Do you really know how to mop hard wood floors? Take our quiz to find out.

updated: December 14, 2018

Nothing catches the eye quite like a gleaming wood floor. But do you know how to clean hardwood flooring properly? Most other hard floors require nothing more than a bucket of water, detergent and a mop. Since they are arguably the fashion models of the floor industry, it’s no wonder that wood floors require a little more maintenance.

There are many types of wood floors, and all of them require slightly different cleaning strategies. For the most part, however, all wood flooring faces the same challenges: dull sheen, scratches, and water damage.

Do you know how to keep your wood floors clean and sparkling without roughing them up? Take our true/false quiz to find out.

1. All wood floors can be cleaned the same way.

False: Hardwood (and laminate) floors have different finishes, which seals and protects them. Surface-sealed wood is coated in polyurethane, urethane, or polyacrylic. This makes them very stain and water resistant. You can sweep and mop them pretty much like any other floor, depending on manufacturer recommendations.

Looking for a good mop for wood floors? Browse our top-rated spin mops!

Spin Mop
Spin Mop

Oil-treated or penetrating seal-treated flooring has a softer wax finish that soaks into the wood grain itself. It must be resealed with liquid or paste wax periodically and cannot handle a lot of water or rough materials. These floors prefer to be dust mopped with only a dry microfiber or electrostatic mop pad between re-sealing.

Wood floors sealed with lacquer, varnish or shellac and untreated wood floors are also very picky. They prefer dry mops and spot cleaning as well.

2. Vinegar makes a great floor cleaner for wood floors.

Vinegar

True: Mostly, anyway. Vinegar is a good natural cleaning product, especially for those who are sensitive to chemical cleaners.

All you need is a 1/2 cup of vinegar for every gallon of water. However, vinegar or even water alone can dull some floors sooner, meaning you’ll have to re-wax/re-seal them sooner to keep them shiny and protected.

Always consult your flooring manufacturer to see what they recommend as the best wood floor cleaner. There are many cleaners on the market specifically made to clean and protect wood floors.

Cleanup Expert Tip: Another natural cleaner you can try is tea! Steep two tea bags in boiling water for a few minutes. Pour the tea in a bucket. Dip your mop or a soft cloth in the tea, wring it out until it’s damp, and mop the floor. The tannic acid amplifies shine, enhances the color of the wood, and can even inhibit microbial growth.

3. There’s nothing you can do for cracks.

True: For hairline cracks, anyway. Any attempt to fix them would more likely cause more damage. These often come and go with the seasons. Winter heating dries wood out, making them shrink and crack. The cracks should close over the summer months as the wood expands. You could also use a humidifier to help prevent or minimize this.

For larger cracks, they’ll need intervention. One method is filling the crack with epoxy wood filler that matches your floor color as much as possible. You’ll press it into the split with a putty knife, scrape off the excess, and sand it down with fine 120-grit sandpaper. If you’re careful, you can sand off the dried epoxy without sanding down into the finish.

Really bad cracks will require cutting out the board and replacing it.

4. You should never use a vacuum on wood floors.

False: Vacuums are awesome for wood flooring, especially floors with larger crevices between boards. They’ll suck up all that loose dirt, dust and hair that a broom and mop could miss.

There’s a caveat, though. Don’t use a vacuum with a regular brush roller like you’d use on carpet. On most vacuums you can turn roller rotation off for a hard floor setting. Then, the best thing to do is use the vacuum’s hose with a soft brush attachment, the same thing you might use for lampshades and window blinds.

If your vacuum can be used in a handheld mode, that’s even better so the hard wheels won’t scratch and dent the floor.

5. Wood floors can be mopped just like vinyl or tile.

False: While surface-sealed wood floors are more water-resistant than unsealed or wax-sealed floors, they still require a different mopping technique. With vinyl, you can get away with more water and a varied pattern of mop strokes.

But wood and water don’t play well together. You should only use a damp mop, not a dripping wet one, on sealed wood flooring. There are still pores and cracks that water can seep into. If it stays there, the water can warp the wood, weaken it, and promote mold and bacteria growth.


Here’s how you should go about your cleaning and mopping routine for a wood floor:

  • Sweep and vacuum (with a soft brush attachment) before mopping. Sweep every day to every couple days. Vacuum about once a week or every two weeks.
  • Prepare to mop. Fill your mop bucket with water. Use an appropriate wood-floor cleaner and dilute according to label instructions. Soak your mop in the water. Wring it until it’s nearly dry. Plan to mop at least once a month.
Cleanup Expert Tip: Spin mops can be spun nearly dry, and with their washable, soft microfiber mop heads, they’re perfect for mopping wood floors.
  • Start mopping in the far corner of the room, and work your way out of the room. Mop WITH the wood grain. This will keep dirt from being pushed between floor boards and will better hide any streaks.
  • Watch for standing water, and keep a towel handy to dry any puddles you see.
  • If the water gets dirty before you’re finished, dump it in the sink, and fill it again with water and cleaner.
  • When you’re finished, fill the bucket with ONLY water. Rinse your mop and wring it out until it’s slightly damp. Go back over the whole floor to rinse it.
  • To speed up drying, open A/C vents, windows or set a box fan up to blow across the floor.

If you have wood floors, hopefully this quiz gave you some helpful tips to improve your cleaning and maintenance routine. Remember to pamper your floors between cleanings to minimize scratches and dents.

Use floor mats inside and outside any exterior doors. Set aside a place to set wet boots, shoes, etc. so they don’t get the floor wet. Don’t wear heels or cleats or other hard-soled shoes on your wood floors. Use floor protector pads and rugs under tables, chairs and other things that get moved around a lot. These preventative strategies will cut down cleaning time so you can enjoy your floors even more.

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