How To Clean Grime Off Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are classy and timeless – they will always be fashionable. They are also durable and retain their attractiveness for an extended period.

In addition, while they are not the cheapest type of floor around, they provide long-term value for money. And many homeowners love them and the varieties available, which means you can fetch a higher price when selling your home with wooden floors.

Another significant advantage of hardwood floors is that they are easy to maintain. In addition, these floors are highly resistant to allergens like pollen, dust, or pet dander. So, as long as you clean the hardwood flooring regularly, you should have no issues.

However, you shouldn’t give up if you have neglected your hardwood floors. With a few cleaning supplies and elbow grease, you can eliminate the grime on your hardwood floors and make them sparkle again.

Ways to Clean Grime Off Hardwood Floors

You can use various strategies to clean grime off hardwood floors. However, not all of them will work for your flooring. So, it helps first to determine the type of floor finish you have before deciding what course of action to take. Also, pay close attention to the kind of grime you are dealing with.

Below are the best ways for you to have clean hardwood floors.

1. Sweep Away Dirt with a Soft-Bristled Broom

Before tackling ingrained dirt, you need to start with what is clearly visible. And a soft-bristled broom, such as one with horsehair bristles, is the best option for getting rid of dust particles, pet hair, and any other kind of loose dirt because it won’t scratch the hardwood flooring.

Brooms come in various types. For example, you could opt for one with an adjustable height that will enable you to avoid bending. Alternatively, you can obtain an angled broom for hard-to-reach areas. And if you have pets, you need also to have a broom with rubber bristles because they will grip the pet hair firmly and remove it from the hardwood flooring.

You can sweep daily on high traffic areas like hallways. It is a suitable cleaning method for all surface finishes.

2. Mop the Hardwood Flooring

In addition to sweeping, you can get a microfiber mop and clean your hardwood floors. Alternatively, you can use a regular mop.

Mops, especially sponge mops, are excellent for getting rid of spills. But you can use different types of mops for other light-cleaning tasks.

After sweeping, you can dry mop the surfaces. However, if your hardwood floor has a polyurethane finish, you need to use a damp mop, which has been wrung as dry as possible, to clean the floors. Excessively wet mops may cause water to seep into the hardwood and cause water damage over a prolonged period.

If you don’t have a mop, you can improvise one by using a damp microfiber cloth as a mop head and a plastic or wooden rod to push it around during the cleaning process.

3. Vacuum Your Hardwood Flooring

Vacuuming is a great way to keep grime from accumulating on the surface of your hardwood floors. But the vacuum cleaner you use on hardwood floors matters.

You need to use a vacuum cleaner without a beater bar or whose beater bar has been disabled for the best results. That feature is excellent for eliminating dirt from carpets but will damage the polyurethane finish on your flooring and even scratch your hardwood floors. However, you could opt for a flat attachment.

Consider using a canister vacuum cleaner if you have plenty of small spaces. Its oval floor brush will clean those hard-to-reach areas. But also ensure the rotating brush is switched off.

You can vacuum at least on a weekly basis if you can’t do that daily.

4. Steam Clean Your Hardwood Floors.

If you intend to deep clean of your hardwood floors, consider a steam mop or cleaner. These devices use steam from boiling water to kill any accumulated bacteria on your flooring. And since the vapor is pushed out under pressure, it will get into those crevices in a way that other forms of cleaning won’t get to.

It is worth noting that the National Wood Flooring Association disapproves of steam as a method of cleaning because it can damage the wood floor. However, when dealing with old hardwood floors, with years of accumulated grime, steam cleaning may be the best way to sanitize your flooring and make it suitable for human habitation.

However, you need to observe a few rules before and during the steam cleaning process. First, you need to test your floor seal to ensure it is intact. If you drop water onto various points on the floor and the drops bead up, your seal is good. However, if water gets through and penetrates your hardwood floors, you must apply sealant again before you steam clean.

It would help if you inquired about the flooring manufacturer’s warranty. Some warrantied may become void if you steam clean your hardwood flooring.

In addition, it would be best to use a steam cleaner at medium pressure and attach a thick microfiber pad of cloth all around the attached floor tool to absorb excess moisture. The steam will be pretty dry and less likely to damage your floors.

Suitable Cleaning Solutions for Hardwood Floors

Not every cleaning solution will do when cleaning hardwood floors. So, it’s essential to learn what cleaning products will work best for your floor’s finish.

Below are some of the wood floor cleaners you can use during and after the cleaning process.

1. Clean Water and Soap

Plain water and soap may be all you need to clean grime from your hardwood floors.

You can mix a few drops of castile soap or dish soap gently in about four cups of warm water, mop the wood surfaces, then dry.

Alternatively, you can opt for Murphy’s oil soap. The Murphy oil soap is a wood cleaner that cleans both finished and unfinished wood. In addition, it restores the natural shine of the wooden surfaces.

Some types of this soap come in concentrated form, which means you must dilute it in water. Do that according to the manufacturer’s instructions. And other types are already diluted and packed in a spray bottle, making it easier to spray and clean.

Use a mixture containing a quarter of a cup of soap to a bucket of water to clean your wooden floors, then dry.

2. Vinegar Solution

Another cleaning solution you could use when mopping is a vinegar solution, especially if you prefer natural products. You can make the cleaner using half a cup of vinegar and one gallon of warm water.

However, you should opt for white or cleaning vinegar and only use apple cider if you don’t have the previous two products. But avoid balsamic or red wine vinegar at all costs.

 Also, avoid using vinegar often because the solution is still acidic and will break down your hardwood floor. But it comes in handy for flooring with a soft oily finish that has a stain that needs removing. In such a case, you can leave some vinegar on the stained surface for an hour, then wipe it with a clean damp cloth.

You can also combine vinegar with other things to make an even more effective cleaning solution. For example, you can mix a quarter cup of olive oil and a third of a cup of white vinegar in five cups of hot water. Then you can add a few tablespoons of lemon juice to enhance the scent of the cleaning solution and use the resulting mixture for mopping.

3. Mineral Spirits

Mineral spirits are petroleum-based products that people use as solvents. So, they come in handy when you have stains, such as water stains, on your hardwood floors and need to remove them without causing damage.

Use a clean cloth to wipe the hardwood floor and get a replacement when it is full of residue. And use circular motions to spread the spirits around without damaging the wood. Then rub in floor wax and buff gently.

Typically, mineral spirits are used on hardwood floors because they are gentle on the finishes. But they can also be used to mop unfinished wood, after which you can clean the floor again with a damp rag or mop.

4. Commercial Hardwood Floor Cleaners

If you don’t want to make a cleaning solution, you could buy an already made one. For example, you can purchase the bona hardwood floor cleaner.

You must choose commercial cleaners that are safe for unfinished floors, children, and pets. It would also be wise to choose something that dries quickly without leaving any residue, so you can dry mop your floors if you prefer.

Finishing your Hardwood Floors

There is more to cleaning hardwood floors than just removing the dirt. Part of hardwood flooring’s maintenance also includes finishing your hardwood floors.

Unfinished hardwood flooring is vulnerable to water damage, scuff marks, and stains compared to the finished version. For that reason, it helps to coat your floors with an extra layer of protection.

First, you can choose a base finish that stays on the surface, like urethane or penetrating oils that harden the wood surface from within. It would help if you weighed the pros and cons of each before deciding how to safeguard your wooden floors from spills and wear and tear.

Then you could opt to wax your floors. In that case, you would need to use a soft piece of cloth or cloth-covered mop to buff your floors until they shine. The wax seal will hide shallow imperfections and prevent new ones from forming quickly. In addition, it can enhance the attractiveness of your floor by making it shine and giving it a more vibrant hue. Also, it can protect any underlying coat on your hardwood floor.

It is worth noting though, you cannot wax all hardwood floors. Some must be polished instead, using a water-based polish. And others must first be sanded down before waxing.

Alternatively, you can polish your floors to make them shinier after cleaning. Again, it is best to purchase commercial polishing products. And like hardwood wax, polish can be applied on an existing coating provided it is a surface finish that does not penetrate into the wood.

Enhancing Protection for Your Hardwood Floors

Even hard surfaces need an extra layer of protection, especially if they experience high traffic. So, you may want to consider adding floor protectors.

Area rugs are good for high traffic areas such as hallways and stairways. They will reduce wear and tear and keep the most used floor spaces clean by filtering most of the dirt and preventing it from reaching the hardwood floors. And you can even use carpets.

You can also use mats, such as rubber mats, in areas with pets, playing children, and heavy equipment. That will protect your hardwood flooring from scuff marks and reduce the grime that accumulates. Instead of cleaning the wooden surfaces daily, you can clean the mats and leave the floors underneath clean and in good condition.

When To Use Abrasive Materials

Generally, you should not use abrasive materials like steel wool on hardwood floors. However, there is a place for them.

Fine steel wool will come in handy when you need to remove imperfections and stains on the wooden floors as long as you will refinish the surface. In addition, the abrasive material can be used together with vinegar to stain hardwood floors.

Also, you can use steel wool to test the kind of finish that the previous owners used to protect the hardwood before.

The Dos and Don’ts of Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Below are some tips you can implement when cleaning grime off hardwood floors.

  • Avoid excess water from coming into contact with hardwood floors during the cleaning process to prevent water damage.
  • When using chemicals, such as mineral spirits, you must use protective clothing like masks and goggles and ensure that your home is well ventilated. Also, remember that mineral spirits are flammable, so dispose of your clothing and cleaning tools correctly and clean them thoroughly.
  • Don’t apply a cleaning solution or method onto the entire hardwood floor without first testing it on a small area to determine the floor’s reaction.
  • Use the correct cleaning method and solution to suit the condition of your floor. For example, a vinegar cleaning solution could work if you have unfinished hardwood floors. However, that solution would be unsuitable for hardwood flooring with urethane coating.
  • Don’t leave your hardwood floors unfinished. It is best to seal them with penetrative oils or urethane to prevent water from getting into the hardwood floors.

Once you determine what kind of hardwood floor finish you have, you can choose a suitable cleaning method and solution and eliminate the grime from your flooring surfaces. Generally, daily cleaning using a broom or vacuum cleaner will keep dirt from accumulating. But you can get rid of spills and grime by mopping or steam cleaning.

Photo of author

Brandi Miles, BSW, MS Human Services

Brandi Miles, BSW, MS Human Services is the mother of two adult children and three beautiful grandchildren. Brandi has 20+ years of experience helping people with developmental disabilities.
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