This is the secret to keeping hardwood floors clean all year round


When one of our editors bought a house recently, he was pleased that the home he and his wife chose had hardwood floors. No surprise—more homebuyers prefer wood flooring to any other kind.

Once he had the floors refinished, he asked me for some hints on how to maintain those satiny hardwoods, to keep them looking great. It’s a legit question—there’s a lot of conflicting advice out there, and if you do it wrong, you can ruin the finish and damage the wood.

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Hardwoods can be intimidating: Some people never get beyond a quick sweep or an occasional vacuuming. That’s just not enough. To keep a hardwood floor clean, you have to do that every day. A robot vac may help with daily maintenance. You still need to wash your hardwood floor when it starts looking grimy.

To find out how to get wood floors clean, I spoke with an expert, Robert Ellington of Carlisle Wide Plank Floors, a company that creates custom hardwood flooring.

Ellington was reassuring. “My secret weapon is warm soapy water with vinegar,” he said. But before we get to the specifics, let’s go over a few of the hardwood Do’s and Don’ts.

  • Don’t wash a gritty, dirty floor until you’ve swept, dust-mopped, or vacuumed it.
  • Don’t ever let spilled water stand on a wood floor—wipe it up immediately.
  • Don’t wear shoes in the house, or at least avoid wearing cleats and spike heels—they cause indents in the wood.
  • Don’t use bleach, ammonia, or mineral spirits on the floor.
  • Do wipe your feet on a doormat to stop dirt at the door.
  • Do use felt pads on furniture legs to minimize damage.
  • Do trim your pet’s claws to prevent scratches. Wipe your pup’s feet when he comes in from outside.
  • Do protect floors when having appliances delivered or moving furniture.

It turns out that it’s not too hard to clean hardwood floors. The important thing is to remember is to use water sparingly, and avoid soaking the floor.

Your floors will stay clean longer if you don’t wear shoes in the house. Spike heels and cleats, especially, can damage the floor. And trim your pet’s toenails to reduce scratches.

Time Needed

Varies according to the size of the room



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