White vinegar is a natural cleaner that can kill 99% of bacteria, 90% of viruses, and 82% of molds. It is useful for dissolving dirt and soap scum, and is also an excellent deodorizer. In addition to all that, it’s cheap to buy and available at almost every supermarket.
A Word of Caution
There are two main types of floor finish, polyurethane-coated and wax-coated. A vinegar solution works well on polyurethane-coated floors, but can strip the finish of a wax-coated floor. In addition to that, if your floor is wax-coated or unsealed, it should never be mopped with a water-based cleaning solution, so it is very important to know what type of finish is on your floor. A quick way to test which kind of finish you have it by sprinkling a couple drops of water on the wood; they they bead on the surface, your floor is likely polyurethane-coated. If you are not sure what type of finish your floor has (or even if you are!), it is important to test a new cleaning solution on a small hidden area first to be sure it is safe.
Mix 1 cup of white vinegar in 1 gallon of warm water.
- To get shine on the floor, add several drops of vegetable oil. Keep in mind that this will deposit a residue on the floor similar to an all-in-one hardwood cleaner and polish, which can build up over time. Clean your floor without the oil occasionally to remove the buildup.
- To lessen the salad dressing type of smell from vinegar, add a few drops of an essential oil that you like the scent of to the mixture, such as lemon or lavender essential oil. Keep in mind though that the vinegar smell is only temporary; it will disappear once the floor has dried. Also, be aware that some essential oils can be dangerous to pets, particularly cats.
- To get a more neutral pH cleaner, add 1 cup of ammonia to the mixture. White vinegar is acidic (a low pH) and ammonia is alkaline (a high pH); by mixing them, you can create a neutral cleaner. This does decrease the cleaning power as the anetic acid in vinegar and the alkalinity of ammonia are what give them each their edge, however, a neutral cleaner is recommended by manufacturers for some types of wood. Keep in mind that ammonia is a dangerous chemical, and you should always wear gloves and ventilate the area when handling it undiluted.
- To get extra cleaning power for a floor that has lots of dirt or residue on it, add a couple teaspoons of castile soap to the mixture. Keep in mind that cleaners containing soap can leave an unsightly residue on the floor, which is another reason a plain vinegar and water cleaning solution is used. If you need the soap, but then find there is a residue that remains, simply mop the floor again with the vinegar and water only recipe to rinse the floor.
- Vacuum or sweep the area to remove any dirt or debris.
- Make a cleaning solution, following one of the recipes above. A smaller portion of the recipe can be used to put the solution in a spray bottle for easy dispersal, rather than using the bucket method of mopping. The spray bottle method is particularly good for wood floors since it cuts down on the amount of liquid being used, too much of which can damage the floor.
- Mop the floor with the cleaning solution.
- Wrap a towel around the head of a sponge mop or duster mop, then dry the floor with the towel.
- Do not leave a cleaning solution to soak on a wood floor. If the water soaks into the floor, it can cause the wood to warp or swell.
- Apple cider vinegar can be safely used on most wood floors, but it does not have the same cleaning power as white vinegar.
- If you have hard water, add a few tablespoons of water softener to each gallon of cleaning water to prevent the minerals from being deposited on your floor.
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