How to Clean Hard Wood Floors

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Dear Home Ec 101:
Any helpful hints on cleaning wood floors? I can get them clean and I can get them shiny, but not at the same time without doing two rounds. First with water/vinegar, then going over it with Orange Glo wood floor cleaner. But who has time for that?

And another thing about my wood floors:
Its been cold here this winter, the heat is always on. Its very dry, and the wood has actually shrunk! There are small separations between the pieces. Like cracks! They are getting filled in with crud! Yuck! Aside from sitting there with a nail file and digging it out, any ideas? And how do I stop this from happening again?

Hopeless in Hartford

clean hard wood floors


Heather says:

Chin up my dear, the secret to shiny floors is to STOP using Mop & Glo! Mop and Glo leaves behind a film. In fact some hardwood floor manufacturers say nothing but vinegar and water. Now, it sounds as though you may have a layer of build-up. It may take several moppings and some elbow grease to get rid of the crud. before picture of wood floor

Always make sure you sweep or vacuum thoroughly before mopping, otherwise you’ll push grit into the finish. A slowly dulling finish is inevitable if you have children, pets, or feet, but we would like to put it off as long as possible.

Personally, I alternate between very dilute Murphy Oil Soap and heavily diluted vinegar. Why? It’s chemistry folks. The Murphy’s Oil Soap is a base and will leave one kind of reside behind, while the vinegar is acidic and will leave a different layer of goo. By switching between the two, you pick up what the other left behind.

My boards also contract and expand during the year, it’s almost like glacial movement on a micro scale and I find it oddly fascinating. I give the floor a good once over with the vacuum on occasion, to catch the bits that fall between the boards.

guide to clean floors
Click the picture for more tips!

The picture on the left is of the area where my rug monkeys have breakfast, it gets sticky in a hurry. A once over with a damp mop was all it took to restore the shine. A final note, when you mop, always follow the grain of the wood to prevent streaking.

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10 thoughts on “How to Clean Hard Wood Floors”

  1. After you clean the hardwoods, to stop the squeaks you dust the floorboards with a fine graphite powder. It acts as a lubricant to keep the squeaks down to a bare minimum.

  2. My dummy question of the day – Is there a certain type of vinegar you’re supposed to use for this, like white vs. apple cider? And is that the same for the other cleaning tasks you recommend vinegar for?

  3. Got Bamboo floors last year. Manufacturer recommends no water! Only Bona hardwood floor cleaner. Is this a racket? I’d love to do the suggestions stated here instead of Bona.

  4. Confused…I have hardwood floors. I’ve tried everything from vinegar/water mixture to steamer.  We had a friend come fix our carpet downstairs one day (he does flooring for a living) and he saw me steam the hardwood and had a fit!!!  He said the steam will eventually make the floor buckle and warp.  He recommended a floor cleaner which does great but it doesn’t shine it!!! 
    So, do you mop with the diluted murphey’s oil one week and the next week vinegar/water mixture?

  5. PLEASE don’t use steamers, mop n glo, orange glow, pledge, or anything else that leaves a residue. Use sparingly Bona Hardwood Cleaner for hardwood or Bona Hard Surface Cleaner for laminate or vinegar diluted with water (but just very slightly damp). These products will help pick up the grit and that is all you want them to do. Spot clean the floors and keep the grit off. Don’t saturate, just slightly dampen your mop head. All the products I mentioned above except bona and vinegar/water will contaminate your floor and in the case of Murphy’s Oil Soap you can’t even be sure sanding and refinishing will work. Make an effort to contact your local independant flooring store and they will be much more specific in maintenance instructions.


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