How to clean a floor – from vacuuming to dry mopping, using vinegar and more

Where should you start when cleaning a floor? This is what you need to know whether you have wood, vinyl, laminate or another type of hard flooring at home

how to dry mop a floor
(Image credit: Getty)

Cleaning a floor properly isn't always plain sailing, but it can be. Because a dirty floor is not a nice floor, be it in your kitchen, bathroom, hallway or other area of the home. But you can only shift dust under the rug or politely ignore mud prints for so long... When you know the secrets to cleaning all types of floors quickly and successfully, this job will become easy and you will be able to spruce your space with more efficiency, every single time. No matter what type of hard flooring you have: Vinyl tiling, concrete, solid wood, laminate or another...

How do you clean dirty floors?

Deep cleaning dirty floors is a two-step process, you need dust removal then actual floor washing. First things first, you need to know what type of flooring you're working with, this will help determine what products and techniques you can use on those particular flooring types. Then it's all about maintenance and how often you should actually be cleaning your floors to start with. Get clued up and never let dirty floors walk all over you again!

1. Lifting dust and debris

All floors accumulate dust and picking it up (literally) is a must before you attempt using a deep cleaning, as this would otherwise just drag dust bunnies and dirt around. Not only is dust and debris ugly and hygienic, but any small stones or grit left on your floors will inevitably lead to scratching or denting. Ensuring your floors are free from dust is vital to keep them in good condition. There are three ways to do this:

Vacuuming floors

Easy and efficient, vacuuming is the obvious choice. However, you need to ensure that you have the right attachments and flooring settings available so as to ensure you don't damage your flooring in the cleaning process.

Cork and bamboo flooring are especially soft and prone to scratching, so unless you have a soft floor attachment and are able to remove any brash beater bars, it's not worth it and you're better off dry mopping or sweeping. And, if you are cleaning marble flooring, we wouldn't recommend vacuuming at all but dry mopping instead.

Hoe often to vacuum floors

You want to vacuum flooring in high traffic areas of your home like the kitchen, hallway or lounge about three times a week – especially if you have furry pets, kids and anyone with dust allergies at home.

For bedrooms which usually see less foot fall, you can reduce this to once a week, increasing this for every additional person that uses the space.

Technique

You need to reach everywhere, so move furniture around, lift bed beds and poufs off the floor to ensure you remove settled dust. Of course, wardrobes and other heavy furniture items that meet the ground can be moved less frequently – about once a year is good.

Dry mopping a floor

Essential dust mopping, this is a genius and effective way to clear dust and debris from sensitive floors that are prone to scratching (hardwood, tiles) or denting (bamboo, cork) . You simply need to attach a woven or microfibre cloth to the end of a long handle mop with a swivel head to pick up debris.

Technique

Dust down surfaces with a microfibre cloth to start with so that you pick residual dust that falls on the ground up in the process. Then, start in the corner and work your way out of the room, getting into and under any crevices by shifting small furniture items about.

Sweeping floors

Sweeping is another gentler way to lift dust and debris from floors, it's also super quick. You'll want to sweep your hard kitchen floors or tiling and any other high traffic areas at the end of every day. For other less busy areas, once every couple of days will do.

Some floors will only need sweeping and no other cleaning agents, just stain treatments on occasion, 'Sweeping is also best for any type of floor whereas water can damage floors including waxed wood' says Stapf.

Technique

First of all, you want to ensure your broom is in good condition and not full of pet hair and dust as you'll just be lugging that around the room. Then you want to start in the farthest corner and work your way towards the exit as with dry mopping. However, rather than drag a huge pile of dust all over the room, divide your space, sweep in sections and get rid of the piles of dust as you go.

If you've never cleaned your broom, shake off debris and pull out awkward bits wearing rubber gloves then give it a soak in hot soapy water and let it air dry completely.

We spoke with the Lysol Germ-Cast™ team about how to maintain floors for greater home hygiene. 'Sweep daily to prevent dust and grime build-up. As needed, be sure to disinfect hard, non-porous floors with Lysol® Clean & Fresh Multi-Surface Cleaner.'

2. Actually cleaning your floor

Just removing dust is often enough, but then mopping or steam cleaning flooring is the best way to lift stains and sanitize. If you stay on top of weekly vacuuming or regular dry mopping/sweeping then you can probably afford to clean your floors properly once a month. If you have a particularly busy (and mucky) household, then you're looking at once a fortnight.

The basics of mopping and steam cleaning

Generally speaking, when you're mopping or steam cleaning, you should never over-wet floors. It's okay on tiles, but hardwood, cork and bamboo floors can become damaged easily and are prone to warping too, so ensure you wring out your mop well and never leave any standing water. 

Whether you use any cleaning solution at all depends on your flooring type, and on your preference too. 

Commercial vs. natural floor cleaners

Many people swear by homemade natural cleaners, us included, but you need to do your research as it's not always the best course of action.

Cleaning floors with vinegar

Hugely popular and kind of on trend too, white vinegar is a great stain removal technique and will sanitize the space too. You can use a vinegar solution on laminate, vinyl and cork flooring, it's also good for spot stains on hardwood floors. However, if you have stone floors then you want to stay completely clear of vinegar and use a PH neutral detergent instead.

Cleaning floors with dish soap

Dish soap is a less harsh and effective cleaner too, working well on linoleum and ceramic tiles and you can mix it with a little baking soda too for a little natural added potency, to use on concrete garage floors. However, if you have laminate flooring, you'll want to avoid using soap-based detergents as this can dull them.

Commercial floor cleaners

If you're using a commercial floor cleaner, always check the label to see that it's compatible with your flooring type.

How to clean floors with a mop

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A floor cleaning tip from the experts

According to Martha Stewart along with Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority, 'For most surfaces, it is important to sweep, vacuum, and mop your floors to remove any dirt and dust that has collected on the floor... It is best to clean your floors every one to two weeks. Be sure to regularly sweep your floors especially when cooking a lot to make sure food and other debris does not get kicked around and scratch up the floors.' 

How to protect floors

  • Frequent dust removal: Go by the guidelines above to stop a buildup of debris.
  • Wipe up spills: Do this immediately to stop staining and damage.
  • Cleaner compatibility: Consider your safest options when cleaning floors. from dust removal tools to products.
  • Employ the shoes off rule: Take them off at the door and cut your floor cleaning time in half.
  • Furniture pads: Heavy coffee table and delicate flooring? Consider a rug or furniture pads under the legs of your item. 

Done and dusted!

Camille Dubuis-Welch
Camille Dubuis-Welch

Camille is Digital Editor at Realhomes.com and joined the team in January 2020. As an interior design aficionado, when she’s not developing evergreen content and furiously researching keywords, she is most definitely finding new ways to spruce up her rented space, usually involving a houseplant or two. She loves the challenge that comes with making a room look stylish and feel homely, and her ultimate goal is to renovate the house of dreams, somewhere marvellously sunny with a wild and lavish garden, of course.