served a purpose on experimenting with various cleaning methods & products. (BTW never use a steam mop!)

  • gelbard49

    I have engineered wood floors. Have heard the comments about Bona, not so much the cleaning solution but the polishing. There are so many conflicting opinions about whether to use vinegar and water. One website that sells engineered wood say NEVER to use vinegar and water, but I see lots of people do. I just made up a concoction recommended on some website - not sure which as it was sometime ago. Just tried it on a small area and seems to be OK. If anyone wants this recipe let me know.


  • PRO
    OMNIA Group Architects

    Can you publish it...or Private message me with that recipe.

  • gelbard49

    The mix is: 2 TBS olive oil
    2 TBS lemon juice
    2TBS alcohol
    6 TBS Old English lemon oil
    24 OZ water
    Put in a spray bottle. Needs to be shaken up while using.
    Use with a damp terry mop, but be sure to follow quite quickly with dry towel, as water is a no no for engineered floors.


  • PRO
    Concreate

    I have worked in the flooring industry for 15 years and I think whilst a lot of the comments here are valid, there is one key thing to consider when you are looking to clean your hardwood/wood floor.

    It is key that you know what your floor is sealed with and there are two basic options:

    1. Lacquer or varnish which is a surface coating which is applied in built up layers which completely seals the wood. This creates a fairly tough surface which requires very little maintenance. Floors usually have between 3 - 6 layers of lacquer which if factory applied is cured under a UV light which hardens each coat. A lacquered/varnished surface can be cleaned with most household cleaners without fear of damage. I would avoid using acidic or alkaline cleaners which may eat away at the lacquer which could be aluminium or polyurethane based. Instead opt for a low pH cleaner and a micro fibre pad. Always avoid steam cleaners and using too much water which can enter the joints and cause the wood to expand.

    2. Oil or Oil & Waxed which are my personal preference as they allow the wood to breath and give a far more natural feel and appearance. Oiled floors can vary but normally have up to 3 coats of oil, each coat is applied and buffed into the surface, sometime the coats are cured quickly with a UV light. Alternatively a hardwax oil can be used which oxidises so that each coat builds up a surface, this is more like a lacquer but must still be treated as an oiled floor. Again acidic floor cleaners which contain ingredients like lemon juice, citronella and vinegar should be avoided as these will eat away at the oil and make the floor porous. Too much water should also be avoided as it will cause the pores to expand and the surface will become rough.

    It is always best to use a natural soap which contains a mild detergent and most importantly natural plant oil like soya and coconut. Natural soap will cleanse the floor and condition it as the same time. Rather than gradually strip the oils form the surface for the wood it will add a protective film each time the floor is cleaned. The more you clean an oiled floor with Natural Soap the better.

    I work for Concreate and we manufacture a concrete floor which is sealed with oil and we also recommend using a natural oil soap for its maintenance.

    Acidic cleaners with Lemon and Alkaline cleaners with Vinegar will clean and remove grease and grime but by their very nature they will also remove the oil and wax from the surface of your floor so they should be avoided.

    Richard Osbourn, Concreate®

  • gelbard49

    Thank you for your advice regarding cleaning and maintaining wood floors. Can you supply any brand names of natural soap?
    Thank you


  • PRO
    Concreate

    Wood's Good Natural Soap is excellent, it cleans well and adds natural oils to the floor, sealing the pores of the hardwood, we recommend it for both our concrete and oak top layer floors.

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    I can find the Woca's Natural Soap for OILED OR WAXED or SOAPED wood floors (not for use with urethane/polyurethane/acrylic finishes) and I can find Dr Woods facial soaps.

    Can you provide a link to the Woods Good Natural Soap. When a wood floor is finished with urethane/polyurethane or acrylic (or hybrids thereof) it does not need "oils added". This would be a horrendous problem.

    Oiled, waxed or soaped floors can receive "oil" soaps...the rest should not. Would love to see the link so I can accurately assess the concerns for "Wood's Good Natural Soap".


  • PRO
  • maxtimmer
    I used Bona just last weekend. I also used several clean towels. I cleaned in sections and from my hands and knees, I completed then in two days.
  • ruthmand

    @ maxtimmer, please invest in a Bona applicator. It is available at most stores in the cleaning products section (long handle, reservoir & pad), not very expensive and will save your back & knees as well as get the job done in no time at all. Worth every penny!

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    @gelbard...the oil mixture you have listed is guaranteed to RUIN a hardwood floor finish inside of 5-7 years. A polyurethane/urethane/laquer/Aluminum Oxide will become very upset with the "oil soap mixture" you have just listed for millions of people to see. This is the type of mixture that will grab dust/dirt and turn it into sticky sand paper. This sand paper will effectively eat through these finishes inside of 7-10 years. Refinishing may never be possible because it is deathly difficult to strip this amount of oil/dirt/gum residue from a floor. Resanding could require 5-6 passes instead of the regular "3 passes". If that oil penatrates the finish, it will contaminate the wood making a new finish impossible to grab. Sanding down several more millimeters = taking off 10-20 years worth of wear surface.

    Please do not share this recipe with anyone until you have ascertained what type of finish they have on their floor. I've seen this type of recipe strip the finish off of cork inside of 4 years. A 1500sf "remove" and repurchase of cork does not a happy client make.

  • PRO
  • pippy36
    methylated spirits in a bucket of hot water
  • plc02

    I use a small amount of windex and water and a dry generic cloth on my swiffer. I can't use a swiffer dry cloths because they have a wax and fragrance on them that cannot get wet or it will be a filmy mess, (I've made that mistake.) I have searched for the exact wax and fragrance ingredients to see if they are unhealthy to use as a dry sweep, and while it does make the floor shiny when using as a dry sweep, I'm not sure if there's harmful ingredients to use daily, especially around pets and babies who play on the floor. If anyone knows what exactly is on the dry swiffer cloths I'd love your feedback.

  • PRO
    One Clean Decision Maid Service

    I have been cleaning homes for a long time now. I started out with Bona on hardwood floors but switched to the shark hardwood floor cleaner when I started getting regular clients. After a while they noticed the floors streaking so they asked me to use vinegar water. That worked great for a long time. I am now cleaning a home that has a Swedish finish and they want to use Bona so I switched back for their home. However, I am realizing that Bona is actually leaving a film on the floors. So I would really like some help on what nontoxic, biodegradable cleaner to use with hardwood floors. I have read dish soap and water (I use kirkland brand) but have also heard not to. Please, let me know what's best!

  • Michael Boice

    We have dark oak floors that were refinished two years ago. We have tried just about every product listed - good and bad - and every technique. Bona was the very first product in fact. Every attempt leaves a haze that allow bare feet, feet with socks, paw prints from house pets to leave prints. We tried steaming the floors...this does not work and I'm not a fan of steam for so many reasons. I hand cleaned and waxed a small portion of the floor...as soon as the entire floor is damp mopped the haze covers the nicely waxed area.

    Have we considered water quality? We have extremely hard water that runs through a softener. At some level the dissolved solids - 600-700ppm in our water - must contribute to the haze?

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    @One Clean....Swedish finish can't accept regular cleaners. Damp mopping is all that is really needed. On the rare occasion that the Swedish finish needs a bit deeper clean (1/month) you can work with a 10:1 water:vinegar solution. ONCE PER MONTH.

    Shark Hardwood floor cleaner....is that the STEAM MOP? If so, please do NOT use it on hardwood. Steam "cooks" the surface. Steam will cause hazing (looks filmy white) inside of 10 years. Bona cleaner should be used SPARINGLY (once/month). Over use of these wood cleaners = dull, sticky finish = streaking. I've spoken with the people at Bona and they have stated that OVER USE OF THEIR CLEANER is causing streaking. To get rid of the haze = Bona floor STRIPPER. Yep. You might need to STRIP these floors of the product you've added to their floor.

    Over use of vinegar solutions = hazing of finish. Again, these only need 1/month with a "cleaner". You could be over doing. If you offer a WEEKLY service, you may have to explain to the hardwood floor owners that you will use damp mop (water only) for 3 out of 4 visits. The fourth clean = mild cleaner.

    Clean, Microfibre mops...with removeable/washable heads so that each floor gets a new mop head. Steam mops are forbidden on hardwood. Please do not use the Shark on hardwood.

    Steam is good for: glass, porcelain/ceramic/stone and metal. Concrete floors might not accept steam (some epoxys do not like steam). Steam can ruin: hardwood, vinyl, lino, cork, bamboo, drywall, trim, etc.

  • resist9

    Whoever at Bona is telling people that their product isn't good for grease and heavy dirt because it's "water based" and to use vinegar and water, doesn't know what they're talking about.

    Vinegar and water is also "water based."

  • classysass
    I first bought a microfiber mop about 25 years ago at Costco. I got so hooked on it that I've replaced it a couple of times. I've even given one to friends and family as gifts. I have one in the box new to take to work tomorrow. I won't use anything else. I get them online at Star Mop. It comes with a sturdy telescoping handle and a rectangular microfiber mop head that is attached with Velcro. After I mop a section (even after I first sweep) I take the mop head off and rinse and wring it out and put it back on. I always have an extra clean one on hand too. Then just throw in the washing machine and dryer. They last forever. Cost is about $27 including shipping. Beats the heck out of Swiffer.
  • PRO
    One Clean Decision Maid Service

    @Cancork Floor inc, no we do not ever use steam on wood floors. This is a mop that moved back and forth to softly scrub the floor with a microfiber pad.

    So for the Swedish finished floors, water is best for weekly cleanings and only use vinegar water once per month. What would the best mixture for that be?

    Also, with other types of floors what do you recommend?

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    I've given my recommendations. If you feel you must use water:vinegar then the pH neutral mix = 10:1

    You might find it worth your professional time to go visit a high(er) end hardwood flooring store. They will have people and staff and product for you to look at and chat with. I would find someone locally who produces a Swedish Finish and chat with them re: maintenance. Best bit of detective work you will do for your client.

    If you are having a hard time handling Bona, then you will need some local, expert advice. I always tell HOMEOWNERS to PROVIDE the cleaning staff with the PRODUCT needed for THEIR FLOORS. And a set of instructions. That's the only way a HOMEOWNER can be sure their hardwood floors are being treated in the best way possible.

    I always cringe when I see a cleaning service show up with a bunch of cleaning products. It is a sure-fire way to have issues in the future.

    How often and HOW were you using the Bona? The streaking is almost always due to over use. Many people have found that slightly damp (water only) damp cleaning removed the Bona build up. Water only (stay clear of mop heads that have a product applied to them...swiffer dry mops have wax added = wax build up).

  • jessenonna

    We were advised the following by our hardwood floor professional, who recently refinished our 70 year-old oak floors using Bona Traffic: clean them with a microfiber mop using Bona cleaner. A damp--not wet--microfiber mop clean is ok. Never use Murphy's Oil Soap products, steam mops, vinegar, oils, or waxes. I follow this protocol: vacuum often with the right vacuum, use a dust mop, and clean when needed.

  • PRO
    One Clean Decision Maid Service

    After all my research and contacting many floor specialists I have found this: Finished on-site or are factory-finished- Mop using water (misting the floor) and a microfiber pad for weekly or more use. Once a month use a hardwood floor cleaner, not vinegar water since it has no drying agent, no wax or oils. Always get the pad damp prior to mopping and rinse the pad with warm water as it gets dirty.

    Wax floors should not be cleaned the same. They need to be buffed and waxed.

  • sabens

    One Clean...did the professionals happen to mention a "hardwood floor cleaner" that is good to use once a month? I am hoping it isn't Bona. I've been using that once a month for the last year and have experienced the same cloudy hazing others have mentioned. Thanks.


    Cancork Floor, thank you for your input.

  • PRO
    One Clean Decision Maid Service

    They said that any floor cleaner with a drying agent should work. They also said you should be misting the floor and basically dry mopping until you come to a spot that there is something stuck and use a little if the cleaner.

  • Cathy Reeck

    I have tried all the products out there, including the famous and very pricey "Bona". Bona was the biggest let down. Leaves and dull film and my floors look gray. Murphy's wood soap with a damp mop, followed by a microfiber cloth to dry. Very labor intensive.

  • PRO
    ULTIMATE HARDWOOD LTD
    For a poly urethane or aluminum oxide finished floor try Glitsa floor cleaner. It's ph balanced and works quite well. Never use Murphy oil soap. Ever! For a wax or an oiled floor you will need a specialty cleaner made for that such as monocoat cleaner or what have you.
  • mgmv77

    We bought a house with beautiful hardwood floors. The last owners used Morphy oil but they barely live in it nor had hi traffic at all. Now I have three kids. We all use sleepers at home. Still how should I clean. I used Bona and looks a tiny hazy. Should I keep using Murphy. Vinegar plus water? At least once? How often? Anything..... Please help!!

  • mgmv77

    This a pic from the mommy of three.

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    The Murphy's Oil will BOND (read: glue) other material to them. You may have to STRIP the old Murphy's Oil from the floor (yes...you now pay the penalty of the other homeowner using the WRONG product).

    Once you have the old stuff OFF the floor, NOW you start using the right cleaners. There are many people who have problems with Bona turning hazy. And if you speak with Bona, they will tell you it is 99% "user error" - aka TOO MUCH cleaner used on the floor.

    First: remove everything that has ever been on that floor. You can find a decent floor stripper from a high-end hardwood flooring store. Most likely hands and knees stuff - or if it is really bad you can pay them for a screening.

    Second: Find a pH neutral hardwood floor cleaner (like Glitza, Loba or Polywhey). Please USE IT as it is intended for use. Do NOT spray cleaner directly onto the floor. It is always applied to a microfibre mop head and then the mop is pushed around the floor.

    To be clear, the "cleaner" is used 1-2 per MONTH. Yah. Every 2 - 4 weeks. The rest is sweeping/vacuuming (turn of the beater bar/electric rotating head) and "water damp mop" (very lightly damp) to remove the finer particles.

    All of this happens once you remove all the old cleaners from the floor. Sorry but you have to clean up after the original homeowner - and then you start your correct cleaning routine.

  • mgmv77

    I appreciate your advice. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer.

  • ruthmand

    FYI: Bona says that one spray will cover a 4 foot square area. I have been following those instructions for 4 years now and have had excellent results. Remember that it is NOT a wax, it is a cleaner.

  • PRO
    Concreate

    Just a word of warning while I think of it, many kits which say that are multi purpose i.e. They will clean both oiled and lacquered surfaces.

    ...come with a micro fibre pad, In my opinion you should avoid using micro fibre on an oiled surface, instead opt for lambswool or a synthetic or cotton lint free mop pad.

    The micro fibres can abrade the surface of an oiled wood floor, causing it to become rough and more porous.

  • PRO
    ULTIMATE HARDWOOD LTD
    Lol that's too funny. If I understand you correctly your saying that a microfibre mop abrades/etches the finish even when the mfg sells these for their own finish?
    a) how have you come to this conclusion?
    b) what is your exp with hwo's? How many have you tried?
    I think your comment is very misleading .
  • PRO
    Concreate

    Not at all, I take my advice from the Danish Oil manufacturers Woca and Faxe. Try for yourself take a Micro fibre cloth and rub it on a wet oiled oak surface.

  • PRO
    ULTIMATE HARDWOOD LTD
    I've done it many x. Use rubio for about 10 yrs. Tried fiddes,woca,duraseal,Arboritec,Odies oil,Berger,Blanchon,Biosheild. I'd suggest cleaning the microfibre mop properly-which is not in the laundry fyi.
  • PRO
    Concreate

    Fair point Rubio is a high solid oil and will act more like a lacquered surface so less likely to be abraded.

  • PRO
    ULTIMATE HARDWOOD LTD
    Rubio is not like a lacquer at all. It's a penetrating finish. Osmo and fiddes are film forming like a poly.
  • laims
    The Norwex mop works great and you only need water. No streaks.
  • HerrProfessorDoktor

    We have really dark wood floors-chocolate. While I love them when freshly cleaned they are a giant pain in the butt to keep clean and looking nice and that nice clean look last a day at best with foot, paw prints. I've yet to find a system that works best. Used Bona and found that it becomes a tradeoff between using enough to get things "clean" but when you do that it inevitably leaves a film after 2-3 cleanings. On dark floors the film is much more noticeable than if you have lighter hued wood. I find myself using a weak vinegar solution(half cup to a gallon of water) in a spray bottle and microfiber mop once a month

  • PRO
  • Patty Talana
    I have had wood floors for years now, I use my ultimate cleaning cloth on a daily basis. Simply wet cloth, wring it to almost dry and wipe, that's it. Your floors will look amazing, once a week I use Methods wood floor cleaner, mainly for the amazing almond scent.
  • Jeanette Dulley
    Had anyone used Pine Sol on an engineered floor?
  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    Please don't. Pine Sol is a solvent. It's in the name "Sol". It is an aggressive cleaner that is amazing on things like glass, concrete, porcelain, stone, etc. I would stay away from these harsh "all around" cleaners. The first few years of use won't show much. But after that (year 5 - 7) it will start to eat away at the finish which shortens the life span of the finish.

    And engineered hardwood has a wear layer that is 2mm - 6mm thick. If you have a floor that has the THINNER wear surface, you are risking the "death" of your floors much sooner than if you simply cleaned with a pH neutral hardwood floor cleaner.

    Good luck. Don't believe the commercials or the company statement "Good for all surfaces". They never are.

  • Jeanette Dulley
    Thank you. I will try Bona.
  • mod_ man

    What is best to sterilize hardwood floors. I do it about every 2 weeks. Right now I use diluted Lysol liquid

  • PRO
    Cancork Floor Inc.

    You don't sterilize wood. You can clean it...but you can never sterilize it. And even 'clean' would be considered "dirty" in a hospital setting.

    If you continue with your "diluted lysol liquid" on your hardwood you run the risk of ruining the finish (premature aging of the finish = premature failure of the finish) within a decade. That's a total bummer if you were hoping for 25 years worth of service.

    If you really MUST HAVE something that comes close to "clean" (as defined by hospital protocol) you can work with 90% Rubbing Alcohol. But be VERY aware that you MUST HAVE all the windows open and that you should be able to remove yourself from the situation very quickly. Over exposure to that level of rubbing alcohol (imagine cleaning 1000sf of flooring with 2 litres of rubbing alcohol) can cause dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches or black outs. That's why it should only be used sparingly and in a well ventilated area.

    Or you can stick with a pH neutral hardwood floor cleaner with a lemony scent.

  • PRO
    Momentum Janitorial

    The frequency of floor cleaning depends on the wear on the floor.Regular cleaning and periodic maintenance plays a very vital role for maintaining any surfaces.At Momentum Janitorial, we maintain the floors for all types of faces,like Hardwood,tile,slate,marble etc.that can extend the lifespan of your floors to save money on repairs and replacements.We follow the SHEA principle when it comes to floor cleaning and will guarantee that we use only those products that are recognized as being safe to human health and not harmful to the environment.Keep sharing.

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