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The Best Ways to Clean Hardwood Floors

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The best ways to clean hardwood floors are those methods to make hardwood floors of any finish clean and shiny without harming the beautiful hardwood underneath. Because wood is highly porous, taking care not to scratch or wet floors makes the cleaning process a little tricky but with these cleaning methods, you can safely and effectively clean your hardwood floors with ease.

Before you do any cleaning, determining the finish on your floor, if any, is a key step to success. Floors which are finished with a polyurethane or similar can withstand wetter cleaning processes whereas unfinished floors cannot. Knowing what you can and cannot do with your specific floor will point you in the right direction for safe and effective cleaning.

For all floors, dry cleaning, such as sweeping or vacuuming, can pick up most dust and dirt. If tougher messes remain, a barely damp mop or cloth will help, just be sure to dry your floors as soon as possible. Standing excess water can soak into porous wood quite quickly, ruining it in the process.

Of course, the best way to keep hardwood floors clean is to limit the exposure of dirt, moisture and scratches in the first place. Furniture protectors and padded rugs do wonders to keep these messes and scratch-makers off your floors to keep them sparkling and shiny.

Want more cleaning tips like these? Check out the best ways to clean grout, best ways to clean blinds and the best ways to clean stainless steel too!
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  • 1

    Dry Mop

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    Water and hardwood floors typically don't do well together. Even a sealed floor can be damaged by excess water so when you're mopping, use a dry mop. A dry mop, including a Swiffer, can grab up any dirt or dust on your floor without exposing the porous wood to excess water. A dry mop might not be enough to clean all dirt or spills, but it's definitely a good start.
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  • 2

    Sweep or Vacuum

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    For routine cleaning or to tidy up a dry mess, a broom or vacuum can be your friend. Sweep or vacuum your hardwood floor on the regular to keep it looking sharp. Alternately, if you're dealing with a bigger mess, starting your cleaning process with sweeping up any random crumbs, dirt or pet hair is a great first step as well. Be sure to set your vacuum on a hardwood floor setting, if possible, as improper vacuuming has the potential to scratch floors.
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  • 3

    Damp Mop

    Photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY
    While dumping a bucket of water on a hardwood floor is the opposite of a recommended cleaning method, using a very small amount of water on a mop is a safe way to clean tough dirt and spills. Wet your mop and squeeze out as much of the excess water as humanly possible. Once you have a mop that is just barely damp, use it to mop your floors. Follow this process by drying the floor almost immediately so any moisture that is left is not allowed to sit.
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    Microfiber Cloth

    Photo: flickr / CC0
    For simple spot cleaning, such as cleaning a recent spill or just a small area, a microfiber cloth is a great choice. Wet a microfiber cloth with a solution of water and a mild, pH-neutral cleaner (regular dish soap or Murphy's Oil Soap both work well) then ring out all of the excess water from the cloth. Use the damp cloth to clean up the spill or area, rinsing your cloth as needed. Lastly, dry the surface immediately with a clean, dry cloth to pick up any excess water.
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