How To Clean Old Hardwood Floors

If there is one element in a room that can make it look like a million bucks, it is a good hardwood floor. There are very few details in interior designing that can have as significant an impact on the room’s aesthetics as authentic wood flooring. Choosing the right stain color and the grains can give you that chic magazine ready room! While the aesthetics of it is appealing, there is one thing that most people dread about hardwood floors- CLEANING! Are you someone who has turned down the idea of installing the hardwood floor merely because you though it takes a lot of maintenance? Or do you own hardwood floors and find cleaning them to be operose? Then here is a comprehensive guide that should answer all your questions about how to clean old hardwood floors.

What kind of wood and coating is there?

Before you venture into cleaning your wood floors, you should understand the type of wood used and the coating. Engineered wood flooring might look a lot like solid hardwood flooring. However, these are easier to maintain than hardwood floors. These are slightly better at handling moisture. Therefore, these are used in kitchens where there is a high possibility of exposure to wetness and moisture. However, if you cannot compromise on durability, there is hardly a substitute for solid hardwood floors. When you maintain them well, they can last for ages. Once in a while, they might need a touch of refinishing to bring them back to life. With all these perks, there is one other reason why most homeowners find solid hardwood flooring to be worth the expense- the increase in home value.

Whatever be the type of wood flooring you have to clean here are the 4 steps to follow-

1.    Gathering the right supplies

2.    Dust it with a dry mop

3.    Vacuum for finer cleaning

4.    Use a cleaner as a finishing touch

Sanding the floor is an additional step for old wood floors that have remained dirty for a long time.

Sanding and prepping

With engineered wood, you do not have the option to sand the surface for any unevenness. However, you easily sand and renovate solid hardwood floors. Therefore, if you stumble upon a great house and find a hardwood floor that needs cleaning, sanding the surface should be your first step. You can ask for a professional to evaluate the condition of the wood flooring. This helps you rule out possibilities of rot and molding. Some of these are not visible on physical inspection. It is an essential step because cleaning wood that is rotten on the inside might prove to be a futile attempt. If the condition is good, it is mainly due to the use of dependable coating on the wood. This coating has been preventing all the dust, moisture, and impurities from damaging the wood. However, with time, the coating wears off, and some of the dirt reaches the wood surface. Cleaning floors refer to cleaning the ones that have a coating on them. Dust and stains on the wood floor’s coating are easy to clean. However, to clean the wood, you should sand it. Sanding eliminates the top surface that traps the dirt when coating comes off. It then exposes the clean bare wood. From here, you can start staining and applying acrylic finishes for extending the life of the floors. Therefore, if you are beginning from scratch in cleaning an old hardwood floor, sanding should be your first step.


The right type of cleaners

You would find a plethora of commercially available hardwood floor cleaners in the market. These are known to reduce the time taken to clean your floors and also preserve their health. However, many simply rely on homemade cleaners for their wood flooring.

Commercial cleaners


•    There are plenty that comes labeled with the recommended floor type. Knowing your wood floor makes it easy to find the compatible cleaner.

•    These are efficient compositions. They can reduce the time and effort that you should spend to clean the floors. Some of them can quickly eliminate even the toughest stains and stubborn grime on the surface in seconds. Without using your elbow grease, you can restore your floor’s sparkle. 


•    Exposure to fumes and harsh chemicals while cleaning is a drawback

•    Not all cleaners in the market are affordable. Therefore, if you need these cleaners regularly and if you have large areas to cover, then you end up spending a lot of money.

Homemade cleaners

There is a host of recipes that you will find when it comes to preparing a homemade hardwood floor cleaner. Some use vinegar and others that use dish soap or even castile soap. Some homeowners use leftover tea leaves to add subtle color while cleaning. Be careful about the ingredients you use depending on the type of floor you are handling. Vinegar might be a standard recommendation. However, given the acidic nature of this ingredient, you should be very careful while using it. It can make some floors look dull mainly because it breaks the glossy coat on top. Simple dish soap diluted well in water can be a secure and reliable option for homemade hardwood floor cleaner. The use of kitchen ingredients makes handing homemade cleaners safe to handle. These are also less expensive in comparison with commercial cleaners. However, efficiency depends on getting the right mix of ingredients. Commercial cleaning with professional cleaners can also be of help to tackle deep cleaning routines once in a while. It helps preserve the value of your hardwood floors.

Dust mop for hardwood floors

Any cotton mop will not suffice for cleaning expensive hardwood floors. You need a dirt magnet, a microfiber mop to which dust clings, leaving the floor spotless. Look for mops that are safe to use on hardwood floors. These are the ones that do not leave streaks on the floor when you clean dust. These do not drag the fine dust particles on the floor. Instead, they lift them off the surface. This is how they do not cause scratches while also efficiently eliminating dust particles.

Vacuum heads that work

Not all vacuums are suitable for use on the hardwood floors. It is not just the vacuum attachment that you should worry about but also the wheels. Not all of them come with smooth wheels that move without scratching the floors. As a long-term investment, choose vacuums suitable for cleaning hardwood flooring and complement them with the right attachments. Fine brushes that do not damage the wood are useful for deep cleaning the surface. These can tackle the nearly invisible dust on the floor, leaving it hygienic. It can also be a helpful addition in households with pets where pet hair clings on to wood flooring. Vacuuming might be an indispensable step in the living rooms and other areas of high traffic.

Steam mops – should you use them?

This is one tricky gadget that most homeowners have confusion about. If you have tile flooring, any good steam mop will work fine. However, not all of them are suitable for use on wood floorings. Some of them feature designs that allow using them on laminate flooring and hardwood flooring. Remember that most of them are ideal for use on sealed wood floors. This is because they use the power of steam to get rid of stains and residues on the floor. It is better to avoid steam mops on hardwood floors. Extended use of these mops can damage the wood floors, due to the high temperature. If you do use one of these, use them in the lowest setting suitable for hardwood surfaces.


For dusting hardwood floors, you can use a soft broom or even a dry mop with a microfiber head. This step is essential daily. A layer of fine dust resting on the surface of the wood can lead to scratches, especially as you walk around. Dusting the floors daily helps eliminate this risk. Also, if you are using a cleaner, you should not directly use one on a dusty surface. Dry dusting is the critical first step no matter what cleaning method you plan to follow. When it comes to dusting, whether you use a broom or a mop sweep in gentle strokes in the same direction of the wood grains. This can help eliminate dust particles that accumulate in the grains and textures of the surface. Most of the time, even pet hair comes off with the mop while dusting.


No matter how efficient your microfiber mop is, some dust almost always escapes. This is where a good vacuum cleaner comes into the picture. This might not be an essential step every day. However, if you plan to use a cleaner on your floor, then you should use a vacuum to tackle every corner of the house. Crevices in the wood, or even cracks and gaps between planks, are the spots where dust settles. Using an excellent cyclonic suction vacuum helps extract such tricky dust deposits. Such fine dust settles even more tightly on the surface when you use a wet mop or cleaner on top of the wood without vacuuming the floor. It also doesn’t allow the cleaner to work on every little corner of the floor. 


Once you have thoroughly eliminated every speck of dust from the floor, the next step is to use the cleaner. If you have been dusting your floor every day and vacuuming it frequently, a simple bucket of water or one with few drops of dish soap works just fine. Make sure that your mop isn’t dripping wet when you wipe the floor. Do not use any random tile cleaner or multi-surface cleaner on your wood floors. Pick a safe hardwood floor cleaner for the best results. If you are using a homemade version or a commercial cleaner, follow the instructions of use and dilute the right amount. This ensures that you do not strip off the protective coating on the wood surface. As a rule of thumb, most homeowners rely on commercial cleaners once a month or once in two months. To make things easier, you get the recommended frequency of use on the cleaner bottle depending on the manufacturer, the ingredients, and other factors. Do not use them more frequently than the recommendation the bottle gives. Avoid using the cleaning when the floor is still wet. Also, avoid using the floor until the cleaner is fully dry. The duration for which you have to leave the floor undisturbed is again a recommendation that most popular brands in hardwood cleaners give.

Hardwood floor cleaning and maintenance mistakes to avoid

•    Using too much water or too much soap to clean

•    Not using furniture pads to prevent scratches

•    Not using rugs and runners in high traffic spots

•    Choosing the wrong type of cleaners or using the wrong concentration

•    Not focusing on a regular cleaning

•    Letting water spills and stains rest there too long

These are the mistakes that make cleaning wood floors an expensive affair. Some of them can even affect the health of the floor permanently. It is all about preventive care when it comes to keeping your wood floors squeaky clean.

Wrapping up

Cleaning wooden flooring is easier than it was in the past. There are some sophisticated cleaners in the market. Vacuum brands bring some efficient and gentle attachments for using on hardwood floors. With all this happening, all it takes from your side is a little effort to understand what your floor needs. Give it a gentle dusting regularly. Mop it and keep the floors dry, and you are sure to have floors that enhance the character of your house. Use a good cleaner every few months and hire a professional every year or as needed. If you notice any cracks or chips on the surface, address them immediately. This is all you have to do to keep your wood floors shining like new for a long time.

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