How to Clean and Care for Wood Floors to Keep Them Looking Beautiful

How to Clean and Care for Wood Floors to Keep Them Looking Beautiful
To protect the finish and keep wood floors beautiful—either solid wood or engineered wood—it is essential to take care of messes as they happen. (Artazum/Shutterstock)
Of all the choices in home flooring, wood stands out for many as the most beautiful. Wood is durable and coordinates well with any decor, and most real estate agents agree it improves the home’s value at resale. Knowing how to protect and clean wood floors is essential—and surprisingly easy.

As It Happens

To protect the finish and keep wood floors beautiful—either solid wood or engineered wood—it is essential to take care of messes as they happen. That means spills, water drops, dry messes, what have you. Spills and messes happen, but make sure they don’t remain for more than a few minutes.
After cleaning up the spill with a paper towel or cloth, give the floor a final damp rinse with a slightly water-dampened cloth or mop. Make sure you dry the area well with a microfiber cloth to prevent streaks. Do not allow any amount of water to sit on wood flooring for any length of time if you can help it.


Sweep with a soft bristle broom or vacuum your wood floors daily to remove dust, dirt, crumbs, and debris. Even minute debris, when allowed to sit and to be walked on, will dull the finish and eventually cause noticeable wear and tear.


Using a good dry dust mop, go over wood floors once a week to remove the buildup of dust—especially the dust bunnies that accumulate along the edges. Make sure you move area rugs to get any bits of dirt and dust that find their way under rugs and mats.


When you are diligent to tackle messes as they happen, sweep or vacuum daily, and dust mop weekly, mopping finished wood floors is necessary only a few times a year. An easy way to remember is to do this at the start of each season. Yes, seriously! Four times a year is a good schedule.
Never flood wood floors with cleaning solution or water. Never use a sopping mop on wood floors. Excessive water can damage every type of sealant on wood floors and will eventually cause them to buckle.

Wood Floor Cleaners

When it comes to wood floor cleaners, you can spend a fortune on commercial products—or you can make your own for pennies.

Caution: Only use floor cleaners on finished or “sealed” wood. Don’t know what you have? Do this test: Put a drop of water on the wood. If it sits on the surface, that wood has been sealed. If it soaks right in, the wood is unfinished. Do not apply cleaner of any kind to unfinished wood. Just keep it swept and well-dusted.

The key to making your own wood floor cleaner is similar to the commitment of a physician: First, do no harm. The trick is making a product that will clean well without harming the finish of your floors, even when used repeatedly over many years.

Homemade Floor Cleaner

This all-purpose cleaner is ideal for finished wood floors, both solid wood and engineered wood.
  • 1 part alcohol (rubbing, denatured, vodka, gin)
  • 4 parts distilled water
  • 2 or 3 drops Blue Dawn
Example: 1/4 cup alcohol, 1 cup distilled water, 2 drops Blue Dawn. Or 1/2 cup alcohol, 2 cups distilled water, 4 to 6 drops Blue Dawn.

Mix this up in a spray bottle each time you clean the floors, or you can make it up ahead. The recipe multiplies well. No rinsing is required. Be sure to label clearly and keep it out of the reach of children.

Sweep or vacuum the floor. Spray the cleaner in a small area, scrub well with a mop fitted with a cloth or soft sponge, and immediately wipe the area dry with a microfiber cloth.

The secret is to spray, scrub, and wipe dry immediately. If you do not want to do this on your hands and knees, I recommend O-Cedar ProMist MAX Microfiber Spray Mop. It sprays the cleaner from its removable bottle that lets you make your own cleaner. It has a large surface mop and machine-washable microfiber pad, which makes scrubbing wood and other types of floors a breeze. The O-Cedar mop is available on Amazon as well as other stores such as Target and Walmart.

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