Ever wonder how to clean hardwood? I have a house full of hardwood floors. Some old, some new. Here are my best tips on how I keep them clean.

I live in a house that’s over 110 years old.

It’s full of floors that have lived a lifetime. They’ve seen horse-drawn carriages (there’s even a hitching post still out front) and the first model T and new hybrid cars. They’ve seen phones with cords and phones with computers. They’ve seen bobby socks and poodle skirts bell-bottoms and tie-dye and stirrup pants.

And stirrup pants coming back again.

I’ve always lived in a house with hardwood floors. It’s all I’ve ever really known.

I’ve been walking on them and skipping on them and twirling on them and cleaning them for more days and months and years than I can count.

It’s one of the questions I get asked all the time on the blog.

So today?

Let’s take a close-up look at my process and how I keep them shiny.

Here’s how to clean hardwood floors.

Before we get started, I think it’s important to note that we have three different types of floors in this house.

  1. The beautiful old thin oak wood flooring from when the house was built in 1908.
  2. New oak flooring that was installed in 1995 by my mother.
  3. Parquet flooring in the study that was installed in the 1950’s by the third owner.

Each type of flooring is cleaned slightly differently and I’ll address each one when answering the questions.

Yep.

This post is all the questions I’ve ever gotten asked about how I keep them clean.

And the best part?

If you have a question that I don’t address? Just leave it in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer it.

Q: HOW DO YOU GET THE GRIME OFF OF WOOD FLOORS?

Yikes.

Grime.

You can’t help it. It gets in there and takes over a floor and prevents the natural wood patina from shining through. When we moved into the house, one of the first things we did was deep clean the floors to get layers of ground-in dirt and grime up. Sometimes a wood floor doesn’t even look dirty (that’s their specialty actually—not looking dirty). But just below the surface? Hiding in the cracks? Years and years of ground-in dirt.

Here’s how I get the grime off.

  1. Vinegar
  2. I know, right? It can’t be that simple. Just vinegar.
  3. I mix 1/8 cup of soap and 1/8 cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of water.
  4. And then? I scrub. And scrub. And scrub.
  5. You don’t have to scrub that hard every time. Just when the grime is really thick. I take a small portion of the room and scrub a section with a hand sponge. It’s kind of amazing and therapeutic all at the same time. When you rinse it out in the bucket—you’ll see very quickly that your bucket will turn dark gray from all the dirt.

Just a few notes:

  • the new wood in our home doesn’t collect that much grime because there’s a sealant on it that prevents it from collecting
  • the older wood? Watch out world. I try and deep clean it once every six months because it’s more porous and dirt can build up even with regular cleanings.
  • the parquet wood in the office has to be deep cleaned every couple of months because the boards have separated and there’s so much dirt that gets down in the cracks.

how to clean hardwood daily

Q: HOW OFTEN DO YOU CLEAN YOUR WOOD FLOORS?

I wish I told you every day.

Ummm. Maybe not.

Not even close.

Here are my rules of thumb on how to clean hardwood:

  1. I try and vacuum them every two-three days. This is super important around here because we have an amazing golden, Buddy, who comes with some not-so-amazing extra hair that sheds all over the house and collects in the corners.
  2. If there’s a spill or something sticky, I try to get it up asap with a container of floor wipes that I have under every cabinet.
  3. Then the floors get cleaned once a week (with a simpler process then the grime-cleaning process I described above).

how to clean hardwood floors in an old house

Q: HOW TO CLEAN HARDWOOD FLOORS WEEKLY?

This is my once a week process that works super well for me and my floors:

  1. Ready for my secret ingredient to clean hardwood? For deep cleaning I use vinegar–but if I use it too much it kind of makes the floors look a little dull. So for every week? I use Dawn dish soap.
  2. I love it because it’s not that hard on the floors and it seems to work well with getting everything up and giving the floors a swift cleaning.
  3. I’ve used tons of different mops. I went through an entire phase of the old-fashioned mops with the mop head and then I started using the type of mop that you push together to rinse out. I think I even tried the mop that pulls up into the mop handle to rinse it out?
  4. And now? I found this spin and wring mop at Target that I love. I clean the floors with a bucket of 2 Tbsps of dish soap to 1 gallon of water. I scrub the floors and then come back with a clean bucket of water and a mop that’s been rinsed out. You want to make sure to get as much of the soap off the floor as possible to prevent the wood from having a film or dulling.
  5. It really doesn’t take that much time if you are organized and have all your stuff set up.
  6. Sometimes when I’m short on time or having a party and have to get the floors ready in 30 minutes, I started using this hardwood mop and cleaner by Rejuvenate that you can get at Bed Bath and Beyond. We just used it yesterday and it works great in a pinch. You just add the cleaner to the mop and squirt and go. The thing that I like about is that there’s a removable cloth pad on the bottom of the mop that you don’t have to change out the pad every 10 minutes as you do with disposable pads. Then? When you are finished? You just toss it in the washer when you are done. It’s a great quick fix when you need your floors cleaned in a hurry.
  7. In other cleaning news, here’s the best post if you are in a hurry to clean. 10 things to clean if you only have five minutes.

how to clean hardwood tips

Q: HOW DO YOU GET YOUR HARDWOOD FLOORS TO SHINE?

You can get your floors buffed professionally that will give a shine to the floors. We had the floors refinished like this in another house and it made a big difference. But here? My floors are too old in most of the house. The wood is so thin that any refinishing and buffing would damage them.

Truth?

I find that if you learn how to clean hardwood floors with an initial deep clean and then vacuum every couple of days and clean them once a week?

Something amazing happens.

They have a shine in them.

A super subtle shine, but a shine nonetheless.

Even after all these years, if they are deep-cleaned and maintained, they still shine on.

I think that’s my goal in life. I’m taking a clue from my floors.

When I’m 110 years old that will be me.

Still shining on. 🙂

disclosure: please note that affiliate links are used in this post.

Want to know how to decorate your home for free?
Click here to get my FIVE BEST secrets.

Comments

  1. Image for Betty in Arlington Betty in Arlington

    Thank you! I use the same thing! Natural ingredients, like vinegar, water, and Dawn (I think it's as natural as they come) are best! My floors are 70 years old, all wood on one floor, so I tend to enjoy them looking clean and bright! And, wood floors cut down on all the allergens! Three cheers!

  2. Image for Cindy@CountyRoad407 Cindy@CountyRoad407

    Our hardwoods need a good cleaning so I'm tying the Dawn but I cannot stand the odor from vinegar. That's one of my super powers - a highly sensitive nose. I could probably work for the Police Department in the missing persons department but that's a sad job so I'll stick with blogging. And yes, little lady, you will be shining even when your are 110 years old. But truly, I wouldn't want to live that long. I feel I would have tortured my kids long enough. LOL.

  3. Image for Cyndy Rogers Cyndy Rogers

    Your cleaning process works even for pine floors! I just turned the silver lining of the pandemic into a restoration of all floors gracing the entire house - and that included bathrooms, closets, bedrooms, pantry, EVERYWHERE except our living room which is under construction. Since they are variable length, variable width pine, and 26 years old, some are a little further than others away from their "neighbor," so I had to apply the satin polyurethane by BRUSH! Yes! Every. Last. Inch. But when I tell you they look marvelous, they do! And it is all because of the meticulous vinegar scrubbing. What a marvel simple vinegar is - and so inexpensive. My cleaning pail solution wasn't gray - it was black by the end of a room! So very pleased.

  4. Image for Marlene Stephenson Marlene Stephenson

    Thanks for these pointers, i do use most of them but never thought of vinegar. I love my floors and wouldn't have anything else. Your old floors are beautiful and lucky to have someone who cares for them. I'm pretty sure you will be just your cute sweet self when your 110.

  5. Image for Sharon H Sharon H

    I have no doubt you'll still be brightly shining at 110, and if I could I would love to be hanging around to see if you've slowed down a little! But, for me that's a mere 35 more years and you will no doubt just be hitting your peak by then! But I would be willing to bet that your floors will still be in great shape. They're beautiful and they will continue to hold up so as to provide a place for those Bobby sock feet! Great information, thank you Miz karianne, for sharing.

  6. Image for TERESA GONZALES TERESA GONZALES

    This is how I clean my floors too. I get a white haze on parts of the floors from the early 1900's. Thought maybe it was the vinegar...any ideas?

  7. Image for Stephanie Stephanie

    I haven't tried this myself so cannot vouch for it but I did read that Apple cider vinegar will not dull hardwood floors. Someone try it for me and let me know. Lol.

  8. Image for Donna Marie Donna Marie

    My floors have grooves between pieces of wood, does it hurt to use the dawn, vinegar and water solution on them? I worry about the solution seeping into the grooves.

  9. Image for Jo Ann Jo Ann

    We finally had hardwood floors installed in our home last year. They are engineered hardwoods, I didn't think one should use water to clean hardwood floors. I sweep mine every few days and use a hardwood floor cleaner spray every few weeks. Am I doing something wrong? Should I be using water?

  10. Image for Karen Karen

    I also prefer a solution of vinegar, water and a squirt of dish soap for our Birdseye maple floors. I use an O-Cedar terry cloth mop head that I wring out to lightly damp mop. The mop head has a an elastic edging, so it can be thrown in the wash between uses.

  11. Image for Mel Peregolise Mel Peregolise

    I have parquet floors like yours in my living room, dining room & hallway. I love the colors in yours. Mine are in good shape but are more orange colored. Any hint on getting rid of that tone? Did you do something to yours to get your color?

  12. Image for Ann C Ann C

    I had my carpet removed and the floors professionally sanded and refinished. When I asked how to care for them he said and I quote “Never use Water on wood” .He recommended Bona a wood cleaning product that comes with a mop with a washable head. But if you’ve been using water all these years I wouldn’t quit what works for you.

    1. Image for KariAnne KariAnne

      Ann, I get it friend! I usually use just a damp mop instead of one that’s full of water! I think the floors are so old that nothing fazes them! happy day, karianne

  13. Image for Rosemarie Rosemarie

    Many years ago an older gentlemen who refinished my wood floors with Moisture-Cure (awful smell but extremely durable) told me to clean them with a little vinegar and water and then dry them with an old towel. Worked like a charm and have been cleaning my floors (now tile 4 houses later) with vinegar and water ever since. Dawn is a little work horse...not just for dishes!!!

  14. Image for Karen Mary Karen Mary

    Wish I could find a mop I like using, but I always feel like I'm just pushing the dirt into the corners. So I wash our floors on my hands and knees. For ceramic floors (kitchen and bath) I use vinegar water and citrus essential oil. For wood (the rest of the house), I love Murphy's Oil soap. I like that I don't need to rinse it. Because once through is all I want to do! I chatted about cleaning wood floors with vinegar, too: http://caretokeep.com/wood-floor-tlc/ Great housekeeping minds think alike!

  15. Image for Rebecca Rebecca

    I have some older and some newer hardwards. I use Orange Glo!!! Someone cleaned my house and used it and I have been buying it ever since. Gives them a great shine. I love the O-Cedar Mop. It's so easy to change out the mop head. Interestingly, I use Dawn to clean my glass shower doors and they shine beautifully, as well.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.