How to Clean Hardwood Flooring

Whether you have a budget-friendly style of flooring in your home like sheet vinyl or something a little more luxurious, keeping your floors tidy is paramount. You need to clean your floors on a regular basis if you want them to look their best, and nobody wants to stare at an unsightly stain, dirt, or dust bunnies.

Hardwood flooring is susceptible to both of those issues, and it’s considered more of an investment than laminate or even LVP. It’s in the middle of the pack when it comes to ease of cleaning, although you can save yourself a considerable amount of time and by simply cleaning your hardwood flooring properly.  

Hardwood Flooring: Everything You Need to Know

If you’ve just installed hardwood flooring in your home, there’s a good chance you learned a thing or two about what’s beneath your feet during the process. If not, we’re going to give you a quick crash course on hardwood, so that you will better understand how to clean it.

Hardwood is a natural or organic type of flooring, so it has some unique qualities when compared to synthetic types of flooring like luxury vinyl tile. Hardwood is durable, and some species like Brazilian Cherry and Santos Mahogany are incredibly hard, which makes them ideal for high-traffic areas. 

One of the advantages of hardwood is the fact it can raise the value of your home. Well-maintained hardwood flooring will have an immediate impact on potential buyers. Still, it could be a potential nightmare if it’s not been appropriately cared for and cleaned over the years. No matter what type of hardwood flooring you have, the same rules apply when it’s time to clean them.

The grade or style of hardwood you have can affect your cleaning routine, however, especially if your floors have a rustic vibe or are made with character-grade planks. That means you need to look before you leap when choosing a cleaning tool.

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

If the main areas in your home are carpeted, your cleaning options are somewhat limited as a good vacuum cleaner is the only real option. With hardwood, there are a variety of ways you can clean your flooring, however, and we’re going to briefly touch on the pros and cons of each method.


The broom is an excellent cleaning tool that’s used in homes and businesses all over the world, and it’s also the cheapest way to clean your hardwood flooring. A good broom and dustpan can take care of everything, from pet hair and dust to large debris. Do you have a cat that loves to leave litter outside of the box?

A broom will make quick work of that, and sweeping is an activity that almost anyone can do. Brooms are lightweight and cheap, but not without drawbacks. You’ll never be able to handle wet messes with a broom, and they are useless against stains. They are not a great choice for larger homes, although very easy to store.

If you have a few rooms with hardwood and don’t experience a lot of foot traffic or stains, consider a broom. If you have problems bending over due to back issues or other physical limitations, you can replace the dustpan with a stationary vacuum and just sweep dirt towards it.

Dry Mop

A dry mop is any mop that uses a dusting pad but doesn’t have a cleaning tank or dispenser for liquid. The mop head can be made from various materials, although microfiber is the most popular option. There are two kinds of dry mops to consider as well.

Dry mops that use disposable pads are ideal for light-duty cleaning and can quickly pick up dust or push hair and other debris into piles for quick pickup. When you are finished cleaning, you just need to remove the cleaning pad and throw it away. The Swiffer Sweeper is a popular example of this type of mop.

If you prefer something a little more eco-friendly, there are dozens of dust mops with washable cleaning pads. Refills are inexpensive, and you should get several dozen cycles in the washing machine before you need to pick up replacements. One of our favorites for hard surfaces like laminate or hardwood is the Turbo Microfiber 360 mop, which was one of the top options on our list of the best mops for tile flooring.

Wet Mop

A wet mop uses water or a cleaning solution that you apply yourself or is dispensed from the mop. Spray mops are the most popular form of “wet” mop, although plenty of homeowners use sponge mops and bucket-based mops as well. The main thing to remember with any wet mop is that your hardwood floors must be sealed, and even then, it using water still may not be a good idea.

For hardwood flooring, the best type of wet mop is a spray mop, in our opinion. They are lightweight, easy to use, and inexpensive. Some models like the Rubbermaid Reveal allow you to use any type of cleaning solution you like, whether its store-bought or mixed by your own hand. Electric mops like the SpinWave from Bissell are also an option as long as your floors are sealed.

When using a wet or damp mop on hardwood flooring, it is a good idea to check the care sheet or manufacturer's websites for information on how to care for your flooring. If that isn’t an option, proceed with caution and only use liquid-based cleaner on sealed hardwood flooring. If you’re interested in a mop for your hardwood flooring, we have you covered.

Vacuum Cleaners

Mops are handy but generally considered occasional cleaning tools, not necessarily something you will use on a daily basis. The top option for ease of use in most consumers minds is a vacuum cleaner. The best vacuum cleaner for hardwood will need to meet a few criteria, but will also be able to clean carpet, unlike a broom or mop.

If your flooring is a 50/50 split of carpet and hardwood, a high-powered upright could be the best option for your home. The best vacuum cleaners for hardwood and carpet will need to have a brush roll switch, however. The brush roll is basically a tube with bristles that excels at removing dirt and debris from carpet but can scatter it on bare surfaces.

Some of the best to vacuums from this range will have a switch for the brush roll and swappable cleaning heads. Cordless vacuums for hardwood like the LG Cordzero A9 and some of the Absolute systems from Dyson certainly fit that bill, but so do a handful of capable uprights from Shark and other manufacturers.

Alternatively, homeowners with bare surfaces in their home or hardwood and low-pile may want to consider a robot vacuum cleaner for hardwood. The Roomba 960 is one of the best choices in that class, and considerably smarter than the competition’s robotic cleaners. This robot can clean an entire home full of hardwood flooring without intervention, except for emptying the bin. 

From cordless vacuums to canister-based systems, there are a lot of choices if you are interested in a vacuum cleaner for hardwood flooring. That includes lightweight stick vacuums you can take up the stairs and a handful of systems that can vacuum and mop.

Tips from the Pros

Now that you know what types of equipment or tools are recommended for cleaning hardwood, we’re going to take a look at some tips from professionals that install and manufacture hardwood flooring.

Hardwood is resilient, but your finish can still become scratched or worn over time. A proper cleaning routine will help keep your finish intact, but scratches, dents, and dings can come from a number of factors. One of the biggest culprits is furniture and pet claws.

You can avoid the pet claw problem by simply keeping their nails clipped in most cases. With heavy furniture, felt pads are highly recommended. They allow you to scoot china cabinets, refrigerators, or beds without scuffing or marring your floor. Spiky shoes, cleats and high heels are not a good idea on hardwood either.

Even caster wheels aren’t quite as safe as you think. Some can do more harm than good, and it’s a common problem with older pieces of furniture along with wheeled antiques. In most cases, they can be replaced if needed, but there are a number of moving pads that can help you out in a pinch. You should never try to remove things like crayon marks or chewing gum with abrasive cleaners, even though it could be tempting to pick up a scrub brush or use a quick clean solution.

Instead, use the cleaner recommended by the manufacturer.  If you know the brand, chances are they have their own product available, as we’ve seen hardwood floor cleaner from Bruce and other big brands. Cleaning solutions from reputable companies like Bona or Bissell are usually listed as options as well, so you’re not limited to one type of cleaner.  

Professionals recommend the same type of cleaning tools as we’ve mentioned, and most frown upon any method involving water. There are a number of companies that sell steam mops for hardwood flooring, and while they will work well on low, it’s not a recommended cleaning method when safer alternatives are available.

It’s best to follow the advice given by the company that manufactured your flooring when possible, although we realize that’s not always a viable solution. While you can wax some types of hardwood, it’s not recommended for RevWood from Mohawk, and you will find similar stipulations with other styles and brands.

Hardwood Flooring Care FAQ

Q: Is liquid hardwood floor cleaner safe to use on my flooring?

A: As long as your hardwood floors are sealed, there shouldn’t be a problem. Millions of homeowners use it on a daily basis, but you should still to the manufacturer’s website if that’s an option.

Q: Will cleaning prevent my hardwood floors from fading?

A: Wood flooring can fade over time regardless of how clean you keep it, although UV rays  will speed up the process and can darken or fade your flooring. Blinds and rugs can help with fading, and rearranging your furniture is a wise idea as well.

Q: What types of rugs are safe for hardwood flooring?

A: Wool is a great option, although you will want to steer clear of mats with rough or abrasive backing layers along with rubber backed mats and rugs as well. Many of these will never cause an issue, but some materials will wreak havoc on your finish.

Q: How often should I polish my hardwood flooring?

A: Hardwood floor polish is a great way to breathe new life into dull hardwood flooring, and there’s no set amount of time you should wait before giving them a proper polishing. While weekly is overkill, it’s not uncommon for homeowners to break out the polish every few months.

Q: Should I vacuum before I mop?

A: Yes. You should always sweep or vacuum before mopping. It’s essential to remove any grit or substances that could scratch your flooring before mopping the room.

Q: When should I have my flooring refinished?

A: It’s recommended to have it sanded and refinished every 4 to 6 years. That timeframe can vary, so it could be three years if you have a large family and heavy foot traffic or a decade for a couple in their 50s.

Q: Why does the manufacturer of my hardwood say not to use an electric mop?

A: It depends on the type of flooring. In some cases, it could be the finish as there are a wide range of “electric” mops on the market, and some are gentler than others.

Q: I noticed damage on my flooring, can it be repaired?

A: Hardwood flooring is actually easier to repair than you think, although the results can vary. There are pens, putties, and various other methods that can quickly fill in a gap, scratch or gouge in your floors.

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