This Common Natural Cleaning Ingredient is Ruining Your Hardwoods

Hardwoods are the most sought-after, timeless flooring choice. They can withstand decades’ worth of foot traffic with minimal upkeep. They’re also easy to clean, requiring frequent sweeping and occasional damp mopping.

What most hardwood owners don’t realize, though, is that hardwood flooring requires a PH-neutral cleaner. Popular natural remedies, like white distilled vinegar, are too harsh for hardwoods and, over time,  eat away the topcoat, leaving the porous wood below susceptible to water damage, warping, rot, and mold.

Natural Cleaner Damages Hardwoods

Why You Shouldn’t Clean Your Floors with Vinegar

White distilled vinegar is an effective cleaner due to its high acetic acid content. Acetic acid is a natural antiseptic and can remove hard water stains, clean rust, and kill mold and mildew. On the PH Scale, which ranges from 1-14, white distilled vinegar measures 2.4, making it highly acidic.

When you mop your floors with vinegar, the acetic acid eats away the protective topcoat. It does this slowly, so you won’t notice a difference after the first dozen or so times you mop with vinegar. Over several months, however, you’ll notice your floors dulling. When this happens, the top coat is gone, and your floors are susceptible to water damage.

When is It Okay to Clean Hardwoods with Vinegar?

It’s okay to occasionally use vinegar, like when removing haze caused by soap build-up. You can also use vinegar to mop if it’s highly diluted.

For example, our most popular homemade floor cleaner contains one cup of vinegar diluted in a gallon of water and mixed with other ingredients. Since the dilution ratio is so high in this recipe, it won’t cause damage to delicate flooring like hardwoods or laminate.

Don’t mop your floor with a mixture of half vinegar and half water, though. Even at this 50/50 dilution rate, the acid content is still too high for hardwoods.

Can You Fix Floors that Vinegar Has Ruined?

The first sign that vinegar cleaner has negatively affected your floor is dullness. Also, look for any discolored areas, scratches, or water stains. If you see any of these signs, have your floors refinished. In some cases, you may only need to reapply the topcoat. For more severe discoloration, consider restaining and sealing. Then, use a PH-neutral floor cleaner to keep your hardwoods in tip-top shape.