Cleaning & Care

4 Ways NOT To Clean Your Wood Floors

Can you wet mop hardwood floors? Are steam cleaners safe for wood flooring?

Wood floors are known for their durability and easy-to-maintain status. But, without knowing it, you might be shortening the life of your floors by cleaning them the wrong way.

Hardwood flooring is designed to last a lifetime, but only when properly cared for.

In this article, we outline four methods you should avoid when cleaning your hardwood floors.

wet mopping wood floor
Is wet mopping hardwood floors ok? It is never recommended to wet mop a hardwood floor. No matter what you’ve heard, read, or watched, true experts are not trying to sell you something. Easily maintain flooring with a safe for hardwood cleaner and microfiber mop.

Wet mopping can cause your wood floors to swell

A guiding principle to remember is that water and wood do not mix. Wood flooring can react like a sponge when around water– and get too much liquid it will swell.

For wood floors to be stable they need to be maintained in as consistent an environment as possible when it comes to humidity and temperature.

Slopping excess amounts of water on your floors as you mop can lead to real problems including:

  • Boards cupping or swelling
  • Discoloration and flaking of the finish
  • Squeaking and popping sounds

Hang up your bucket and a wet mop, for this easier way to clean wood floors:

Use a microfiber dust mop to sweep up loose dirt and debris. Follow up with a microfiber mop dampened with cleaning spray recommended for hardwood floors.

To recap– wet mopping wood floors is not a good habit for having long-life floors. You can more easily clean them just as well with a microfiber mop and hardwood safe cleaner.

steam clean hardwood floor
Can I use a steam cleaner on a wood floor? Don’t buy the hype! Hot steam (water) and wood don’t mix well together. Using a higher concentrated cleaner designed for wood floors is the best way to clean those hard ground in spots but without damage from the hot steam.

Steam cleaners are not safe for wood floors

No matter how emphatic the sales pitch on TV, or how convincing the paid actor is, we know the truth– that water and wood do not mix–in any form. That’s especially the case when it’s super heated and injected between the the edges between flooring boards!

A steam cleaner will certainly get your floors clean and shiny, but the added moisture to your floors can cause the same and worse issues as wet mopping. Not to mention that most flooring manufacturers warranty is void if steam mops have been used on the floor.

Most factory and on-site applied finishes for wood floors are not designed to withstand extreme moist temperatures. Finish can bubble, peel, flake, or become discolored if exposed to high heat.

For tough stains or grime, use a wood floor cleaning solution and a damp rag. Save the steam cleaner for your tile or vinyl flooring!

vacuum wood flooring
Vacuums are great for sweeping up dust and dirt, but it’s important to always use the hard surface setting and turn off the beater bar/brush roller.

Vacuum beater bars and brush rollers can scratch wood floors

Vacuums can quickly pick up dirt, hair, pet dander and other debris from your floors, but they can also cause damage:

  • Vacuums with hard plastic wheels can scratch or scuff floors
  • Beater bars can dent or scratch floors
  • Brush rollers can scratch, buff-burn or mar the finish.

Use a vacuum that has smooth (clean) rubber wheels and turn off the brush or beater bar when using to vacuum wood flooring. Use wand attachments with soft brush or felt instead.

cleaning wood floor
What’s the best kind of cleaner to use on hardwood floors? One that’s designed for wood. Other products can damage the finish or create a film that’s hard to remove.

Using the wrong cleaner can damage your wood flooring

Many consumers end up using products they found on supermarket shelves or in a home improvement store. Many of these products claim they are “wood safe” but using them could actually be harmful to your hardwood floors.

Pay close attention to these types of products that can damage your wood flooring:

Polishes and Other “Wood Renewal-Type” Products

Many of these are acrylic products that can leave a residue or build-up on your floors over time. Using them may help them look shiny and new for a while, but can over time cause floors to dull and become dangerously slippery.

It’s also not easy to reverse this damage without consulting a professional hardwood flooring contractor. Depending on the buildup, a total refinish of the floors may be the only recourse.

Oil Soaps and Waxes

Some floors are finished with a hard wax oil or penetrating oil finish. These floors require special manufacturer approved cleaners that condition and restore the oil finish.

Using these cleaners or oil-soaps on a regular urethane coated floor will cause a hazy buildup and be very difficult to remove.

Check with your floor or finish manufacturer to see which cleaning solution they recommend.

Vinegar, Ammonia, and Other Acidic or Alkaline Products

These may be a great option for tile or vinyl flooring, but ammonia, vinegar or petroleum-based cleaners, even when diluted – are too harsh to clean your wood floors with.

Over time, these solutions can weaken and break down the finish, exposing the bare wood over time.

Products that are specifically formulated for hardwood flooring are pH-balanced, neither acidic or alkaline. Our recommended cleaners are backed by years of consumer use and testimonies about these great products for wood floors.

wood floor cleaner
Our recommendation? Real Clean Floors cleaner and mop kit – designed with natural ingredients that safely clean your flooring.

Our recommended wood floor cleaner

For the majority of wood floors that are urethane-coated, we recommend Real Clean Floors Cleaner.

Its natural orange peel extract is pH-balanced and is amazing at cutting through dirt and grime without leaving a hazy build-up or harming the finish.

Follow these simple instructions to clean your wood floors:

  1. Sweep or vacuum your floor to remove dirt and debris.
  2. Spray Real Clean Floors Cleaner lightly over the area you are cleaning.
  3. Wipe off with a Real Clean Floors or similar microfiber mop in the same direction as the wood grain.

You can find Real Clean Floors products at or on