Best Way To Clean Wood Floors (And Safest!)

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way to clean wood floorsWood floors last longer than other floorings, but you might be hesitant to have them in your home because you worry that cleaning them isn’t easy.

Cleaning wood floors is easier than you probably thought, and we can tell you exactly how to do it in a jiffy. The floor itself lends itself to easy cleaning, but with the right cleaning products and some haste, you can make the job even easier on yourself.

A Sealed Deal

clean wood floors using a steam mopMost wood in your home is tougher than you may think. Wooden surfaces or furnishings are treated to draw out moisture when they’re processed, which makes them less capable of absorbing liquids or spills.

They then get sprayed with a layer of polyurethane, or plastic, which lowers the chance of the wood fracturing and giving you splinters. It also makes the wood smoother and forms a seal that water runs off of, instead of sinking into the wood. That’s why cleaning tools like a steam mop can be especially effective on treated wood floorboards.

On a very small scale, wood is perforated, meaning there are small dips and craters. The treated finish fills these in as well, but these small spaces in your wood make basic sweeping miss more dirt.

Because the wood is already insulated against liquids, steam mops can use their evaporation style cleaning technique without damaging the floor.

Vacuum Space

canister style vacuum cleanerEven though you can mop, or steam clean your wood floors without risk of damaging them, the finish on them will eventually start to wrinkle and wear.

If the finish begins to wear off your wooden floor, we suggest getting it reapplied. If that’s not possible, consider switching to the next best option for a while, a bristle-free vacuum capable of picking up dirt from between the boards.

We say bristle-free because any hanging edge that drags along your floor can damage the wood or tear open the treatment on top, which in turn makes your floor more vulnerable to liquids. That’s the same reason we do not recommend a traditional broom. A canister style vacuum is better because it moves over the wood like a wheel, without digging into your floor’s finish.

Also, we want to reiterate that cleaning spills off of wooden floors as soon as possible is a must. Unlike other floor materials, wood is easily one of the most absorbent things your floor can be made out of and gets weaker the further a liquid will soak into it.

Even if your floor isn’t old, the plastic treatment on top often wrinkles and shrivels as liquids left sitting for too long begin to dry. Letting food or spills dry before you scrape them up prematurely damages the treatment on top.

Don’t Over-complicate It

cleaning a spill on wooden floorsIf a spill or stain does befall your wood floor, remember to follow these simple steps to best clean the mess.

  • Vacuum over the floor when it is time to clean. The suction should pull dirt out from between the floorboards and the grooves in the grain of the wood. Don’t use brooms or bristle vacuums, or you may damage your floor.
  • If you’re dealing with a spill, apply a cleaning product to the damaged area and begin cleaning it up immediately. If you’re cleaning your floor regularly, then apply a small amount of cleaner to the floor and then spread it across the floor evenly. Don’t let spills or chemicals sit for too long, or they can warp the wood treatment underneath them.
  • Make sure to mop up the chemicals or spill as soon as you’re done. Afterward, dry your floor if you don’t use a steam mop or similar tool that applies heat to finish. As a word of caution, faulty steam mops that are too hot can cause wrinkling in the finish of your wood, so try touching your floor after you’re done to find out whether it’s still too wet (which is bad) or hot to the touch (which is worse).

Our final tip can be the hardest for people to get used to, but it helps. Consider talking to your family about going barefoot in your home!

Wood floors are laminated in order to make them smooth, so you shouldn’t have to worry about hurting your feet with edges or splinters. Dirt and mud combine to be the number one cause of damage to wood floors, so a policy to leave shoes at the door can make keeping your wood floors clean easier than ever.

Easy to Remember

So, there you have it, our best ways to clean your wooden floors. If you have access to a tool that can get cracks or recesses like a steam mop, it can be very effective. Don’t hesitate or let stains dry first because it will soak into the wood more than other floors and damage it. And if a spill does damage your floor, consider getting it re-treated so that next time nothing soaks in past the surface.

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Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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