If you’ve just recently renovated your home with beautiful, new hardwood flooring or re-finished your old hardwood flooring, the next question becomes: How do you keep it clean? Of course, maintaining your hardwood flooring is an important aspect of enjoying it in the long-term.

The instructions for cleaning hardwood flooring usually depends on the finish of your floors. For hardwood flooring that has been prefinished by a professional, using soft-bristled brooms and manufacture-approved cleaners and mops is usually enough to keep them looking shiny and new.

However, many people make major blunders when it comes to cleaning their hardwood floors. Product labels can be misleading by making false promises, and website searches might send you in the wrong direction toward acidic products you would use to clean other surfaces–but NOT hardwood floors.

Rather than hoping for the best and cleaning with whatever you can find, make sure you ask the manufacturer of your hardwood flooring which products to use. Also, remain wary of the ingredients in any product you buy. Even if you have older hardwood floors, though, you can refer to this list of 9 types of products you should avoid to help you keep your hardwood flooring safe while you clean:

Wet Mops

image of wooden flooring

While the temptation to clean your beautiful hardwood floors with a good, old fashioned wet mopping might be strong, avoid excessive water on your hardwood floors at all costs. You can absolutely use a little water to clean minor spills and spots that get dirty, but large amounts of water will cause moisture to build up between the planks of your hardwood flooring. This can eventually cause warped hardwood and effects like buckling or even wet rot.

If you use water over and over to clean your hardwood floors, you might even see cracks develop over time.

Steam Cleaners

Steam cleaners cause problems for your hardwood floors that are similar to the effects of wet mopping. Steam cleaning works well on carpets, but the mixture of moisture and heat does not work as well on hardwood flooring. In fact, if you steam clean your hardwood floors, you might see the hardwood begin to warp, just as you would after using a wet mop over and over.

Instead of steam cleaning for a major revamp of your hardwood flooring, work to keep your floors clean over time by using a soft-bristled broom. You can also clean small spots with a microfiber cloth and products designed for hardwoods like Bona products–or a very small amount of water.

Oil Soaps

image of olive oil

Oil soaps might seem like great products to keep your hardwood flooring shiny and bright. However, if your hardwood floors are already finished, the oil will only sit on top of the finish and cause a slippery floor. Oil soaps are designed to keep surfaces from drying out, but the finish on your hardwoods should already serve that purpose.

Floor Waxes

Floor waxes, especially bought in commercial stores, are perfect examples of false advertising. These products will promise to create a beautiful shine on your hardwood floors, but they will be lying.

In fact, if you use floor waxes or cleaners that claim to be ‘self-polishing,’ you run the risk of leaving a sticky and unpleasant film over the finish on your hardwood floors, rather than seeing that shine described on the product label.

All Purpose Cleaners

All purpose cleaners do not actually serve all purposes. Most of the time, all purpose cleaners are not designed to clean hardwood floors. If you look at the labels of these cleaners, you will notice most of them contain harsh chemicals that will erode your hardwood flooring finish.

Instead of damaging your hardwood floors, save the all purpose cleaners for your sinks or other surfaces. In fact, make sure your cleaning products have a specific purpose: cleaning hardwood flooring safely.

Harsh Brooms or Vacuums

image of a brush

Though sweeping finished hardwood is usually enough to keep the floors clean on a daily basis, you want to avoid hard-bristle brooms or vacuums on the wrong setting for hardwood. Any harsh sweepers can easily scratch your floors, which will make them look old and worn over time.

When it comes to your hardwood floors, swap your usual hard-bristle broom for a soft-bristle broom or mop (without water), and sweep away the dust and dirt buildup to keep your flooring as beautiful as the day you first saw it.

Furniture Polish

image of polished furniture

Furniture polish might work for other wood furniture in your home, but it causes dangerous effects when used on hardwood flooring. Rather than create a shiny finish, furniture polish will cause a waxy film to build up on your floors, leaving it very slippery and not the kind of shiny you want.

If your hardwood flooring is already finished, it should be shiny enough. Keeping it clean with daily maintenance should keep it that way, so you won’t need polish.


Just as you might try to balance pH levels for your own health, the same goes for your floors. The acidic nature of Ammonia, for example, does not do wonders for your hardwood flooring, just as acidic foods can cause problems with indigestion. Ammonia will begin to erode the protective shiny finish on your floors and even cause unsightly discolouration.

When it comes to cleaning your hardwoods, just avoid ammonia and any other overly acidic cleaners…


…like vinegar, for example. If you type “best ways to clean hardwood floors” in your search engine, you will almost certainly find results that include vinegar cleaners for your hardwood floors.

Please, do not listen to this advice.

Vinegar, while a top-notch cleaning solution for many other spills and dirty surfaces and appliances–even your coffee pot–is not suitable for cleaning your finished hardwood floors. Since vinegar is so strong and acidic, its power will definitely dissolve dirt and build-up on your hardwood floors, but it will also start to erode the shine you love so much. Protect your floors by avoiding vinegar-based products.

So What Should You Clean Your Hardwood Floor With?

image of floor being polished

Perhaps after reading this list, you feel like no products are suitable for your hardwood floors. The truth is, though, cleaning hardwood flooring should actually be very simple!

Instead of relying on the products above, look for products that are specifically designed to clean hardwood floors that have already been finished by professionals. Bona makes great products, for example, and if you try to use natural cleaning products when cleaning other areas of your home, you can try Method or Real Simple for hardwood floor cleaners.

One of the best ways to keep your hardwood flooring clean is to use a soft broom weekly and only use approved cleaning products and mops when absolutely necessary. Don’t worry, the list of products you should use is a lot shorter than the list you should not use. When cleaning your hardwood floors, just think simple and soft, and you’ll be fine!


Author Bio

Katie Poole is the content writing and marketing specialist for LIFECORE, a flooring products company committed to enhancing the beauty, health, and environmental integrity of its clients’ homes.