How do you Disinfect Hardwood Floors?

We all know that floors can be dirty. That much isn’t news anywhere on the planet. But did you know that a floor can be home to plenty of harmful germs and bacteria?

Pet mess, spillages, and soil from outside are the major sources of household germs and bacteria. These potential pathogens love to live on your floor, and are generally poor houseguests.

And, like poor houseguests, they don’t go away easily, either. The only way to get rid of them is to sanitize infected areas promptly.

Routinely cleaning a wooden floor by simply sweeping helps to remove dust, grime, and loose soil from the surface but fails to keep unwanted microorganisms at bay.

You’ll have to add another step to your cleaning process to actually sanitize the floor. Fortunately, this is relatively straightforward: Microorganisms that live on the surface of the floor can be destroyed by using antimicrobial agents.

While there are many types of such products, most of them may not be suitable for a wood floor due to their harsh ingredients or toxic nature. The two most common examples are bleach and Lysol.

If you have pets, you may find this article useful: Can pet urine damage my woodfloors?

how to sanitize wood floors

Household bleach is excellent at disinfecting hard surface floors. However, it cannot be used on a wood floor because it can damage the wood.

Lysol is another commonly used anti-microbial cleaning agent in homes but is also unsuitable for hardwood floors.

Lysol manufacturers recommend leaving the product to stay wet on the surface for at least 3 minutes to effectively kill viruses and bacteria.

It is dangerous to leave anything wet on the wood floor surface. Liquids and water based solutions easily destroy or damage the floor boards or wood planks.

So, just how do you disinfect a hardwood floor?

To protect the elegance and beauty of your hardwood floor, you will need to use appropriate disinfectants. They must not utilize harsh chemical ingredients so you can keep your floor safe.

There are two commonly used methods for disinfecting sealed wood floors naturally: steam cleaning or white vinegar solution.

These methods use natural ingredients, so there’s no need to worry about harsh chemicals. Since the methods are water based, however, you will have to be extra careful.

Water and wood floors should only interact for as long as is necessary to disinfect the floor, and not a moment longer.

Disinfect using White Vinegar and Water Mixture

Distilled white vinegar is a natural and non-toxic cleaning agent that is suitable for disinfecting hardwood floors.

Its acidic nature makes it effective for killing pathogens. To use vinegar on a hardwood floor:

  1. Use a microfiber cloth duster or vacuum to remove dust and loose debris from the floor. A microfiber cloth is suitable for trapping and collecting dust and fine debris that can act like sandpaper on your floor.

  2. Mix ½ cup of distilled white vinegar with one gallon of water in a bucket. Do not apply vinegar directly to the floor before diluting it with water.

  3. Dip a mop into the solution and wring it out completely. This avoids any chances of water puddles on the floor.

  4. Damp mop every part of your floor including corners. Rinse and wring out frequently to dispose of bacteria and any collected soil.

  5. Dry the hardwood floor surface using a dry soft towel to remove any moisture, film, or standing water.

Distilled white vinegar solution is the best DIY cleaner for hardwood floors that both removes dirt and grime and kills bacteria and fungus.

It is cheap and readily available. Being nontoxic, it is safe for pets and humans — unlike most chemical cleaners, which contain harsh and toxic ingredients that are harmful to the environment.

Incorrect use of vinegar and water on hardwood floors worries most flooring experts. Not coincidentally, that is the main reason many discourage its use. To avoid floor damage, be sure to use the right concentration: again, only ½ a cup per gallon of water.

Wring your mop as much as you can to prevent any water from standing on the wood floor surface. Too much water on the wood floor makes it swell and warp. When water spills accidentally, always be ready to mop it up.

Before using any water based solution or liquid on a hardwood floor, ensure it is properly sealed.

If left in any amount, water will penetrate the seams and minor openings in the floor if left standing for long.

Disinfect by Steam Cleaning

There’s another fine option available to you: You can use a hardwood steam cleaner to sanitize your floors. The high temperature of steam naturally kills bacteria and household germs.

The method purely uses water and therefore is natural. Do not add any cleaner or solution in your steamer — simply use water.

Most wood floor manufacturers discourage home owners from using steam. Incorrect use of steam can greatly damage your wood floor.

Before you steam a wood floor surface, it’s crucial you ensure that your floor is properly sealed.

Set your device to produce dry steam that contains little water for faster drying.

Protecting Wood Floor from Bacteria and Germs

Most bacteria and germs enter our homes through soil carried via shoes or pet paws. Removing your shoes before entering the house can greatly help minimize germ buildup.

It also prevents sand and soil from creating scuff marks on the surface.

Creating area rugs in high traffic areas such as the foyer, doorways, or kids’ and pets’ play areas can help protect your valuable hardwood floors.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to always place a door mat at both sides of an entrance.

Wiping your pet’s paws on the mat at the entrance also minimizes the chances of bacteria on your floor. You should also groom your pet well by bathing it regularly.

Immediately remove pet mess from the floor if it happens and clean the area — of course you would do that anyway. We care about your floors, so we do feel obliged to say it.

We are also obliged to remind you to read the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations before using any product on your wood.

Also, you may consider performing a test on a small, hidden area of your floor. Some cleaning procedures may void your floor warranty, sobe sure to check that first as well.


Hardwood floors can remain beautiful for decades if properly cared for — and they can help the value of a property remain high.

Keeping your floors looking their best is mainly accomplished through regular cleaning and the use of safe products and methods.

Water based cleaners should be used carefully to avoid standing water that can damage your wood floor. On the other hand, they’re entirely safe and non-toxic, so they can be a valuable tool in the fight against potentially harmful funky floor germs.

Leave a Comment