How to Clean Wood Floors

In order to preserve the beauty of your hardwood floor, it is important to maintain it properly. To do so, you should be familiar with the type of hardwood floor you have, whether it is finished or unfinished, and what your manufacturer’s recommendations are regarding cleaning and maintenance.

Hardwood Floor Maintenance

What you will need:

  • Soft-bristle Broom
  • Vacuum with soft brush attachment
  • Dust Mop
  • Wood polish (spray kind)


  1. Sweep floors to remove loose debris
  2. Using the soft brush attachment, vacuum floor, making sure to pay special attention to corners where dust and pet hair accumulate.
  3. Lightly spray the cloth end of a dust mop with wood polish.
  4. Run the mop lightly over the floor. Use caution when walking as floors may be slippery from the polish.

Regular Cleaning Instructions

What you will need:

  • Soft-bristle Broom
  • Vacuum with soft brush attachment
  • Terry cloth mop
  • Wood Floor Cleaner (or any low PH floor cleanser)*


*when in doubt about the type of cleanser you should use, check with your floor retailer or the manufacturer of your floor.

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 listed above under routine maintenance.
  2. Working in small sections of floor at a time (5’ x 5’), apply a small amount of cleaner and mop, going with the grain of the wood.
  3. Repeat step 2 until the entire floor has been mopped.
  4. Special Note: Water is a hardwood floors worst enemy. NEVER use a wet mop or large amounts of water to clean your hardwood floor.

Removing Stains and Spills

Certain stains or spills may require more than a quick mop. Here are some of the more common trouble makers:

Stain Removal:

  • Blood: Sponge it lightly with a solution of ammonia and cold water. Please remember, NEVER mix ammonia with any other cleaning solutions as it may result in a potentially lethal vapor. Click here to learn about ammonia safety.
  • Liquor: Dampen a cloth with warm water and detergent and rub the spot. If that fails, try using a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol.
  • Grease: Apply an ice pack (a package of frozen vegetables will do in a pinch) until grease hardens, then gently scrape with plastic spatula or butter knife. Remove remaining residue by placing a rag over it and gently ironing the rag (low setting).
  • Crayon marks: Rub with a soft cloth dampened with mineral spirits. If that doesn’t work, apply toothpaste and rub with a dry cloth.
  • Nail polish: Use a small amount of scouring powder, warm water, and a plastic mesh pad. Make sure you work the scouring powder into a paste before applying and don’t rub too aggressively too avoid scratching the finish.
  • Ink: Wet a rag with warm water and detergent and rub. If that doesn’t work, try a commercial ink remover.
  • Heel Marks and Scuffs: Rub the marks with a pencil eraser. Mr. Clean magic erasers are also great for this.
  • Chewing gum: Remove excess gum with plastic knife and rub residue with soft clothe dampened with mineral spirits.
  • Rust: These require a professional floor finisher to remove.
  • Large area stains: If stains cover a large area of the floor, it is advisable to have a professional floor finisher remove them.

After removing any stain, wipe area with a damp cloth and dry thoroughly. If the floor finish has been removed in that area, recoat with appropriate finish or wax. As always, when in doubt regarding a stain call your wood floor retailer or manufacturer.

Cleaning Up Spills:

  • Oil: Soak up excess with paper towels. Saturate a cloth with a dry cleaning fluid and place on area of spill for 5 minutes. When done, wipe dry and clean with a mild detergent.
  • Tar: Place ice pack on tar until it is hard and brittle. Gently scrape off with a plastic spatula or butter knife. If a light stain remains saturate a rag with cleaning solvent and rub on stained spot.
  • Pet Urine: Make a scouring powder paste (mix warm water and powder until the consistency of toothpaste). Gently rub spot with mixture.

Keep Your Hardwood Floors Looking New

  • Mop up spills immediately and thoroughly.
  • Never wax a polyurethaned floor as it will cause a dull build-up to occur
  • Consider using carpet runners or area rugs (being sure to use non skid pads under either) especially for high-traffic areas.
  • Try to avoid wearing heavy-soled shoes or high heels on wood floors. In fact, barefoot is best!
  • NEVER drag furniture or other items across the hardwood floor.
  • Use furniture pads on the bottoms and legs of furniture (available at any home improvement or supercenter stores).
  • If you have pets, keep their nails trimmed to avoid nicks and scratches.
  • If your floor requires periodic waxing and buffing, don’t skip it! It can add years to the life of your floor, and help prevent stains and scratches. If unsure, contact your floor manufacturer or installer for recommendations.


You can find hardwood floor cleaners at most home improvement stores, or online. Also, several companies sell environmentally friendly cleaners for SEALED hardwood floors (i.e. “Earth Friendly Nonpolluting Floor Kleener” and “EnviroRite Hard Floor Cleaner”).


  1. Leslie says:

    My intended email is a query, but can be phrased as a tip!

    Elaborating why…
    Writes note; “Special Note: Water is a hardwood floor’s worst enemy. NEVER use a wet mop or large amounts of water to clean your hardwood floor.”
    Establishes reasoning.

  2. Linda says:

    Getting down on your hands and knees is still the best way to truly get the floor the clean you want. I always dry it with a soft dry cloth before adding Old English.

  3. J. in TN says:

    Okay, so how do you clean unfinished hardwood floors? My floors needed to be refinished when I moved in, the finish is almost completely worn off (and in some places is.) I have no idea how long it has been since it was originally done. All of the products I have found say they are for finished floors only. Any suggestions would be helpful.

  4. Margie says:

    I have a ugly buildup on my sealed wood floor, it was some product I used that probably should not have.

    If I scrub it with ammonia it does come off. I mean a lot of hard scrubbing in a very small area.

    Is there any product out there that will take off the gunk and leave the finish?

    Thank you for any help. I am pooped.

  5. Jessica says:

    I recently purchased a house and am in the process of refinishing the red oak floors. I did all the sanding and then some, but noticed the living room still looked splotchy. I put the first layer of golden pecan stain on, thinking the white and black splotchy stains would be disguised. Well, they’re not and now I have no idea what the stains are from or how to clean it. I am more than wiling to take all the stain off and redo the finish – I just wanna save my floors- HELP!

  6. Carole says:

    My husband and I are in the process of removing carpeting from a bedroom. After removal, we noticed black spots all over the floor. I have tried vinegar and water, all purpose cleaner, mineral spirits, wood soap and others, but nothing seems to work. We really don’t want to sand and refinish this floor. Any suggestions as to what we can do to get these marks off?

  7. W says:

    I use Avon Skin So Soft on my unfinished wood floors and it makes them look beautiful, as well as conditions them. However, this has to be continually done (I do it once every month or so), and it also will darken your wood over time. It does protect them somewhat, particularly if you apply it often (I use a Swiffer broom with the dry cloth and “mop” with SSS). As it dries, it becomes less resistant to dampness or spills. I have four dogs, and the newest one is a puppy. Her accidents leave dark stains if I don’t catch them soon after. I have read that regular bleach with a toothbrush should work, but I have not yet tried it. The dark stains are caused by liquid penetrating the wood. If you catch a spill fairly soon afterward, it will leave a lighter area, in which case you clean it up and apply more SSS in that area and it disappears.

  8. Stacey says:

    I just started my own housecleaning business and am still looking for the best and easiest way to clean hardwood floors. Any suggestions?

  9. Brenda says:

    Personally, I’ve been using a spin mop, which has worked great for me. It wrings all the water on its own and significantly cuts down my cleaning time. I like it because the mop head can get really dry, which is great for a wood floor. I’ve been recommending mine to friends and family and they love it.

Leave a Comment