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How to Clean Wooden Floors and Remove Stains for a Polished Look

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how to clean wooden floors and remove stains
Table of Content
June 14, 2023

If you have hardwood floors at home, knowing how to clean them is very important. Even though wooden floors are quite durable, they still need some care to address surface stains and everyday dust accumulation. To maximise the longevity of the wood floor, employ proper cleaning methods and products.

There are some cleaning tips for hardwood flooring that are tried and tested. Whether you have oiled floors or are maybe looking to clean wood floors naturally, following the right recommendations will do you good.

How to clean wooden floor?

To maintain a clean wooden floor, start with regular dusting using a broom or a vacuum cleaner optimized for hardwood floors. Limit your use of a mop to avoid the risk of moisture damage; when necessary, use warm water, which evaporates quicker, ensuring a drier surface. For more thorough cleaning, consider products specifically designed for wooden floors, like Osmo Wash and Care. This routine not only keeps your floor looking pristine but also preserves its longevity.

woman mopping wooden floor

How to clean hardwood floors?

Before you get started, you are going to need to consider the type of finish on your hardwood floors. To employ the right tools and methods to clean hardwood floors, you will approach the task accordingly:

  • New wooded floors - new wood floors are usually surface sealed with a polyurethane coating. They have stained/painted surfaces, putting them in the easy-to-clean hardwood floors category. In the majority of cases, such flooring is resistant to water damage and stains.
  • Old wooden floors - older homes are more likely to have wooden floors with an oiled finish forming the top seal by soaking into the grain. This is a type of flooring that will likely require an update with oil or wax.
  • Wooden flooring with lacquered/varnished finish - these hardwood floors are not as resistant to moisture and wear as floors with a polyurethane finish. That is why you should treat them with care, the same as the oiled floor category.
  • If you are not sure what the finish of the floor is - you can find out more about the finish of most wood floors by rubbing your finger across the surface. It is surface sealed if no mark appears. If there is a mark, the floor is treated with a varnish, oil finish or a seal.

Tools for Cleaning Hardwood Floors

cleaning supplies

The things you will need to clean hardwood floors include a floor cleaning mop, a vacuum cleaner, a soft cloth, a product that doesn't contain harsh chemicals, baking soda, and distilled white vinegar. These are all cleaners that contribute to efficient housekeeping for a wood floor's finish.

Check out our guide on how to clean prefinished hardwood floors without streaks for more information.

Cleaning wooden floors: 3 tips for regular maintenance

Cleaning hardwood floors is not a one-and-done chore. There are tasks that you will need to address weekly as well as acquire some knowledge on how to deep clean hardwood floors. Additionally, from time to time you will have to deal with spills immediately to keep the moisture from damaging the finish. Let's delve into deeper clean strategies.

Weekly cleaning of hardwood floors

Cleaning hardwood floors should always involve vacuuming the area. A lot of dust, dirt and pet hair can accumulate even in a short period of time. That is why it is important to use a vacuum with a soft brush for dealing with dust accumulation on the wood floors.

Unless your floor is waxed or oiled, you can clean it with a bucket of warm water with some added everyday cleaner and a clean mop. Dip the mop into the bucket and wring the water out until it is only slightly damp. You can add a few drops of a natural cleaner. Avoid using harsh cleaners as they can damage the floor. Use the wet mop to clean the floor, without getting the area soaking wet.

If you have an oiled or waxed floor, you can go over the area with just water and a clean cloth. Take note of when the water gets cloudy and change it in a timely manner. Open windows and doors to improve circulation so that excess moisture can air dry. Finally, use a soft cloth to buff the floor.

How to deep clean a wooden floor?

To keep the floor looking its best, you will do well to deep clean it at least twice a year. Always make sure to use approved hardwood floor cleaners. That way you will be sure that the product works for the type of flooring you have at home.

Put the recommended amount of cleaner into a bucket full of warm water. Use a damp mop to clean the surface of your wooden floors. Just make sure to wring out excess water from the mop so that it doesn't end up on the floor. Mop the floor and check to see if the cleaning product you are using requires further cleaning afterwards. Open the windows and let the area air dry for about an hour.

Some might consider using a steam mop, but that is never an option for hardwood floors. The moisture will damage the seal of the floor. At most, use a damp cloth to clean wooden floors.

How to remove stains from hardwood floors?

You have a few options for removing stains from wood flooring:

  • Washing up liquid - use a damp mop and a little bit of washing up liquid to remove an oily stain or sticky residue from the wood floors. The solution should be enough to break down the grease. Make sure to rinse and buff with a microfiber cloth.
  • Baking soda - works well for general scuff marks and light scratches. Put a tablespoon of baking soda on a sponge and go over the marks.
  • Steel wool - for darker stains like pet urine and watermarks, get fine steel wool and lightly sand the area. Then, polish with a cloth and the appropriate wood floor cleaner.
  • White vinegar - if you still have a problem with a stain, apply a tablespoon of vinegar and let it soak into the stained area for an hour. Rinse with a cloth and buff the area with some floor oil of the matching colour.
  • Floor oil - works well to remove heel marks. Simply apply some with steel wool and floor oil.

If there are stubborn stains that won't come off the wood floor, you will have to sand the area with fine paper, then clean it with steel wool and buff it up with a floor oil that matches the colour.

How to clean and protect wooden floors

Your wooden floor is going to need care and attention if it is to remain in top shape. Apart from knowing how to clean wooden floors, it's a good idea to consider some tips to protect them:

  • Remove spills as soon as possible - spills can set in the hardwood flooring if you are not quick to wipe and buff dry.
  • Area rugs are your best friends - high traffic areas can wear down the material of wood floors with all of the tracked-in dirt and other debris. A good way to prevent this wear is to place rugs. Not only will they protect the hardwood floor from scratches, but also add visual appeal to the area.
  • Place door mats - place a door mat at every entry point to your home. It will capture more dirt this way and keep the inside of your home clean. Place one outside and another in the entryway for the best effect.
  • Refrain from using steam mops - this is not the best tool to clean hardwood floors with. It is best reserved for non porous floors, such as tile and laminate. Steam mops saturate the area with too much moisture, which is bad for the wood. Instead, use a dust mop or a microfiber mop for your cleaning needs.
  • Don't use harsh cleaning products - refrain from using harsh cleaning products on your hardwood floors. Some of them can leave a sticky build-up on the floor or damage the finish. It is best to use a damp microfiber mop for most of your cleaning needs.

Move Out Cleaning Tips for Hardwood Floors

Whether you're a tenant nearing the end of your lease or a homeowner preparing to sell your property, conducting a thorough move out cleaning is a critical step in maintaining the condition and aesthetics of your hardwood floors. You can definitely benefit from our tenant checklist for moving out.

Besides the regular maintenance discussed, you should also consider a more detailed cleaning to restore the floor's shine, ensuring it looks its best for the next resident. Pay extra attention to high-traffic areas and spots where furniture previously sat.

Remember to carefully dry your floors after cleaning, as excessive moisture can cause damage. The better your floors look during a move out cleaning, the more likely you are to recoup your deposit or increase your home's resale value.

How to Keep Your Hardwood Floors Clean Longer?

You will be thanking yourself later when you follow these simple tips to keep the hardwood floor in your home clean for a longer period of time:

Stop dirt before it enters your home

Placing door mats at the doors and entryways of your home will reduce the amount of dirt that gets tracked in from the outside. Employing a 'no-shoes-ionside' policy can further help and can be very important in snowy and rainy weather, to keep moisture from damaging the floor.

Be careful of using the right cleaning solution

The finish of the wood is not always tolerant of all cleaners, furniture sprays and natural products like lemon juice you want to use on it. Before you rush with some of these products, remember that the finish can be damaged if you are not careful. Best to use a small amount on an inconspicuous area of the floor first, just to be sure no damage occurs. Additionally, using the wrong product could leave a sticky buildup, which then attracts more dust and dirt.

Daily cleaning

Hardwood floors require daily attention in the form of dusting. Use a broom or a mop to go over the surface and collect the accumulated dust. Other than preventing a build-up, this ensures fewer scratches, as dust particles tend to damage the finish when you tread over them.

Cleaning hardwood floors the right way takes some knowledge and dedication. It guarantees that your beautiful hardwood floor will remain in top condition for a longer period of time and that it will remain a beautiful and practical addition to your home.


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