Hardwood floors are a classic feature everyone wants to uncover under the linoleum. Still, they require a bit of babysitting to maintain their beauty. Dirt is not only, well, dirty, but it can damage the wood itself, lessening its life span. Thankfully you can totally avoid the need to refinish, repair, or—heaven forbid—replace them. You just have to know how to clean hardwood floors properly. 

In fact, “cleaning your floor is the biggest bang for your housekeeping buck,” says Stephanie Giesbrecht aka The Secret Slob—and she has the answers to every question that might pop up along the way.

How Often Should You Clean Hardwood Floors?

Consider mopping part of your weekly clean. However, once a month, plan to get down and dirty in the nooks and crannies. Scrub the corners of the room and spot clean any stuck-on grime. “I have little kids, so it’s usually noodles or jam,” says Giesbrecht, laughing. She uses Murphy Oil Soap and warm water, then gives the whole floor a once-over with a wet mop.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Forgetting About Maintenance

The bad news: Dirt and debris can scratch your floors, wearing down the surface faster. The good news: All you need to do to stay on top of it is a quick sweep or vacuum every few days—read on for the full rundown on upkeep.

Stocking Up on Harsh Chemicals

“The pandemic brought a new wave of bleach-heavy, extreme cleaning and disinfecting, but it is neither necessary nor safe to use on natural wood floors,” says Giesbrecht. Most of the time, a little bit of soap with warm water does the trick. 

Using Too Much Water

H2O is wood’s worst enemy—letting it seep in could ruin your floors’ finish—which means so is a soaking-wet mop. Only get the mop damp and work in one small area at a time. Plus “if you spill liquid on the floor, even water, be sure to clean it up right away so it doesn’t discolor or warp the wood,” adds Giesbrecht.

How to Keep Hardwood Floors in Good Shape Between Cleanings

Constantly rearranging couches and coffee tables to clean underfoot isn’t realistic, but Giesbrecht does suggest sweeping, dry mopping, or using a soft-head vacuum attachment to pick up dirt and debris daily if necessary. Pay the most attention to high-traffic areas like the kitchen, dining room, and living room. 

How to Clean Hardwood Floors

The Supplies

Step 1: Get Everything Out of the Way

If possible, move all the furniture off the hardwood floors you’re tackling, or at least to one side of the room. Be sure to use furniture pads so you don’t scratch your floors. An extra set of hands would be nice, too!   

Step 2: Dust, Dust, and Dust Some More

Clear out all the dust bunnies and debris with a microfiber dust mop. If you prefer to vacuum your hardwood floors, use the soft-head attachment. (Just make sure nothing is caught on the bristles that could scratch the surface.)

Step 3: Mix Up a Cleaning Solution

Giesbrecht swears by a simple duo: “A mild dish soap and water will do as good a job as any expensive store-bought cleaner,” she says. Her go-to ratio: one teaspoon dish soap with three cups warm water, combined in a spray bottle. Do not shake—think of the bubbles! Gently stir instead. 

Step 4: Spray, Mop, Dry, Repeat

Spray a small section of your floors with the mixture and follow it immediately with the swipe of a damp mop. Dry the area with a clean cloth or dry mop, then move on to the next spot.