Home » How to Clean Dirty Wooden Floors: Step by Step

How to Clean Dirty Wooden Floors: Step by Step

To make your hardwood floors clean, attractive and durable you need to clean them regularly. Unlike other flooring types, hardwood floors are sensitive to water, cleaning solutions and methods of cleaning. In this guide learn how to clean hardwood floors the right way for both sealed and unsealed types.

Before we begin, it’s very important to understand that water and wood does not mix. Secondly, the floor can scratch or get dents if you use techniques that applies force or too much pressure on the surface. Thirdly, harsh cleaning solutions can eat into or damage the surface finish.

In addition, it is necessary to understand if your wooden floor is sealed or not. Sealed wood has a polyurethane finish layer or coat that protects the underlying wood against moisture. Unsealed wood floors does not have such a protective layer and thus vulnerable to water or any liquid.

Sealed wood floors are common in modern homes. They can be shiny, high gloss or have a matte finish. Unsealed wood floors are fewer and found in old colonial homes. To test if your hardwood floor is sealed, splash few drop of water on a small area. If it beads up, the wood is sealed and it if seeps or get absorbed, the wood is unsealed.

How to Clean Sealed Wooden Floors

Step 1: Dusting

Sweep or vacuum dust and other debris using a soft broom or a vacuum recommended for hardwood floors. If you use hard broom or a vacuum with a beater bar, you may scratch the surface of the floor. Dusting should be done on a weekly basis so that any hard debris or soil does not scratch or create dents in the floor as you walk across.

Step 2: Moping

Regardless of regular dusting, there will always be sticky dirt or grime on your floors. Therefore you will need deep clean using a hardwood floor cleaning solution such as bona. Obtain your cleaner and read instructions before use. Test on a small area if you are new to the product.

Saturate a mop into the cleaner and wring it out completely to make it damp. Mop the floor after sweeping or vacuuming. Follow with water damp piece of towel or a sponge mop to rinse the cleaner. Some cleaners are not rinsed thus important to read the manufacturer’s instructions.

The main reason for wringing out a mop is to avoid leaving any film or pool of water standing on your floor. Do not let your hardwood absorb water, swell, and warp. Testing your new cleaner solution on a small areas gives you a hint on how it will react with the surface.

If you are worried about what to use for cleaning a hardwood, you may use a mixture of water and white vinegar. It is one of the safest and natural way of cleaning wooden floors. Vinegar is gentle, safe and tough on grime and dirt.

Steam cleaning is also another method of cleaning a hardwood floor but it has some risks. Since steam can penetrate through any tiny opening, this method can damage a wooden floor that is not properly sealed. Bursting of hot steam on the surface can also damage the finish or dull its appearance.

Step 3: Polishing

Between cleaning, you can improve the looks of your sealed wooden floors by applying a thin coat of a hardwood floor polish and restoration product such as Weiman or Bona. Polishes help in concealing or fixing light scratch marks, evens out the surface appearance and makes it shiny.

How to Clean Unsealed Wooden Floors

Unsealed wood floors are charming and can last many years when properly cared for. Since they lack a protective surface finish, any liquid or water based method of cleaning can damage them. To avoid this from happening, avoid using such methods of cleaning. Mop up any spills immediately before they seep into the wood.

Dirt and grime can also penetrate the unfinished wood when left without cleaning for a long time. This not only have effect on the appearance of your wood but also on its life. Therefore how do you clean unsealed hardwood floors?

1. Sweeping/vacuuming

Sweeping or vacuuming on a regular basis is sufficient enough to keep your floors clean. Sections with ingrained grime or dirt can be cleaned using odorless mineral spirit. It is safe, gentle on wood and dries faster. Simply spray the spirit on the section and follow with a microfiber mop.

2. Oil Treat

Grime and residue may build up on the surface of the unsealed hardwood floor despite regular sweeping or vacuuming. Since you cannot clean with water based cleaner you may use a natural oil such as linseed or jojoba to restore the beauty of your wood.

To treat with oil, sweep or vacuum the floor and apply the oil using a rug. Allow it 10 to 15 minutes to act on the residue and follow up with a clean dry mop to remove the dirt as you also buff the oil. This can be done on a monthly basis.

3. Waxing

You may use petroleum or non-water based wax between cleanings to restore the beauty of your unsealed wood floor. Apply the wax using a dry rug and allow it half an hour to blend with your wood. When the wax has dried, buff with a clean piece of cloth or with a buffing machine if you are dealing with a large area.

The Bottom line

To make your sealed and unsealed wooden floor stay clean for long and without scratching, protect it from tracked in dirt and moisture. Place doormats at exterior doors and always remove shoes before stepping on them. Use furniture pads on legs of your chairs to avoid scratching the floor. Place rugs in high traffic areas and avoid pulling heavy objects against the surface of your floor.

Pets such as dogs can notoriously scratch your hardwood floors. To ensure that is not happening, keep their claws trimmed. Place rugs in areas where they feed from. Above all, keep an eye on mess such as urine and vomit and mop up immediately before they stain your beautiful wood floor.

Video Illustration (Courtesy)

Leave a Comment