How to Clean Hardwood Floors the Right Way

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How to clean hardwood floors the right way

Hardwood floors are a beautiful (and durable) choice for many homeowners. They add value to your home and can last for decades with proper care. Yet, like all flooring, they require regular cleaning and maintenance to stay looking their best.

If you want your investment to last for many years to come, you’ll need to learn how to clean hardwood floors correctly. Dousing them in soap and water is certainly not the way to go. By using the proper techniques, you’ll help your beautiful floors last a lifetime – and enjoy the original color and features over the years.

In this guide, we’ll show you the best way to clean hardwood floors so they maintain their original beauty and last for the long haul.

1. Sweep and Vacuum Regularly

Sweep and vacuum hardwood floors regularly

Our first big tip is to sweep and vacuum your floors regularly. This removes accumulated dirt, dust, and debris. Not only that, but it also prevents troublesome particles from being ground into your floor’s finish.

Even if dust doesn’t seem particularly harmful, when left for too long, it can scratch and dull your floors’ surfaces. Pet fur can also cause damage to your floors if not regularly removed.

On a daily basis, use a dry microfiber cloth or broom to sweep your floors. Then, at least once a week, thoroughly vacuum your hardwood floors. If possible, deactivate the brush roll on your vacuum, as this can scratch the floor as you clean.

2. Clean Old Dirt Buildup

Over time, dirt and grime will accumulate on the floor’s surface – no matter how clean your family might be. Even if you don’t see much of a build-up on your floors, the grime is likely there – especially in the most trafficked areas of the house, like in front of the kitchen sink.

For this reason, it’s important to give your floors a deep clean every now and then. At Floors by the Shore, we encourage hardwood floor owners to “deep clean” their floors at least twice a year.

Deep clean hard wood flooring

The best way to do this is with a product that is:


Wax-free products are ideal for hardwood floors because they won’t leave a residue. Cleaning solutions containing wax can make your floors dirtier in the long run, as the wax can build up and attract dirt and dust particles.


It’s important to use a pH-neutral product. These products won’t strip the finish from your floors and are less likely to cause damage. Also, avoid using any vinegar-based solutions, as the acidity can dull or damage your floors over time.


We also recommend avoiding products that contain petroleum. Petroleum-based products can be harsh on hardwood floors, and they can also leave a sticky residue. In addition, these products can be dangerous to your family and pets if inhaled.

If your floor has a penetrating finish, you’ll likely need to strip away the original wax coat and reapply a fresh one after you clean. We recommend using solvent-based hardwood floor wax. Only apply the recommended amount.

3. Polish Hardwood Floors Monthly

Polish hardwood floors

Another element to add to your hardwood floor cleaning list is polishing. You don’t need to do this every time you sweep and vacuum, but once a month should suffice.

The purpose of polishing is to renew and refresh the finish, which protects your hardwood floors. Over time, microscopic scratches will develop and dull the appearance and quality of your hardwood floors.

Polishing will help to disguise these superficial scratches and give your floors a new lease on life. Not only that, you’re both rejuvenating and protecting them from future wear and tear.

Start in a small area and work your way out. First, dust or vacuum the area to remove any loose dirt. Then, apply a small amount of polish to a clean, dry cloth and rub it into the floor in a circular motion. Allow the polish to dry completely before walking on it or moving furniture back into the area.

4. Sand and Finish Floors Yearly 

Sand refinish wood floors

Our cleaning team recommends refinishing your floors at least every five years. Depending on the amount of traffic in your home, you may need to do this more often.

Hardwood floors usually need refinishing when they acquire scratches and gouges, which compromises the protective finish. Although polishing is helpful when it comes to extending your floor’s protection, eventually, the finish should be redone entirely.

Refinishing is a little more involved than polishing, but it’s still a project that many homeowners can do on their own. You can rent the equipment from a local hardware store.

The first step is to sand away the old finish – along with any scratches or damage. You’ll need to use progressively finer grits of sandpaper until the surface is smooth. Once you’re finished sanding, vacuum up all the dust and then apply a new finish. Wait for the finish to dry completely before walking on your hardwood floors.

5. Use Runners and Rugs in High-traffic Areas

Use runners and rugs in high traffic areas

Even if you clean your hardwood floors regularly, they’re still going to show wear and tear in high-traffic areas. This is unavoidable. However, you can limit the amount of damage by using runners and rugs in these areas.

Not only will this help to protect your floors, but it will also add a touch of style and personality to your home. There are thousands of different designs and colors to choose from, so you’re sure to find something that fits your taste and complements your décor.

When choosing runners and rugs, make sure they’re made from natural fibers like wool or cotton. These materials are less likely to cause static build-up, which can attract dirt and dust particles.

6. Avoid Using Water

Never use water on wood floor cleaning

No matter when you’re cleaning your hardwood floors, you never want to apply water as a cleaning solution. Letting water sit, even for reasonably short periods, can seriously damage your floors.

Since hardwoods are so porous, water can cause the planks to swell. It can also seep into the cracks and crevices of your flooring and create problems like mold and mildew.

To avoid water damage, opt for a pH-neutral, petroleum-free product that’s specifically designed for hardwood floors.

It’s critical to dry your floors thoroughly when water is present to reduce damage. If you’re worried about moisture because of the floor’s location (maybe in the kitchen or bathroom), consider applying a water-resistant sealer or wax. These will lessen the effect of water or wet materials.

7. Remove Stains Right Away

Remove stain from hardwood floors right away

If you spill something on your hardwood floors, it’s vital to clean it up right away. The longer a stain sits, the harder it becomes to remove.

To get started, grab a dry, clean cloth and blot up as much of the liquid as possible. If the area is dry, you can vacuum it up. If the stain is more substantial, you’ll need to use a little bit of water and a hardwood floor cleaner.

Apply the solution to a clean cloth, not directly to the floor, and then gently rub the stained area. You may need to use a little elbow grease, but be careful not to scrub too hard. Once the stain is gone, dry the area completely with a clean cloth.

8. Use the Right Ingredients

Use the right hardwood floor cleaning ingredients

Lastly, you should always pay attention to the components you’re using in your cleaning solutions. Of course, you don’t want to use anything that will damage your floors, so be sure to do your research before you start cleaning.

Hardwood floors require specific components, including:


Solvents help speed up the drying process of cleaning hardwood floors. This, in turn, counteracts any risk of moisture build-up during the cleaning process. In addition, a good solvent minimizes the chances of streaks and film being left behind.


A surfactant loosens grease and dirt on your floor, which then makes it easier for your mop to pick it up. You can find surfactants in most hardwood cleaning solutions, but always check the label to be sure.


Chelators are an essential component in any hardwood floor cleaning solution. These chemical compounds react with metal ions to form a soluble complex. As a result, they fight water spots, as well as areas that may have other moisture-related problems.

Citric Acid

This acid breaks up the dirt on hardwood floors and protects the finish. The oil from citrus fruits also prevents further discoloration and damage. Additionally, citric acid is non-toxic and biodegradable, which makes it a great choice for those who are looking for an eco-friendly solution.


An oxidizer releases hydrogen peroxide, which then breaks up dirt on floors that need some tough love. You’ll find oxidizers in many powerful, extra-strength solutions.

As professional floor cleaners, we recommend that you read the back of every product you use and conduct a bit of research. Don’t take ingredients at face value – do your homework to pick a product that will really protect and clean your hardwood floors. Too much wax can leave your floors difficult to clean.

When Necessary, Call in the Floor Professionals

Call the floor professionals for help

Even if you clean your floors regularly, there will come a time when they need a more thorough cleaning than you can provide. If your floors are starting to look dull or scratched, or if they seem to be losing their luster, it might be time to call in professional help.

We have been providing top-tier flooring and carpet cleaning services at Floors by the Shore for years. Our Jersey Shore clients receive timely results at an affordable price. Whether your floors are a year old or 10, we’ll ensure that they regain their original shine and color.

Interested in scheduling a professional hardwood cleaning? Contact us today to receive a price estimate. We’re ready to make your hardwood floors beautiful once again.


Published on: Feb 8, 2021

Updated on: Jul 22, 2022