Cleaning Hardwood Floors

By HomeAdvisor

Updated November 18, 2016

Hardwood Flooring

Though hardwood flooring has been around for quite some time, there is still some confusion about the best way to maintain it. One of the biggest problems that people come across when it’s time to clean it is that there are so many different types of hardwood available, and some finishes require different care than others. Hardwood cleaning is far from rocket science, however, and with the right materials, tools, and guidelines, anyone can see great results.

To Best Clean Hardwood, Get Professional Advice

First off, when you get a new hardwood floor installed, it is a good idea to ask the folks doing the job about what should and shouldn’t be used to on your floor. In most cases, they will be able to give you a good idea of what to purchase and the techniques they would use as professionals to clean your particular type of flooring.

Unfortunately, most people who are looking for advice on hardwood floor cleaning are simply not around for the installation of their floor (and many times, the floor was installed a generation or two too early for the installers to be asked questions about its care today). You may want to talk to a professional who specializes in restoration about hardwood cleaning, especially if your floor was installed many years ago.

Engineered and Laminate Hardwood Floor Cleaning

Probably the easiest type of cleaning is not really hardwood cleaning, at all. Engineered lumber and laminate flooring were created to have the appearance of wood (and in the case of engineered products, a surface of genuine wood) without all of natural hardwood’s complications. Both products require a quick sweep, vacuum, or dust mop a few times a week, and each can be damp mopped so long as a minimal amount of water is used. Neither product should be wet mopped, waxed, or sanded. Make sure to clean up spills ASAP, and avoid soap based detergents and “mop and shine” type products, as they can leave a film on the surface of these floors.

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Classic Hardwood Cleaning

Though new hardwood floors are generally sealed with urethane, you can still easily find classic wax sealed hardwood flooring in older houses. In these situations, hardwood cleaning can be a bit of a chore. Once again, clean up spills immediately to prevent stains. These floors are particularly vulnerable to liquid, so it’s never a good idea to use a wet or even a damp mop to clean them. Vacuum, sweep, or dust mop often to prevent scratches caused by tracked in dirt, and periodically buff the floor to make it shine. These floors sometimes need to be partially sanded and re-waxed to remove individual stains. Once wax builds up thick enough and floors loose their luster, the wax must be stripped and a new layer of wax should be applied.

Cleaning Hardwood Floors Sealed with Urethane

Modern, urethane sealed hardwood floor cleaning is a lot like cleaning engineered or laminate floors. These, however, are more susceptible to moisture damage, and shouldn’t be mopped. Never wax a urethane sealed floor, as it can severely damage the finish, or even void your warranty. Urethane finishes are more durable than wax finishes, but can still be scratched. It is a good idea to vacuum, sweep or dry mop frequently to prevent damage.


  1. deck builder seattle, October 31:

    I’m planning on getting hardwood flooring in my kitchen. It’s good to know that you should get your floor refinished and recoated every 3-5 years. Something else to consider is to get your floor installed and cared for by the same company so that you can be sure it will last a long time.

  2. Marilyn, January 25:

    We bought a new home in 2010. The upstairs has hardwood floors except for one bedroom that has carpet. What I have noticed over the years is that that scratch easily and in the kitchen there are spots where the sine has come off. I am very disappointed with them. Is there a builders grade of hardwood that is cheaply made that could have been installed? I have tried everything except having a floor repair person out to look at them. And do they charge to come out and see if floors are worth repairing?

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