How To Clean Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors add value and natural beauty to any space. Discover how to clean hardwood floors to keep them in good shape for decades.

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While hardwood floors are beautiful, clean wood floors are exceptional.

Here is a super simple, budget-friendly guide on how to clean hardwood floors.

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Process


Step 1: Clean out the floor

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Take off all removable items from your hardwood floors, including rugs, chairs, tables, and other furniture. (If you don’t have pads for the feet of your furniture,  get some so your furniture doesn’t scratch your hardwood floors.)

Wash your furniture legs and feet as appropriate, so when your floors are clean, you’re not dragging dirt back onto them.

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If you have floor-length curtains near your hardwood floors,  drape them over the curtain rod, so they don’t drag or become dirty as you clean.


Step 2: Sweep the floor

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Some people jump right into dust mopping or vacuuming the floor, but I like to sweep it with a broom to collect large particles first.


Step 3: Dry mop the floor.

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Working with the grain as much as is practical, dry mop (or vacuum) to collect remaining dust, debris, and other particles that sweeping may have missed. 


Step 4: Make a mopping solution

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Fill your kitchen sink a third or halfway with hot water, and add a few drops of dish detergent. Dish soap is a gentle pH-neutral cleaning agent, making it ideal for cleaning hardwood floors that harsh products could otherwise harm.

Related: Best Laminate Floor Cleaners and DIY Homemade Floor Cleaner

This method is recommended for hardwood floors with a polyurethane sealer. Don’t use water on lacquered or shellacked wood floors. It can stain the wood and cause buckling.

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After dust mopping the smaller particles, you’ll be able to see spots and stains on the hardwood floor. 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.

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Tip: If you’re working on removing hard spots, be careful not to remove the topcoat of the floor.

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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.


Step 6: Mop the hardwood floor.

Soak your mop pad in the soapy water, then wring it out until 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 every 10-15 square feet or whatever seems suitable for your floor. Make sure you’re absorbing dirt and not moving grime around.

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When you get close to the soaking spot, remove the wet rag and wipe the remaining residue before mopping. 

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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, buff it in circular motions with a clean, soft cloth or terry towel. Cloth diapers also work well for buffing hardwood floors because they are absorbent, gentle, and pick up residual moisture.

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The result of this cleaning a hardwood floor method is a clean, matte wood floor that doesn’t involve waxes or top oil coats.