How to Clean Old Hardwood Floors without Sanding

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how to clean old hardwood floors without sanding

Old hardwood floors add character to a home. But when the dirt on those floors becomes the room’s focal point, they become more of a liability than an asset.

Luckily, you can get your floors clean without the need for heavy machinery or back-breaking work.

The Best Way to Clean Old Hardwood Floors Without Sanding

To clean your old hardwood floors, start by thoroughly sweeping them. Afterward, use a PH-neutral cleaner, like dish soap and water, to mop them. Use a sponge to scrub spots with a lot of buildup. If your floors don’t come clean, consider purchasing a hardwood floor refinishing kit that doesn’t require sanding or hire out the job.

How to Get Your Old Hardwood Floors Super Clean

how to get your old hardwood floors super clean

If you don’t care about refinishing your floors and are just trying to get them as clean as possible, there are many methods you can try. The process you’ll need to go with will depend on the condition of the floor’s topcoat.

For example, if the topcoat on your old hardwoods has completely worn off, you’ll want to stick with a pH-neutral hardwood floor cleaner or a mixture of dish soap and water.

If your floors still have their topcoat intact, try cleaning them with a hardwood-safe steam mop or a mixture of half vinegar and half water. A steam mop can help you loosen up old stuck-on dirt more efficiently than any other method.

However, the steam mop needs to be safe for hardwood floors (steamers that get too hot are not), and your flooring needs to have a topcoat. If your flooring doesn’t have a topcoat, the wood will absorb the steam, which can cause water damage.

How to Refinish Your Floors without Sanding

If cleaning your floors doesn’t satisfy you, it may be time to refinish them. Luckily, if you’re working on a budget, you can buy sandless floor refinishing kits from any major home improvement store. 

Here’s how they work:

  • Clean your floors
  • Apply the provided cleaner to the floors
  • Put a coat of poly on the floors
The directions for each kit will be a little different but along these lines. While these won’t change the color of your floor, they will help get rid of scuff marks and restore your floor to its natural luster.

Two good options to check out include Rustoleum Wood Floor Transformations and Varathane Renewal.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq how to clean old hardwood floors without sanding

How do you clean a filthy hardwood floor that no one has cleaned for years?

If nobody has cleaned your floor in a long time, you need to start by sweeping it and then mopping it with a hardwood floor cleaner or gentle all-purpose cleaner. Remop until you stop seeing dirt. You can then assess the damage to the floor.

If you see a clean floor that simply lacks luster, you can hire a professional to put on a topcoat or do it yourself with a refinishing kit. On the other hand, if watermarks or pet stains are on the floors, even sanding may not remove them. This will depend on how far the moisture has penetrated.

Can I freshen my hardwood floors?

If your floors are in good shape but look dull, you can freshen them with polish. Look for one appropriate to go over the type of topcoat that’s already on your floors. (For instance, you don’t want to put polish over wax, etc.)

Can I sand hardwood floors by hand?

While you certainly can sand hard floors by hand, especially if you have an orbital sander, it will take a long time. Hand sanding may work for small jobs but will be a massive chore in a large room.


If you’re wondering how to clean old hardwood floors without sanding, start by giving them an excellent cleaning. This involves thoroughly sweeping and mopping until there’s no dirt left on the floors.

After the floors are spotless, you can assess further damage. If you want to restore luster, consider a DIY floor refinishing kit or, if it’s in the budget, pay to have your floors refinished.

Photo of author


Katie Barton lives with her husband and three daughters in an 1800’s style log cabin in southern Ohio. She thinks cleaning is relaxing and is considered the organizing go-to person by her family and friends. She runs the blog Cabin Lane where she shares about cleaning, decluttering, and minimalism. See full biography here.

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