Hardwood floors: How to clean and care for

Hardwood Floors- how to take care of


After purchasing a home after over a decade of living in various crappy rentals, I realized that I might be a bit in over my head.  While viewing houses on the market in anticipation of buying them, wood floors stood out as classic, beautiful, and charming.  Fastforward to a month after move-in and oh-my-goodness-I-don’t-know-what-on-earth-I’m-doing.

So research I did.

In my rentals, I had used a Roomba vacuum on both carpet and laminate, with great success. I love that it uses the little weed-eater-type-dust-flicker to really get into the corners and edges of the room, preventing me from having to use the hose-attachment to the regular vacuum and 20 minutes per room that I don’t want to spend vacuuming.  It also gets under the beds, a plus for keeping dust to a minimum.

Right before moving in, after a solid year of happiness with my Roomba, I invested in a swiffer-type robot that is designed to pick up crumbs, pet hair, and some dirt.  The Braava is a lighter duty and much quieter version of the Roomba, and it swiffers automatically, also getting under the chairs and couch with ease.  It keeps the floor barefoot-walkable without any extra work from me.

On my rental laminate floors, I had used a steam mop happily for years.  I loved the hiss of the steam coming out and assuring me that any bacteria on my floor would be quickly boiled beyond harm, that the mop easily picked up even old spills with a few quick strokes, and that the pad were washable.  To clean laminate flooring, I would go around and spray any spots with a 50/50 vinegar solution, drop a few drops of tangerine essential oil on my steam mop, and go to town, finishing the job in less than 10 minutes.

Wood floor care

I wasn’t sure if steam was okay to use on hardwood, though, so I checked with some experts to find out. Even though most brands of steam mops claim that they can be used on hardwood floors, it turns out that experts recommend NOT using them.  The heat used is hard on the finish, causing your floors to need to be refinished more often and wear quicker. In addition, if your floors are not completely sealed, especially in high traffic areas where the seal may have been worn off, the steam will be absorbed by the wood and will cause damage to the wood floor, and even the particle board subfloor underneath.

Without steam mopping, how are we to clean our floors?

If your floor is well finished with a polyeurethane sealer, you can use a water-based cleaner on it.  Woodwash is recommended for this well-cared for floor. The steps for cleaning are to vacuum well, swiffer up any remaining dust or crumbs, and then spray woodwash on an area that you can reach (approx 4 ft x 2 feet) and use one rag to wash with the cleaner, another dry rag to dry immediately after.

You can also use just plain water to wash, using the same 2-rag method to clean and dry. To preserve the life of your finish, using a cleaner that is closest to a neutral phas possible is recommended. If you get either an alkaline or acidic cleaner, it will cause more wear on your floors.

If your floor has some worn spots, as I noticed mine did as I was sitting on the floor stocking the bookshelf upon movein, you can test the floor using a water test.

To test, drop a couple drops of water on the most worn part of the floor. If they stay beaded up over the next couple minutes, you can use water-based cleaners as described above. If the water soaks in, you can use odorless mineral spirits to clean until you get a chance to refinish the floor.

To clean using odorless mineral spirits: vacuum the floor well, swiffer or sweep to pick up any excess dust or crumbs. Next squirt a small amount of mineral spirits on the dirty parts of the floor, and wipe clean with multiple rags until all the mineral spirits are picked up.

Daily maintenance

If you’re like me, there’s nothing as annoying as coming down with bare feet to get the coffee started and having crumbs, dirt, or pet hair cling to your feet. Ick.

To keep my floors barefoot friendly in less than 5 minutes a day, I follow the following routine:

  1. Remove shoes at the door. I don’t ask my guests to, but most people will when they see a couple pairs of shoes lined up next to the door.
  2. Vacuum under the table and/or in the kitchen daily (2 minutes)
  3. Before bed, or while watching TV at night, set the Braava to run with a reusable microfiber cloth or swiffer pad.
  4. Once a month, or once a week if you have pets or children in your house often, spot clean the floor, on hands and knees preferably while the sun is directly shining on your floor so you can easily see any spots.

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I am not a professional real estate agent, broker, or financial adviser. I have no qualifications to give financial, investment, or real estate, or any other advice. I'm a single woman sharing what she has learned, and I encourage you to always double and triple check information found here. The content of the pages of this website is opinion and personal experience only. It is subject to change without notice.
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