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Grove compact mop and broom on wood floor

How to Clean Hardwood Floors: The Ultimate Guide

Last Updated: July 28, 2022


If your hardwood floors could use a refresh, you’ve come to the right place. Learn how to clean hardwood floors with tried-and-true methods, stellar natural cleaners, and the right tools for a seriously deep clean.

There’s nothing like the warmth of real hardwood floors. They’re as beautiful, versatile, welcoming, and timeless as trees themselves, and they’re becoming far less common in new construction — for good reason. If you want your hardwood floors to outlast you, you’ve got to take good care of them. And your first line of defense is proper maintenance.

A quick primer on hardwood flooring

If you have hardwood floors, they’re most likely composed of standard three-quarter inch planks of solid wood — oak, pine, maple, and cherry are common woods used in hardwood flooring.


Over time, the urethane sealer on hardwood floors wears away, especially in high-traffic areas, and needs to be reapplied. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) recommends re-coating solid wood floors every three to five years and having them refinished every few decades or as needed.


Refinishing a hardwood floor involves sanding it down to the fresh wood and re-coating it with sealer. It’s an expensive, messy project that requires the skill and expertise of a professional — or very handy handyperson. In general, a hardwood floor can be refinished four to six times over its lifespan.


The good news is that hardwood floors are durable and easy to clean. Compared to their laminate and engineered wood cousins, though, hardwood floors are pretty susceptible to damage from high humidity, moisture, and the wrong cleaning products.


Here are the Three Golden Rules of Maintenance for hardwood floors:

  1. Wipe up wet spills immediately.
  2. Never use a wet mop or — horror of horrors — a steam mop on your hardwood floors. Regular exposure to moisture causes swelling and warping.
  3. Never use conventional floor cleaners like Mop & Glo or Murphy’s Oil Soap on your hardwood floors. These and other cleaners leave behind oils, silicones, waxes, and other residues that dull the shine of the floor. Some will cause streaking or a milky coating that’s hard to remove. Some of these residues even attract more dirt — and worse, they make it impossible for a new coat of sealer to adhere to the floor later on, which means if your floors need refreshing, you’ll have to go the refinishing route.

How often should you clean a wood floor?

Follow these recommendations from the NWFA to prevent damage and keep your hardwood floors lookin’ good.


Daily

Sweep or dust mop high-traffic areas every day. Even teeny-tiny specs of dust and debris cause micro scratches on the finish and dull it over time. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes to run a dry microfiber mop over the most-walked areas of your floors.


Weekly

Vacuum your hardwood floor with the bare floor setting to remove dust and debris from the joints and pick up what your daily dust mopping missed.


Monthly

Damp-mop your wood floors with a cleaner formulated for solid hardwood to make them shine and protect them from scratches.

Grove Cleaning Tip

The way to a long-lasting clean

There are tons of ways to prevent dirty wood floors before they happen. Place doormats on both sides of exterior doors, designate spots to take off shoes, use floor protectors underneath furniture, and take care of spills as soon as they happen — these little changes add up to less time spent cleaning in the first place.

Got bamboo? We’ve got tips to clean bamboo floors — naturally.

What you’ll need to clean hardwood floors

illustration of two orange cleaning gloves

To clean your floor, gather:

We tried it: How to clean wood floors

A photo of hardwood floors before they've been cleaned.

Step 1: Dry clean to remove debris

These 125-year-old wood floors have seen some things. They really need refinishing, but in the meantime, regular maintenance will have to do. First, vacuum the floor to remove dust and debris. You can also sweep the floor or run a dry microfiber dust mop over it.

Someone spritzing their hardwood floors with cleaner.

Step 2: Apply the cleaner, and damp-mop

Working in sections, spray a thin mist of hardwood floor cleaner across your floor. The less moisture your hardwood flooring sees, the better.


Use a dry (or ever-so-slightly damp) microfiber mop to work over the cleaner, following the direction of the wood grain to help prevent streaking.

Hardwood floors right after a first round of cleaning.

Step 3: Let the floor dry

If your space has ample airflow, keep the area clear of people and pets, and let nature dry the floor for you. If you're in a room with little airflow, turn on a ceiling or floor fan, or go over the floor with a dry microfiber cloth or mop head to absorb any lingering liquid.

Hardwood floors that are still wet after being sprtized with hardwood cleaner.

Step 4: Repeat

If your floors see lots of traffic like these — dogs, cats, kids — you may need to mop again. Here’s how they look after the second mopping, still wet.

Hardwood floors after they have been cleaned and dried.

Step 5: After: Commence living on your floors

Ah, it’s nice to have clean floors, if even for a day. Until next time, floors!

Grove Cleaning Tip

How to clean unsealed hardwood

To determine whether your floor is sealed or unsealed — or whether your sealant has worn down to the wood, flick a couple drops of water from your hand onto the floor — if the water forms self-contained droplets, your floor is sealed. If the water soaks into the wood, you’ve likely got older, unsealed hardwood — which is especially susceptible to water damage. Clean unsealed hardwood floors the same way as sealed floors, but be especially careful not to get them too damp.

Check out our laminate floor guide and learn how to properly clean laminate wood floors.

Three ways to remove scuffs from a hardwood floor

Scuff marks are easy to remove from sealed hardwood floors, and it’s a good idea to do it as soon as you notice the scuff — if you leave it alone for too long, it becomes more difficult to remove.


Each month, after you’ve cleaned your floors, inspect them closely for scuffs. Remove them one of three ways:


  1. Dampen a microfiber cleaning cloth, and gently scrub away the scuff.
  2. If that doesn’t do the trick, grab a pencil eraser, and gently rub the mark. Remove all of the eraser debris when you’re done.
  3. Still there? Make a thin paste with baking soda and water. Dip a dampened corner of a microfiber cloth in the paste, and gently buff away the scuff.

    Hardwood floor cleaning FAQs

    Why are my hardwood floors still dirty after cleaning?

    If you find your hardwood floors still look dirty after cleaning them, they might need to be re-coated with sealant — or even refinished. Both tasks require a veteran DIYer or a professional hardwood floor contractor, but they’re worth the cost if you love impeccably shiny floors.


    How do you get animal urine out of a hardwood floor?

    Wipe up the urine as soon as you discover it, then use a damp microfiber mop to clean the spot. Rinse, and repeat. Word to the wise: don’t spray hardwood floors with urine deodorizers because they can damage the wood.

    If your beloved critter peed on the carpet, mattress, or your clothes, we’ve got tips to remove it.

    clean team logo

    Ready to tackle the dirtiest spots in your home? Grove Collaborative has you covered with Clean Team. Each week, we’ll do a deep dive into how to clean a different place or item in your home. No spot is too small — and we’ll tell you how to conquer them all, naturally.


    Looking for more cleaning how-tos and other sustainable swaps you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any cleaning questions (or share your own tips using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

    If you're ready to take on germs, shop Grove Collaborative's floor cleaning essentials for the cleaning tools to tackle the job.

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