How to Clean & Maintain a Hardwood Floor Properly

Overview of Cleaning a Hardwood Floor

When hardwood floors get installed or refinished they are so beautiful, lustrous and are the focal point of the house. When the hardwood floors are done right you never want to have them walked on. This article goes over how to keep these hardwood floors clean throughout the years of use. It is imperative that you instill a cleaning routine and process or your floors will suffer and will no longer look great, perform how you want and be the focal point of the house.

What Causes Hardwood Flooring Finishes to Break Down

First, we must all agree that dirt is bad. Realistically in most cases your floors never look the same as day one because of dirt. Your hardwood floors look perfect after the final flooring finish does down. No matter if the hardwood floor is oil-based or water-based finish, dirt will ruin the floor faster than you can blink. While hardwood flooring coatings / finishes are designed to protect the floor from dirt, and it does, dirt is like sandpaper. This dirt will eat away at the hardwood flooring finish over  days, months and years. The less dirt on the floor that is being ground into the flooring finish like sandpaper the better. Dirt and grime is really the be all end all of flooring finish.

A little story I once heard from a Glitsa rep was that the hardest wood flooring finish in the world – Glitsa Swedish was worn off a beach house in 3 months. The homeowners could not understand why and were very upset they got sold “bad finish”. The problem was that all the sand the homeowner was bring in with their sandals and shoes. This sand was acting like a Norton or 3M sandpaper the contractor uses on the wood floor to sand the old finish off. It didn’t matter if the contractor used Glitsa, Bona, Arboritec, one component or two component – that sand was going to eat all the coatings for lunch.

The moral of the story is – keep dirt off your hardwood floor if you want it to stay new & look new.

Why Use Products To Prevent Hardwood Flooring Damage

So we know that dirt is bad for hardwood floors. There are a few products I think work well and trap dirt before it can get on the hardwood floors. Besides dirt the other form of damage that can be done to a hardwood floor is from furniture. Chairs, tables etc all create problems for hardwood floors. There are a few flooring products that can ease these problems and make them never happen.

Simple Way to Prevent Dirt in Your Home & on Your Hardwood Floors

Below are a few ways to prevent dirt from getting into your house:

  • No Shoes – Realistically, no shoe is the best way and only way to eliminate almost 97% of dirt. Shoes collect and transfer dirt, dust, rocks etc. By eliminating shoes in the house and keeping them in the garage or laundry room is a sure way to keep these debris outside the home.
  • Mats – Even if you have a no shoes in the house rule, mats help clean your shoes or if guests come and take their shoes off inside the house near the door. A mat outside the door helps scrub off some of the dirt on shoes.
  • These tips also work for spc luxury vinyl plank flooring

How to Stop Furniture from Damaging Hardwood Floors

There are a few simple ways to ensure your floor doesn’t get damaged from your furniture. The number one call hardwood floor contractors get is that there is some huge scratch and can it be fixed. Learn below how to avoid these calls and ensure your hardwood floor is perfect.

  • Use pads – There are tons of options for under your furniture. For chairs we recommend the felt pads and to change them out every 6 months. These pads will get dirty as well as hard. Changing the pads works great and preserves the floor. You can also use pads on sofas, tables or anything else on the floor that could ever possibly move.
  • No sliding – Stop sliding furniture. You need to lift and carry. Sliding furniture puts a ton of pressure on the wood and the finish. Most likely you will either dent the wood and the finish will be fine or if the wood is hard like hickory and you have a good finish like oil-based or waterborne polyurethane you can get a heat skid mark. This is when the wood does not dent but the heat from slide changes the sheen of the flooring coating. Lifting is a sure way to keep your floor perfect.
  • Stop Moving Your Refrigerator – This has to be the by far most popular call – “I moved my fridge and now I have wheel marks, this finish is terrible.”. Sorry, but the wheels on your fridge are as small as can be and the weight from the fridge creates massive amounts of pressure on the wood. If the wood is soft, the fridge will dent the wood or if there is anything under the wheel it will dent the wood. You need to buy plastic fridge runners to spread the pressure and ensure the wheels do not touch the floor.

Overview of Cleaning Products For Hardwood Floors

Walk into a store and count how many products there are for hardwood floors. There is cleaners, rejuvenators, etc. What is funny, is that besides cleaning your floor with a few select products you will damage your floor using these more than help it. Using the wrong products can add different films, acrylics and other substances that overtime break down, look awful or need weekly coats to look good. Below we go over a few products not so good for your floors and some that work great.

What Floor Cleaning Products to Use For Hardwood Floor Cleaning

There are a few products we sell or you can find around the internet that will service 99% of flooring options and even LVP/LVT floors. These products use a ph7 to clean the floors and do not add shine or decrease shine over time. These products just help aid the cleaning of your hardwood floors. Cleaning your hardwood floors is important, most importantly cleaning them with the right products to actually clean your floors.

Good wet cleaner products we have found over the years:

  • Arboritec Cleaner
  • Basic Coatings Squeaky
  • Glitsa Concentrate Cleaner

Good dry cleaning products:

  • Microfiber towel / mop
  • Swiffer dry (dry only not wet)

All these are available in our store. But more importantly they do not streak, leave residue or add product to the floor. These cleaners are simply made to just get dirt and grime off the floor.

What Floor Cleaning Products to NOT Use For Hardwood Floor Cleaning

Some flooring products sold in stores say they are for hardwood floors but they really just ruin floors. These cleaners, rejuvinators, whatever else they call themselves these days. Typically these products add material to the floor and make it look fine for a few days/weeks. After the product is on for a certain time it will begin to dull, become extremely shiny or even worse, flake off or peel. The problem with these products is they do not adhere to the flooring finish on your floor.

Products to avoid for cleaning hardwood floors

  • Bona polish – One of the most awful products that will peel or ruin your floor. Bona makes great flooring products, this one is not one of them.
  • Murphys oil soap – An acrylic that adds film and will peel in time.
  • Vinegar with water – This will age finish faster over time. We highly suggest not using this. Use a clean that is ph neutral.
  • Orange Glow – This product is an acrylic and will dry hard and collect any dust or dirt and make it in the coating. This will also dry orange and then begin to flake off.
  • Steam Mops – Steam is worse for your floors than water. Steam can penetrate wood flooring coatings no matter if oil or waterborne based. This steam gets through the finish and then it will not be able to escape once it cools down. This water then makes the wood rot from the inside. DO NOT USE STEAM MOPS WHEN CLEANING A HARDWOOD FLOOR.

How To Clean/Sweep/Mop Hardwood Floors

Cleaning hardwood floors is simple, but to do it properly to have the greatest outcome day in and day out is to do it the proper way. Below we will go over the methods over the last 10 years that I have found to be the best for my past hardwood flooring customers. They think that it works well and had great results. If you are looking for the best way to clean your hardwood floors this is the method for you.

Best Method for Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Alright, we know that dust, dirt grim is bad and will sand the floor off faster than anything else. We know that you need furniture pads, to lift furniture up and not slide. But, now the question is how do I get the dirt off in a good way that doesn’t further sand the hardwood flooring finish and how do I clean the floors! Well, below is a step by step guide to clean your hardwood floors.

Step By Step Hardwood Floor Cleaning Guide

  1. Prepare the floor for cleaning – The first step is to clean the floor from all major debris such as toys, extra furniture. Removing these items means you can clean the floor in the later steps without missing a step of trying to go around something and leaving dirt in an obstruction.
  2. Vacuum the floor – The next step is to vacuum the floor with a hardwood floor rated vacuum. These types of vacuums should have soft bristles around the whole head of the vacuum and no hard plastic should be touching the floor. The hard plastic will mar the plastic and overtime wear the finish leaving it dull.
  3. Take off any dirt/sticky grime still remaining – Below we will go over the best way to get off grime as it is a process in itself. But the key is to get this off prior to starting to clean. These sticky or grime spots are obstructions to cleaning and will collect dirt off the hardwood floor cleaning pad as it goes buy.
  4. Dry tack – Dry tack with a microfiber or swiffer dry pad. This will not create any mud or wet dirt on the floor and makes it easier to get any remaining dust/hair/fur off the floor. Dry tack should be an easy simple process that takes a little bit of time but in the end makes sure the floor is clean prior to cleaning with wet.
  5. Wet tack / Wet Mop – The final step is to use a damp (DO NO SPRAY TONS OF SOLUTION) the key is to clean the hardwood floor and not flood it. Once you have a damp pad (microfiber with solution advice from above) you want to begin to go in s shape turns at the end of each run. By doing this you are ensuring the leading edge contains all the dirt.

NOTE: When cleaning hardwood floors water is your biggest enemy. More water on the floor makes the floors moisture content go up. We recommend only a little bit of solution for a floor. Too much moisture can have negative affects  on the floor like cupping and finish problems.

How to Get Grime Off Hardwood Floors

The best way to get grim off a floor is to use a solution like clean n’ coat or basic coatings IFT. These solutions will loosen the dirt/gum and make it easy to get off the floor. If you are having more of an issue you can use a plastic putty knife and it should be fine and not mar the finish.

Long Term Maintenance of Hardwood Floors Overview

Long term maintenance of a hardwood floor includes cleaning the wood floors but also includes more than that. Each day you use a floor some of the finish is taken off etc. Below are some recommendations for keeping your hardwood floors perfect and away from needing resanding the wood floors more frequently than needed. Deep cleaning and screen and coats are important to keep the floors in tip top shape and great for years to come.

Deep Cleaning Hardwood Flooring

Deep cleaning is a great option for houses that get more traffic or shops and restaurants. This option really gets all the oils, dirt out of the grains and hard to get off grime. This is not a daily option but once a year for high traffic homes or once a quarter for shops/restaurants. This deep clean uses a more abrasive cleaner that really takes the grime off. The deep cleaning hardwood floor machines also use bristles that do not harm the finish. The more abrasive cleaner and the bristle combined does a lot more than traditional cleaning methods. The other nice part about deep cleans is all the water is instantly vacuumed up to ensure that the wood does not react to the water being used to clean.

Buff and Coat | Screen and Coat Hardwood Floors

Every 5-7 years your hardwood flor i upkept right should just be ready for a buff and coat or also known as a screen and coat. Basically, at this time your finish is wearing down. While not at wood yet, your finish is thin and needs to be refreshed with new finish. Any hardwood professional (not carpet guys) can do this process in about half a day start to finish. After the screen and coat is done you should be able to see that the floor almost looks brand new again and be back to its original sheen. What the process of a screen and coat is:

  • clean the floor
  • vacuum the floor
  • buff the floor with sandpaper
  • clean the floor with an adhesion booster
  • vacuum the floor
  • tack the floor
  • put new finish on


Basically keeping a floor clean means to use the right products, keep dirt off the floor and to recoat the floor every 5-7 years.

**some info for cleaning came from Cordalera Floors.

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