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 are all my best tips and products and shortcuts 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 1950s 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. Please keep in mind that this is how I clean our floors. I definitely use TLC with mine because of their age.

Every floor was created differently.

Make sure to check with your flooring manufacturer—especially if you have engineered hardwood.

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. Have you tried a robot vacuum yet? We use a robot vacuum at my mother’s to clean and she loves it. I just found this one on pre-Prime Day sale here (40% off while the deal lasts).
  3. 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.
  4. 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 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 with the cleaner you add right in the mop. 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.

Q; HOW TO PREVENT STREAKS ON HARDWOOD FLOORS?

There’s nothing worse than cleaning your floors and they dry with streaks.

This is a streak-free zone.

Here are my best streak-free tips:

  1. Use circular motions to clean the floor
  2. Rinse the mop often to avoid leaving streaks.
  3. Then? The secret? Once you’ve finished cleaning, dry the floor with a microfiber mop

I used to rub the floor with a microfiber cloth—but then I discovered there was a mop.

Just when I thought floor cleaning couldn’t get any better.

Q: HOW TO CLEAN PET HAIR FROM FLOORS

Hello Buddy.

I’m looking at you.

We have a golden retriever who is wonderful and amazing and funny and sweet. But he’s wonderful and amazing and funny and sweet with TONS OF HAIR.

In case you have a little pet hair on your floors, here are my best pet hair removal tips:

  1. Use a damp cloth or mop to pick up any loose hair.
  2. Vacuum the floors using the attachment designed for picking up pet hair. This vacuum is on sale right now with a coupon and amazing reviews. It has a slanted end (so it has extra suction and you can get in all the corners).
  3. You can also sweep them with a microfiber dust mop.
  4. For stubborn areas of pet hair, try using a lint roller or tape.

how to clean hardwood tips

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

You can get your floors buffed professionally which 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. If you purchase something through my links, I make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Thistlewood.

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

Comments

  1. Image for PJ PJ

    Shine on, KariAnne! Thanks for these tips. I have learned to embrace the imperfections of the floors in our home that are original to the house (built in the the late 1800's or early 1900's, depending on which paperwork you believe).

  2. Image for Maureen Heger Maureen Heger

    Any suggestions on how to clean laminate floors? I live in Florida and everything was carpet when I moved here. I transitioned to laminate since hard wood was way to expensive.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      I've used this before on laminate and it was GOLD (it's rated one of the top six laminate floor cleaners by the Spruce). I've linked it here: https://amzn.to/3OPCtyV And it also works well with this mop that I talked about: https://amzn.to/3amFbNu Let me know if you have any other questions! Happy day! KariAnne

  3. Image for Marlene Marlene

    This is a very useful post, thanks. I have a few paint spatters on my old oak floors, do you know what to use to get that off? I have scraped some of them but, it is hard to get the little ones up.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Marlene, I totally get it! I've had that same challenge. I've covered over the splatters with a paint pen for floors. Also---sometimes using a scraper wrapped in a wipe helps, too! Happy day! KariAnne

  4. Image for Janis Hill Janis Hill

    Growing up my mom had a company come in once a year and professionally wax her then 100+ year old wood floors. The wax forms a protective coating. I still highly recommend it for old hardwood. I wish I could see those 185-year-old floors today. :-) And, did you know that eventually, the acidity in vinegar will damage the finish on hardwood floors and allow water to penetrate them? The only thing I use on my 100+ year old floors is a damp mop with a 1/4 cup of alcohol and a couple of drops of detergent added to a gallon of water. 70% Isopropyl alcohol is pH neutral and won't damage floors.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      LOL! I just cleaned up where Buddy pooped (is that honest enough--hahaha)! The floors are shining again! happy day! KariAnne

  5. Image for Barbara Milburn Barbara Milburn

    Informative article. Thank you. I have engineered hardwood floors and use Bona hardwood cleaner. Does an amazing job and leaves a subtle sheen. Also love that I don’t need to rinse. It’s only my hubby, me and our Ms Kitty, so floors don’t get a lot of abuse.

  6. Image for Becky Becky

    Oh THANK YOU!!!! You're my hero! I just, JUST installed oak floors through my whole main level. Like, with my own 2 hands... and my husband's and a few kids.😄 They have yet to be officially cleaned (lots of spot cleaning though, I have a big family!) and I've been feeling frazzled every time I think about how I'm going to do that. SO MANY REVEIWS on Amazon... so many products... so many BAD reviews... Ack!😧 But here you are, talking my cleaning-language (water, Dawn and vinegar?!?), and telling me it's worked for you for years! Thank you from the bottom of my heart! Blessings upon you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

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