How to Clean Old Wood Floors (Well)

father and son playing on clean hardwood floor

It’s a sad day when old wood floors start to show their age, but there is hope for those dirty hardwoods. Do you like the color and look of those old wood floors? There are ways to clean wood floors and bring those dull floors back to life.

If the wood floor is in good condition (i.e. no missing boards or serious damage), a few cleaning steps can restore the original shine of those hardwood floors. That shine often comes from the original floor finish, which should always be a top concern when cleaning wood floors. The finish can be damaged by abrasive cleaners (even natural household items) and tools, which is why the process comes with a set of wood floor cleaning do’s and don’ts.

Do’s of Cleaning a Wood Floor

Sweep or vacuum up debris.

The first step of any wood floor cleaning is a good sweep or vacuum. If using a vacuum, make sure that the vacuum cleans without damaging the floor. When done, the floor should be free of every piece of debris (even in the farthest corner).

Always use a cleaner specifically for wood floors.

Wood floor cleaning products are specifically formulated for wood floors and their finishes. Other cleaners come with a risk of damaging wood floors. (Ask local flooring professionals for their recommendation of a good wood floor cleaning product.)

When cleaning the wood floor, read the directions on the wood floor cleaner and follow them as closely as possible. Typically, the process involves applying the product and scrubbing the floors with a soft cleaning tool. After application, the floor should be completely dry before doing any other cleaning.

If your old wood floor is still looking incredibly dull, take the cleaning a step further. Wood floor restoration products renew the floor and add gloss. This step does not involve scrubbing; most floor renewal products should be applied with a soft mop from the corner farthest away from the door to the exit (again, read and follow the directions on the product closely).

Do clean without leaving a lot of puddles.

Moisture and wood floors should never mix, because puddles on wood floors can leave lasting wood damage. When cleaning a wood floor, avoid leaving puddles. If the air is very humid, fans and dehumidifiers are a good way to remove moisture from the room and floor.

Don’ts of Cleaning a Wood Floor

Leave the vinegar (and all those other household cleaners) in the cabinets.

A quick web search generates a list of websites with misinformation about using vinegar, soap, and other household cleaners to clean wood floors. Hold off on raiding the cabinets for natural cleaners; even the most common household ingredients can damage the finish and leave a residue on wood floors.

Avoid steam cleaning wood floors.

Steam cleaners can permanently damage new and old wood floors; the moisture and heat can cause cupping, stain floors, leave permanent indents, or cause other issues that require repair or replacement.  

Stay away from abrasive cleaning tools.

Rough and abrasive scrubbers and mops can scratch and damage wood floors. Avoid abrasive pads for cleaning old wood floors; instead, use a soft cloth and plenty of elbow grease to rejuvenate those old wood floors.

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