How to clean a hardwood floor

hardwood floor

Before you go grab a bucket of water and start mopping away you need to determine how your hardwood floor is sealed or if it is sealed at all. Why do you need to know this? Well it’s the finish not the wood type that determines how you clean and care for the floor.


Surface-sealed floors: Most new wooden  floors are sealed with urethane, polyurethane or polyacrylic. Surface-sealed floors are stain and water resistant and are the easiest to care for and clean. Just sweep, mop and you’re all done!


Penetrating seal and oil finished floors: A penetrating seal or oil finish soaks into the wood grain and hardens. This type of floor must be protected with a liquid or paste wax.


Lacquered, varnished, shellacked and untreated floors: Although they are technically surface finishes, lacquers, varnishes and shellacs are not as resistant to moisture, spills and wear and tear as the other sealants mentioned. Treat floors with these finishes and floors with no finish as you would penetrating seal and oil finished floors.

Not sure what kind of finish you have? To tell the difference rub your finger across the floor. If no smudge appears the floor is surface sealed. If you do create a smudge, the floor has been treated with a penetrating seal, oil finish, shellac, varnish or lacquer, and then waxed.


Surface Sealed Floors Do’s and Don’ts:
– Don’t use oils, waxes or furniture sprays. Oil will leave a residue, furniture spray will create a very slippery surface, and wax takes time to apply and makes recoating difficult.

– Don’t use straight ammonia, alkaline products or abrasive cleaners. They will dull and scratch the finish.

– Do use a floor cleaning product recommended by the floor finisher or use plain soap and water. If the recommended product is hard to find or expensive, try soap and water. I add a quarter cup of mild or pH-neutral soap (dishwashing soap or Murphy oil soap) to a bucket of water.

*Note- Murphy oil soap does not contain oil.

Routine Cleaning
Sweep daily in high traffic areas and mop once or twice a week. You can mop lower traffic areas once a month or even once a season.

Mopping Technique
Remember that water is wood’s worst enemy even on sealed floors, so make sure you use a damp mop rather than a soaking wet one.

Dip a mop or cloth into the bucket of prepared cleaning solution and wring it out completely. Mop in the direction of the wood grain and repeat. When finished, go back over the entire surface with clean water.


Penetrating Seal, Oil Finished, Shellacked, Varnished, Lacquered or Untreated Floors
Do’s and Don’ts:

– Do use stripper to remove old wax buildup. Use a product the floor manufacturer recommends or a commercial product from the hardware store.

– Do use liquid wax designed for wood floors or paste wax. Liquid wax is the easiest to apply but will leave a thinner coat and provides less protection than a paste wax.

– Don’t use acrylic waxes, water based waxes, furniture waxes or one step waxes. Acrylic and water based waxes will turn floors white, furniture wax creates a slick surface and one step waxes will actually trap dirt.

Routine Cleaning
DO NOT damp mop waxed floors! Just vacuum and sweep the surface regularly. Once or twice a year strip the old wax and apply a fresh new coat.

Waxing Technique
Vacuum the floor. Strip the old wax with a stripper (be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions). Keep the area well ventilated as you work and the floor dries.

After the floor has dried, apply a thin coat of wax, using an applicator (liquid wax) or a cloth (paste wax). Let the wax dry. For added protection apply a second coat of wax.

Buff using a cloth or a buffing machine. Remember to always buff in the direction of the wood grain.



Don’t forget to call Complete Home Services for all your cleaning needs.


Complete Home Services, located in the North Georgia Mountains provides Housecleaning, Window washing, Gutter Cleaning, Yard Services and Landscaping in Union County Georgia, Fannin County Georgia and Towns County Georgia. For your landscaping needs visit our VistaScapes website at

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