How to Properly Clean Hardwood Floors

peeling of hardwood flooring

Never use soap or wood floor cleaners to clean hardwood flooring!

Don’t ever EVER use Murphy’s oil soap or any other soap products to clean your hardwood floors. Why? Because they leave behind oils or a soap film that will make it impossible to have your hardwood floor recoated: because the finish will no longer adhere to the floor. Even if they say they are “safe to use on hardwood floors”, they may be safe in that they won’t immediately damage the floor, but these cleaning product manufacturers don’t know anything about what it takes to refinish or recoat a hardwood floor. They don’t even know that their product does indeed cause long-term damage to a hardwood floor in that their cleaners prevent a hardwood floor from being able to be just recoated when the finish wears over years; the floor their cleaning products are used on will have to be resanded and then recoated.

Sure, Murphy’s Floor Cleaning products say they are for use in cleaning hardwood floors, but I know from over 20 years of experience in the hardwood flooring industry, that it leaves behind enough of a film to make it impossible to have your floor just refinished, you will have to have them re-sanded and then recoated: A much bigger expense for you.

Most soaps will also leave behind a residue that will make it impossible to recoat your hardwood floor.

Never use furniture polish around hardwood floors either.

In the photos you will see what we refer to in the hardwood flooring business as “orange-peeling”. The floor finish after recoating, will peel due to any type of residue on the floor, and no finish will ever stick to that floor again unless it is completely resanded and started all over again with new finish. FYI: This also happens when furniture polish accidentally gets on the floor when you spay it on your furniture to dust. So….if you have hardwood flooring, also DON’T EVER SPRAY FURNITURE POLISH IN YOUR HOME!!. The overspray lands on the floor and causes the same problem with any recoating not being able to adhere to the floor from then on. Some of these furniture polishes can permeate quite deeply into the floor, requiring extensive resanding in order to sand them out.

So what should you clean hardwood floors with?

Nothing but plain water, or for tough dirt, vinegar and water in a 50/50 solution. Vinegar will break down grease and grime on hardwood floors without leaving behind a residue. Vinegar also helps to neutralize the acids that build up in your home from years and years of cooking odors and other fumes that float around in your indoor air and leave behind an acid environment on your wood cabinets and flooring that can break down finishes much quicker. If you have a smoker in the house, just go up to your walls and wipe them with a soapy rag. You will see the nicotine and smoke residue come off on the rag. The same thing happens just from everyday cooking in your home.

Hardwood floors can last your entire lifetime if cared for properly, and they are very low maintenance as well. It just takes knowing the proper way to clean hardwood flooring and maintain it to keep it looking beautiful for the life of your home. See my next article on how to extend the life of your hardwood floors besides what i’ve already told you here.


Photo: Top – This is what’s called “orange peeling” in the hardwood flooring industry. It’s caused by a product previously being applied to the floor that is not compatible with the new finish that was applied.