How to clean hardwood floors

We show you how to make your wooden floors gleam with this simple step-by-step guide

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Have your wooden floors lost their sparkle and sheen? It’s not surprising considering we walk all over them day in, day out often wearing dirty shoes or carting around heavy furniture. Follow our DIY tips and get your wooden floor shining again with some simple dusting, mopping and good old fashioned elbow grease.

To begin you will need:

Read more:

6 of the best wooden floor cleaners

What is your floor type?

To start you need to find out what finish you have on your wooden floor. 

New wooden floors: Most new wood floors are sealed with a polyurethane coating; they’re also stained or painted to protect the surface. These floors are easy to care for and are resistant to stains and water damage. Never use oils or waxes on these floors, as they will become dangerously slippery to walk on.

Old wooden floors: In older homes the wooden floors are likely to have a soft, oiled finish, this oil soaks into the grain, hardens it and forms a top seal. If you have this kind of floor it will need to be looked after and protected with oil or wax. 

Lacquered or varnished finish: If your wood has a lacquered, varnished finish you’ll find they are not as resistant to moisture and wear as polyurethane sealants. So you will need to treat them the same as you would an oiled floor.

Unsure what kind of finish your wooden floor has? Unsure what kind of finish your wooden floor has? Don’t worry just rub your finger across it and if no mark appears, the floor is surface-sealed. If a mark is left, the floor has been treated with a seal, oil finish or varnish.

Lady polishes a wooden floor

(Image: © Getty)

For a simple weekly clean:

1. Start by vacuuming the floor to collect any dust, dirt or pet hair. If you are worried about scratches use the soft floor-brush attachment of your vacuum. 

2. Get a mop and fill a bucket full of clean, warm water. Spray an everyday cleaner such as Orange Glo Hardwood directly on to a patch of the floor. This is not suitable for waxed or oiled floors.

3. Dip your mop into the bucket, wring out all water until it is just damp and mop backwards and forwards across the area you have sprayed following the grain on the wood. Move to next area and repeat. Floor will dry in minutes.

4. For oiled floors simply use a bucket full of plain, warm water and mop as above. Change the water when it gets cloudy. Leave to air dry for 15 minutes, opening windows if appropriate. Then buff with a soft cloth.

For a deep clean:

1. Dirt, grease, oil and grime will naturally build up on your wooden floor so it’s a good idea to give it a really good deep clean twice a year to keep it looking its best. 

2. Buy a trademarked deep cleaning product that suits your floor type and use according to the instructions – if in any doubt, ask the manufacturer of your floor what they recommend. 

3. Dip a mop into your bucket of cleaning product and wring out so it’s damp not soaking wet. Mop the floor being carefully to not leave huge puddles of water as this can ruin the wood. Some cleaning products need to be rinsed off with a clean, damp mop after wards so check the instructions on the bottle.

4. Open the window and air dry or if it’s too cold turn on the central heating to speed up the drying process.

How to remove stains on an oiled floor:

  • For general scratches and scuff marks put 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda on a damp sponge and rub over mark.
  • For an oily stain rub the area with a soft cloth and a blob of washing-up liquid to break down the grease. Rinse with clean, warm water. Repeat until the stain has gone.
  • For dark spots such as water marks and pet urine rub with a fine grade steel wool and then polish with a soft cloth dipped in floor oil. Chose an oil colour to match the colour of your floor.  
  • If the area is still dark, apply 1tbsp of vinegar and let it soak into the wood for about an hour. Rinse with a damp cloth, then buff up with the oil that matches your floor colour.
  • Remove heel marks by rubbing with fine steel wool and floor oil.

For stubborn stains that don’t respond to treatment, lightly sand the floor with fine paper, clean with fine grade steel wool and white spirit (or white vinegar), then buff up with the oil that matches your floor’s natural colour.

Cleaning a wooden floor with a dry mop

(Image: © Getty)

How to keep your wooden floors clean:

  • Place mats both outside and inside exterior doors to minimise the dirt carried in from outside.
  • Take your shoes off inside the house as much as possible.
  • Frequent vacuuming or sweeping will prevent dirt from grinding in, whatever your floor is made of.
  • Wipe up any spills immediately and buff dry.