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Is it OK to Clean Your Hardwood Floor With Just Water?

With many people recommending certain cleaning products and as many people advising against them, you may have been asking yourself whether it’s okay to clean your hardwood floor with just water. 

Although the short answer is yes, there are some precautions behind this “yes” to ensure that you’re not ruining your hardwood floor while all the way thinking that you’re protecting it. And one of them is to know whether it’s right to clean your hardwood floor with water in the first place, so let’s dig into this topic more

When Is It Appropriate to Clean with Water Only?

First things first, you have to know that water is just water! All it can do is remove light dust and soils. It won’t disinfect your hardwood floor or remove bacteria and viruses, so it’s only appropriate for routine cleaning sessions, not deep ones when your floor is suffering from sticky syrupy soils and oily stains.

In these cases, water won’t just cut it, especially in high-traffic areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and dining rooms where stains build up and can hardly be removed by weekly dusting. 

You’ll need powerful chemicals to fight these stains. While the internet is full of tips and tricks on how to clean your hardwood floor without expensive degreasers and cleaners, following your floor finisher’s advice is the best. 

If they recommend certain floor-cleaning products, trust their recommendations. No one knows better than the manufacturers themselves.

If the road of homemade cleaning recipes seems more appealing to you, try to take your information from trusted sources. In general, avoid using waxes or furniture sprays as they leave residues and create a slippery surface you don’t want to deal with.

Never trust a recipe that contains ammonia or alkaline products. These are fast ways to ruin the finish and dull the color of your expensive hardwood floor. 

Is It Okay to Use a Bucket of Water and a Mop?

The answer to this question relies heavily on the type of wood floor you have. The thing is, hardwood can either be sealed (finished) or unsealed (unfinished). 

Sealed wood is a type of hardwood coated with protectants like varnish or polyurethane, which prevents it from absorbing water. Unsealed wood, on the other hand, absorbs water through its small uncovered pores, resulting in staining and swelling. 

In the long run and with prolonged exposure to water, unsealed wood acts as a sponge, accumulating water under its surface, which results in the warping and cracking we’re trying to avoid. It may also cause the floor to lose its color and produce squeaking noises whenever you step on it.

So, does that mean it’s okay to use water on a sealed hardwood floor but not on an unsealed one? 

Not exactly! While sealed wood can hold up to moisture, it’s not entirely resistant to water. It just gives you more peace of mind while cleaning, but you’ll still have to use a moderate amount of water. 

And by “moderate,” we mean using a damp cloth that’s been dipped in the water and squeezed thoroughly, not to leave any traces of water on the floor. Wet mopping can still damage it. 

As for unsealed hardwood, you’ll need to be more cautious. The best way you can do that is to sweep the floor with a damp microfiber cloth or mop head and wipe it immediately with a dry microfiber cloth afterward. The thing about microfibre cloths is that they attract dirt and grime without scratching your floor or holding much water.

After finishing this step, double-check that there is no standing water left on the floor. If the weather is humid, try operating an air conditioner or a dehumidifier to absorb the extra moisture and speed up the drying process.

What about Steam Cleaning?

Steam cleaning is a way of cleaning your floor using a hot jet of steam to loosen dirt and grime off the floor. The problem with this method is that it injects water vapor into the cracks and surfaces of hardwood. In other words, if your floor is unsealed, you can consider this a fast and confirmed way to happily ruin your hardwood floor. 

It’s still a viable option if you have sealed hardwood flooring, though, since the chance of steam passing the finish and entering the wood’s floor is low. However, only use this method if you’re 100% confident that your floor seal is intact and that the mop you’re using is marketed for use with hardwood.

To make sure your floor seal is intact, there are two ways. The first is to rub your finger across several spots on the floor. If it creates smudges, then your finish is still intact. 

The other way is to drop a tiny amount of water on your floor. If the water drops seep into the wood and disappear, your seal isn’t intact. If they bead up and stay on the surface, you’re safe to go.

The seal’s quality varies from a spot to another, especially if your hardwood floor is old. To be extra sure, you have to perform these tests in several locations on your floor. If you feel like some places are getting wet, abort.

Last but not least, keep in mind that some hardwood finishes can peel or flake when steam mopped. Apart from the seal, these types are just not designed to withstand drastic temperature changes, so before you make the jump, make sure your floor can stand the heat.

Also, while you’re at it, go through the floor’s warranty conditions and double-check that steam cleaning doesn’t void your retailer’s protection.

Final Words

Hardwood floor is a long-term investment that can last you decades with proper care. However, one wrong decision can throw your investment down the drain. Although it’s okay to clean your hardwood floor with just water, in some cases, you need to be extra careful not to break its integrity.