To keep hardwood floors damage-free, what you use to clean them matters. From the mop material to the hardwood floor cleaning solution, the wrong choice can warp the wood, permanently damaging it. Taking care of your hardwood floors can minimize the risks of warping, fading, accidental staining, or other forms of common damage.

Your home’s flooring can stain over time. You can lose those earthy, warm wood tones in time as well. Cleaning hardwood flooring is about giving it a beautiful appearance. In function, cleaning is not necessary. You don’t need cleaning to have a floor that works. Hardwood flooring is durable and sturdy, built with a long-lasting material with decades of use ahead of it, assuming it’s taken care of correctly.

Hardwood can be vacuumed and mopped once a week at most. For deep cleaning, aim to space out those about 4-6 weeks at most. This will ensure you reduce the likelihood of damage and are cleaning only when you absolutely need to. At times, a sweep is all you’ll need to tidy hardwood. If sweeping does the trick, by all means, wait for the moisture and the mopping.

Here is how and what to use to clean hardwood floors:

1. Broom vs. Vacuum

Some experts say to leave behind the broom as it kicks up too much dust and hair. A vacuum sucks and is more thorough but there’s nothing wrong with a broom. To clean hardwood floors, start with a dry clean. If necessary, you may escalate to a deep cleaning instead.

Deep cleaning a hardwood floor is a more thorough process that involves going section by section, with a microfiber towel in one hand and a cleaning solution in a spray bottle in the other. Though not necessary, if you really want to keep your hardwood looking its best such as before a big event, consider a deep clean.

2. Microfiber Mop

A microfiber mop is another common cleaning equipment when cleaning hardwood floors. They are most effective in absorbing dirt. Microfiber can lift dirt, dust, and debris with little to no cleaning solution involved. After using a broom or vacuum, put your microfiber to work.

3. Gentle Solutions Work

When you’re browsing your local hardware store or making a floor cleaner at home, a gentle solution is the way to go. This is where the risk of warping is highest. A harsh soap can fade and warp the wood on floors rather easily.

4. Neutral pH Base

The best hardwood floor cleaner is typically one with a neutral pH base. This is just harsh enough to dig into the fibers of the wood without staying there. The second thing you want to look for inside a solution is that it won’t leave a soapy residue. You don’t want soap all over your hardwood, when done.

5. Vinegar & Water

Vinegar and water is an excellent multi-purpose homemade cleaning solution that works on hardwood. Ensure you’re using enough water to dilute the acidity of the vinegar. A common recipe is two cups of water for every one cup of vinegar. This has a pH neutral base that should not leave behind any residue or be acidic enough to damage your wood.

6. Wood Cleaners

Commercially-available wood cleaners vary in effectiveness. They are made specifically for hardwood although you don’t really need them. Some will leave residue when too much is applied. Others will attract dirt after the fact and only result in you having to clean yet again. Assuming you’ve found a wood cleaner you trust though, there’s no reason you can’t use it.

7. Use the Minimum

We all have to clean our hardwood floors. It has to happen. Be sure not to soak the floor in cleaning solution though. Excess moisture – a la a puddle – will sink into the wood and cause bacterial growth or cause permanent damage.

8. Spritz, Don’t Soak

In an effort to avoid sitting water, put your cleaning solution in a spray bottle and spritz the hardwood. Work in sections. If you prefer, you can use a mop and a bucket. Just be sure to get the mop as dry as possible after it’s been plunged into the solution. You never want hardwood getting too wet.

9. Baking Soda

Baking soda should almost never be used on hardwood. The only time to use baking soda on wood floors is when you have to get rid of water stains. A small amount of baking soda will pull moisture out from the wood and help to get rid of those stains.

10. Rubbing Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol is another solution what should never be used to clean hardwood floors. When diluted with water, however, rubbing alcohol can be put onto a microfiber towel and gently dabbed on marker stains and similar stains that you haven’t been able to get rid of with more traditional floor-cleaning methods.

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