How to Clean Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are an investment. They add warmth and natural beauty to any space. However, just as is the case with all floors, hardwood floors can take a major beating with everyday life in general. While hardwood floors are beautiful on their own, clean wood floors are exceptional. Here is a super simple, budget-friendly tutorial on how to clean hardwood floors that takes just a few minutes but that will make your wood floors gleam.

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Step 1: Remove all removable items from your hardwood floors: rugs, chairs, table, other furniture. (If you don’t have furniture pads for the feet of your furniture, it’s highly recommended that you get some so your furniture doesn’t scratch your hardwood floors.) Wash these as appropriate, so when your floors are clean, you’re not dragging dirty stuff right back onto them.

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If you have floor-length curtains anywhere around your hardwood floors, it’s a good idea to drape them up over the curtain rod so they don’t drag or become muddy or discolored themselves as you’re cleaning.

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Step 2: Sweep the floor. Some people jump right into dust mopping or vacuuming the floor here, but I like to give it a good sweep and collect all the larger particles before doing anything else.

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Step 3: Dry mop the floor. Working with the grain as much as is practical, dry mop (or vacuum) to collect any remaining dust, debris, and other particles that sweeping may have missed. This will make cleaning your floors have optimal cleanliness impact when you’re done.

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Step 4: Fill your kitchen sink about a third or halfway with hot water, and add a few drops of dish detergent. Most dish soap is a gentle pH-neutral cleaning agent, making it ideal for cleaning hardwood floors that could otherwise be harmed by harsh cleaning products. (Note: This method is recommended only for hardwood floors with a polyurethane sealer; wood floors that are lacquered or shellacked should not follow this method, as the use of water in cleaning these floors can stain the wood and cause buckling in the wood.)

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After dust mopping the smaller particles, you’ll likely see more spots and stains on the hardwood floor that you originally noticed. For example, these spots in this photo became apparent after moving the furniture, sweeping, and dry mopping.

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Step 5: Soak any hardened spots. You could spend a long time and risk damaging your hardwood top coat by scrubbing some spots on your wood floor, depending on the hardness of the spot itself. I wouldn’t recommend that, though.

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Soak a soft rag (an old dish towel works great) in your soapy water, wring it out until damp, and then press the wet rag onto the hardened spot. Leave the rag there while you move on to Step 6.

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Step 6: Mop the hardwood floor. Soak your mop cover in the soapy water, then wring it out until just damp.

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Starting at the farthest corner of your hardwood floor, mop going with the grain. Rinse, soak, and wring your mop cover every 10-15 square feet, or whatever seems right for your floor, so that you’re actually cleaning the hardwood floor and not just smearing grime around.

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When your mopping gets close to the soaking spot, remove the wet rag and wipe any remaining residue away with the rag before mopping there. The hardened spot will be so easy to remove, or be gone altogether, after having been soaked for just a few minutes.

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Let the hardwood floor dry. It will dry much more matte than it looks when it’s wet.

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Once the floor is dry, or mostly dry, follow up by buffing the floor in circular motions with a clean, soft cloth or terry towel. Cloth diapers also work well for buffing hardwood floors, because they are absorbent and pick up any residual moisture as well as being gentle on the wood itself.

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When all is done, your floor will look and feel clean, although it probably won’t literally sparkle. The end result of this cleaning a hardwood floor method is a clean, matte wood floor because doesn’t involve waxes or top oil coats. Enjoy your beautiful wood grain, now that you know how to clean hardwood floors!