How to clean wood floors

What is the best way to clean my hardwood floors you ask? The answer may sound perplexing… There is NO one best way to clean your hardwood floors. What’s best for your floor depends how old your floors are and what type of finish is on your hardwood floors. If you don’t know what type of finish is on your floor, do your best to find out.

WHAT KIND OF FINISH IS MY HARDWOOD FLOORS?To tell the difference in a pinch, just rub your finger across the floor. Be sure to do this on a clean floor. If no smudge appears, the floor is surface sealed. If you do create a smudge, the floor has been treated with a penetrating seal, oil finish, shellac, varnish or lacquer, and then waxed. Consider when your floors were installed as well. If you have a newer wood floor, it is likely surface sealed.

If you’re not sure about what kind of finish is on your hardwood floor, review our blog to help you identify what the floor finish is.

PROTECT HARDWOOD FLOORS FROM DIRT AND GRIMEUse floor mats near your entry doors. You can reduce hardwood floor cleaning time and wear by adding mats at your entrances. Position mats both outside and inside exterior doors to lessen tracked-in dirt. Tiny particles, like dirt, can act like sandpaper and scratch your wood. By placing a floor mat at each entryway and encouraging family members and guests to wipe their feet, the majority of dirt and grime will remain on the mat.

In snowy or rainy weather, include a boot or shoe removal area to avoid damage from water and de-icers. Prevent marks by using floor protectors under furniture and by using rugs in play areas to ensure children’s toys don’t scratch the floor.

SWEEP FOR DAY TO DAY HARDWOOD FLOOR CLEANINGDustpan And Brush On A Wooden FloorIt might seem a little old-fashioned but the best way to clean your hardwood floor from day-to-day wear is sweeping with a high quality broom or using a microfiber cloth. If sweeping isn’t enough or those edges and corners need some attention, pull out the vacuum. Be sure to vacuum without the beater bar rotating which can scratch your hardwood floor finish.

USE APPROPRIATE CLEANING PRODUCTSWhen possible, use cleaning products recommended by the flooring manufacturer. In some cases failure to follow the recommendations can result in voiding your warranties. If the floors were finished on-site, talk with the installer for product recommendations. If neither is known, use a generic hardwood floor cleaner which can be purchased at a retail flooring store. Always test the cleaner first in some obscure corner, such as closet or pantry to make sure you are using the right product.

Never use anything with wax or petroleum-based products in it, unless you know for sure that your floor is a wax finish (this is no longer very common). Wax and oil will actually hold onto the dirt, and then when you step on it, it will scratch the surface. Also, if you use a wax or oil, it can eliminate the ability to buff and coat your floor–a full refinish could be required, because the finish won’t adhere and will peel off.Cleaning hardwood floor properly

Some hardwood flooring manufacturers now offer their own brand of hardwood floor cleaner. Flooring brands like Armstrong, BellaWood, Shaw and Bruce offer their own hardwood floor cleaners. Other hardwood flooring manufacturers and installers often recommend the following products: Bona, Method, Libman, Blanchon, EcoMist, Dr. Bronner Sals Suds or Wood Wash. Dust and dirt on your mop head acts like sandpaper and should be avoided. Be sure to use a mop with a removable mop head or microfiber mop for easy cleaning.

CLEAN UP SPILLS AND STAINS QUICKLYWipe up any spills immediately, using a soft, dry or slightly damp cloth. Start at the edges of the spill and work toward the center. Allowing spills to remain on hardwood floors could damage the finish, as well as the wood. Be sure that the floor is dry after clean up.

BE CAUTIOUS WHEN DEEP CLEANING HARDWOOD FLOORSWhen your hardwood floors need a more thorough cleaning, don’t grab a bucket of water and wet mop it! Use a damp mop on the floor and be sure to use a well-wrung mop. Do not over-wet the floor – this can change the moisture levels and, over time, cause a floor to expand, resulting in cupping.

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YOU’VE MADE A SMART INVESTMENTRemember, every wood floor is an investment, and you want do everything possible to ensure your investment lasts for decades. Luckily, to keep wood flooring looking its beautiful best for longer, you simply need to give it a little regular care and maintenance.

We Help You Clean and Maintain Wood Flooring

MacDonald Hardwoods has long been the premier source for all your hardwood floor maintenance and cleaning supplies. For more than three decades, customers have relied on our MacDonald Easy Hardwood Floor Cleaner to keep flooring beautiful – no streaks, no residue!

Check out our entire cleaning system, including cutting-edge quality and design products. We’ve put together a top selection of products over our 30-plus years in the industry. These hardwood floor care products enhance your home’s beauty while still keeping your budget in mind. Drop by our showroom to see the many options available.


Our affordable cleaning solutions and equipment are available for rent or purchase. Check out our Easy Hardwood Floor Cleaner™. Just ask one of our flooring experts for advice on which hardwood floor cleaning product would be best for the wood in your home. We even offer instructional classes!

Properly cleaning your hardwood floors is important to maintain the sheen and glossy finish of your floor. Keep your floor looking new by reading through some of our hardwood floor cleaning tips.

The Dos

  • Vacuum or sweep your floor regularly to remove dirt, dust, and any loose material. We recommend the MacDonald Hardwoods Mac Vac™.
  • Remove spills promptly. Use your terry cloth mop cover or a clean, soft cloth with MacDonald Hardwoods Easy Floor Cleaner™ to clean up wet spills. Use a vacuum or broom to pick up dry spills and abrasives.
  • Placemats at exterior doors to trap sand and grit from incoming traffic.
  • Install felt floor protectors on the “feet” of all furniture.
  • Use area rugs on high traffic areas: at ends of steps, near doorways, etc. All rugs should allow your wood floor to breathe. Avoid rubber-backed or non-ventilated rugs. When rugs are impractical, periodically check your floor for wear.
  • Maintain the relative humidity in your home between 45% and 55%. Excessive humidity or extreme dryness can cause your wood floor to swell or shrink, creating cupping or cracks.

The Don’ts

  • Do not let sand, dirt, and grit build up. They can act like sandpaper and actually abrade and dull your floor finish.
  • Never damp mop a wood floor. Excessive amounts of water can cause your floor to swell and cup. No matter what you’ve heard from family and friends, do not wet mop with water and vinegar to clean hardwood floors. This can dull your floor and finish over time.
  • Avoid walking on wood floors with high heels. They can severely damage wood floors. Keep heels in good repair.
  • Keep pets’ claws properly trimmed to avoid excessive scratches and gouges.
  • Do not use wax, oil soap, liquid polish, or other household cleaners on your polyurethane finished wood floor. The use of these products can dull today’s floor finishes and make refinishing difficult.

Not sure which flooring solution is right for you? Let us help you assess your options! Simply contact MacDonald Hardwoods today at 800.639.3006.


© 2018 MacDonald Hardwoods

929 West 1st Avenue Denver, CO 80223 [email protected]



Removing Scuff Marks

  • Keep a spray bottle with a mixture of 50/50 vinegar, water and about 15 drops of essential oil of your choosing.
  • Sprinkle scuffs with baking soda then spray solution, let fizz for a few seconds.
  • Scrub marks until they are removed then dry with a soft towel.

Wax Testing & Removal

  • Wet your fingers with water then flick into a corner of the floor where there’s not much traffic. If there’s wax on the surface, the floor will turn white under the water beads (may take a half hour or so to turn white).

To Remove Wax:

  • Scrub the surface with mineral spirits using a household sponge with a nylon scrubby side. Wipe dry with a soft cloth as wax is dissolved. Repeat process a second time if needed.
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DIY Polish

Wash surface as usual and dry thoroughly. Using one of the mixes below, apply polish to surface then wipe dry with a soft cotton towel.

Recipe #1

  • Mix equal parts olive oil and white household vinegar.

Recipe #2

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (or olive oil)
  • 2 TBS cider vinegar
  • 3 TBS vodka

Recipe #3

  • 1 TBS olive oil mixed with 1 tsp lemon juice. Apply to a clean, dry mop and treat floors after cleaning.

Quick Tip: You can also spray commercial furniture polish onto the mop head and then wipe over surface.

Scratch Repair

  • Rub a crayon that is the same color as the flooring into the scratch, filling the space as full of the wax as you can.
  • To seal in place, heat with a hair dryer to soften the wax, allow to cool for a few seconds then buff with a soft cloth.

How to Make a Homemade Wood Floor Cleaner

This guide is going to feature a couple different recipes for natural wood cleaners, but they all have the same basic outline.

An effective wood floor cleaner is going to be made up of four parts:

  1. cleanser
  2. protectant
  3. fragrance
  4. base

To be completely honest, the fragrance isn’t all that necessary, but it never hurts, especially when it’s natural ingredients, like essential oils or fresh fruits.

Kitchen with hardwood floors

Most DIY natural floor cleaners have just 4 basic parts. Cleanser, protectant, fragrance, and base.

But how easy is that?! A minimum of mixing two products and you can be well on your way to a cleaner and newer looking hardwood floor.

So what exactly does each part of the formula do? Let’s find out!


The cleanser is arguably the most important part of any natural wood floor cleaner. The cleaning agent cuts through grease, grime, dirt, or any other sticky goo that is on your hardwoods. Popular choices for cleaners include:

  • Distilled White Vinegar
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Liquid castile soap

distilled white vinegar

Distilled white vinegar is an incredible cleaner to use around the house


The protectant is part of the cleaner that provides shine and helps to moisturize the wood. It’s like the wax cycle after washing your car or the conditioner after the shampoo.

Some may argue that it’s not necessary either, but without a protectant you may notice your hardwoods dulling or becoming foggy over time.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a simple and effective protectant for hardwoods.

Examples of popular protectants include:

  • Olive Oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Linseed Oil
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Tung Oil


The fragrance part of this cleaner is completely optional, but let’s be honest… if I’m going through the work to have a clean house, I want it to smell like one! In addition, many natural fragrances carry anti-bacterial properties that could help to disinfect your home.

essential oils

Essential oils are great for adding a fresh fragrance to most any natural cleaning recipe.

Popular fragrances for wood floor cleaners include:

  • Lemon
  • Orange
  • Lime
  • Lemongrass
  • Grapefruit
  • Lavender
  • Almond

When selecting a fragrance, remember to think outside the box. Fragrances can be combined or used independently.

Organe for fragrance

Orange peel or other fruit peels are great for adding a fresh scent to any cleaner.

The three most popular ways to use a fragrance include:

Essential oils are oils that are obtained by distilling the natural plant or fruit that it comes from. Depending on the size of cleaning batch you’re making, you could add 5-30 drops of essential oil to your recipe.


The base is almost always water.


Depending on how thick you want your cleaner, you may or may not want to add water for dilution.

And believe it or not, this part is optional as well. Depending on how concentrated you want the cleaner to be, you can choose to add or skip the water.

Recipes for Natural Wood Floor Cleaners

Recipe #1 – Vinegar, Olive Oil, & Essential Oil

  • 2 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar (cleanser)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (protectant)
  • 15 drops Lemongrass essential oil (fragrance)
  • 2 cups warm water (base)

Recipe #2 – Soap, Vinegar, & Coconut Oil

  • 8 Tbsp. liquid Castile soap (cleanser)
  • 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (cleanser)
  • 1/4 cup fractionated coconut oil (protectant)
  • 30 drops Lemon essential oil (fragrance)
  • 1 gallon warm water (base)

Recipe #3 – Vinegar and Olive Oil (no scent)

  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar (cleanser)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil (protectant)
  • 2 quarts room temperature water (base)
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1. Sweep It Up

First things first, be sure to sweep or vacuum up any debris that may be on your floors (check out our Dyson V10 and Dyson V8 reviews, both are great for quick cleans). Take a minute to wipe down baseboards using a damp rag and remove any extra furniture or chairs that you would like to clean under.

Always sweep before you start doing the serious cleaning.

Always sweep before you start doing the serious cleaning.

4, Wax It In

For a deeper clean, you can make an ultra-concentrated version of these cleaners that use just the fragrance and protectant. Using a microfiber cloth or rag, put a little of the oil directly on the rag and work the oil into the floor, making small circles, as if you were waxing a car.

cleaning hardwood floors

Microfiber mops are an easy way to wax floors.

Be careful not to add too much oil at once, which may leave your floors feeling greasy or slick.

You’re Done!

It’s really just as simple as that! 4 quick steps and you’re done. Now you can enjoy beautifully cleaned and great smelling hardwood floors.

hardwood floors

After a quick clean you’ll have stunningly beautiful (and protected) wood floors!

Have other tips that you think we should include? Let us know in the comments down below!

NEXT – If you’d like to add even more DIY cleaner recipes to your list check out these 12 natural cleaning recipes for cleaning all over the home.

Cleaning With Vinegar

There are many benefits of using it as a cleaning solution in practically every room of the house:

  • It is inexpensive, so there is more money to spend on the more important things in life.
  • It is non-toxic, meaning parents and pet owners can feel comfortable in the knowledge there are no nasty chemicals being used on their floor.
  • It is an organic substance, it is created from the fermentation of ethanol, not by mixing heavy or dangerous chemicals. So by using vinegar you are doing something good for the environment.
  • While it is a natural substance, it is also acidic which means it is a powerful cleaner. It can dissolve mineral deposits from smooth surfaces, this is why it needs to be diluted with water to ensure no damage occurs to your floors.
  • It has anti-bacterial properties. For generations it has been used to combat mold and bacteria.

Which vinegar should I use?

I strongly recommend you only ever use basic white vinegar for cleaning purposes. White vinegar has no particular color, so will not stain hardwood. Some of the other types, such as apple cider vinegar, as delicious as it is, will have a brownish tint which could potentially damage floors. White vinegar is also the most inexpensive option.

How do I clean my wood floors with vinegar?

Cleaning your floors with vinegar is a very easy process, which is no more time consuming than a store bought, chemical laden cleaning solution. Below I have listed the simple steps that should be taken:

  1. Thoroughly sweep or vacuum your floor. It is extremely important there is no dust or dirt on the floor as this can lead to scratches.
  2. Using a ratio of one gallon of warm water to a half cup of white vinegar fill up a clean bucket.
  3. Plunge a clean mop into the water/vinegar mixture and ensure it is thoroughly wrung out before mopping.
  4. Mop away! I do recommend mopping in the same direction of the floor boards, if as the water dries it leaves a streak, it will be less visible. Also change the liquid if it starts to look dirty.

The floors will be fine to let air dry, however if the floor looks a bit too wet after mopping feel free to remove some excess moisture with a dry, clean towel or cloth. I also recommend keeping pets and children off the floor until it has dried completely, this will ensure a beautiful, shiny and smudge free floor.

Once you try this out for yourself and are amazed at the results, be sure to share your new cleaning secret with your family and friends so they can be amazed at their floors as well.

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