• Gypsy Magpie's Flooring Insider Series: Part 1 How to Care for Wood Floors

    How to Clean a Wood Floor

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    I grew up in a family floor covering business and have been surrounded by carpet, pad, tile, and wood for as far back as I can remember. As a kid I loved to bounce on the rolls of pad and do cherry drops off the fork-lift stinger. I loved to “help” my grandpa and dad on the job, picking up scraps and carrying tools. I might have even helped dump an entire bucket of glue on the new floors of a school out in Price back in the day, but there are no pictures to prove it so let’s pretend it never happened.

    Wood floors have always been my favorite type of flooring, what can I say, Pyne is my maiden name!
    (By the way, it’s pronounced “Pine” like the tree… NOT Payne, Piney, or Pin. Crazy people be making it way harder than necessary!)

    Gypsy Magpie's Insider Flooring Series: Part 1- How to Care for Hardwood Floors

    Wood is warm, inviting, and gorgeous. If taken care of properly, a well loved wood floor can last a lifetime.
    There is nothing quite as amazing to me as 100 year old wood still doing it’s beautiful thang.

    In the last few years there has been a homemade cleaner craze taking over blogs and Pinterest and for the most part it’s awesome! I love a good homemade cleaner and I make them all the time but one cleaner I do not make is one to clean my wood floors. I get a lot of questions from friends asking what I use and why vinegar, like so many bloggers suggest, is a no-no so I thought I’d start a little series here on the blog about how to care for flooring. I grew up surrounded with flooring installation/repair and my family still runs our small business to this day. I have unlimited access to company reps and craftsman who have decades and decades of experience, so why not share a little insider info?

    I’m on a mission to educate, make life easier, and save beautiful floors everywhere!

    Flooring Insider Series Part 1

    Ok, wood floors…
    To start off, let’s talk some basics:

    There are two types of wood flooring- solid wood and engineered wood.

    • Solid wood is a just that, a solid piece of wood from top to bottom with tongue and grooved sides. It can be sanded, stained, and finished several times.
    • Engineered wood is made out of layers, the top being wood veneer. Some types of engineered wood can be sanded and finished depending on how thick the top veneer is.

    Both types of flooring have to have a finish put on for protection. You can purchase either factory finished flooring or unfinished flooring and have it stained and finished in the color and sheen of your choice. Both unfinished and pre-finished have their pluses and minuses. Buying unfinished flooring gives you the most freedom, options, and control when it comes to design. Unfinished flooring is messy to install and takes time to dry. Engineered is versatile in the fact that it can be installed practically anywhere. It is great for basements because you can lay it on concrete. Another plus is that it can be laid and walked on that day.

    There are several sheens of finish ranging from satin gloss, semi gloss, to matte.

    Gloss is shiny like a gym floor and it reflects light, matte is the least shiny and doesn’t reflect much light, and semi is somewhere in the middle. Generally speaking, the less shiny the less you will notice imperfections and wear, like dings and scratches. All levels of sheen will dull over time.

    So you’ve picked out the perfect wood floor and it’s been installed, now what?

    Gypsy Magpie's Insider Flooring Series: Part 1- How to Care for Hardwood Floors

    Care and Maintenance Do’s & Don’ts:

    Oh yeah, just a heads up, these tips are meant for modern day wood flooring finished with poly not old timey waxed floors.
    That’s a whole different ball game.


    • Do sweep, dust mop, or vacuum (without a beater bar) regularly
    • Do use rugs, especially in volatile areas like near the kitchen sink or front door
      (Rug pads are inexpensive and will keep your rugs from sliding around)
    • Do trim pet’s nails to keep from scratching floors
    • Do damp mop when needed using a well wrung out clean white cloth or flat head microfiber mop
      and a ph balanced cleaner specifically made for wood floors
    • Do mop with the direction of the wood grain to minimize streaking
    • Do use a humidifier during cold, dry months when the heater is used often
    • Do put felt pads or protectors on the bottom of your furniture
    • Do wipe up spills immediately
    • Do use ice to harden substances like gum then scrap away with a plastic dish scraper then wipe away with a soft damp cloth
      (just be careful not to be aggressive and scratch the floor)
    • Do take off shoes if possible- rocks and dirt on the bottom of shoes can cause damage.
      The majority of dirt in our houses comes from our shoes which is kinda gross if you think about it.
    • Read your manufacturers warranty! Also, almost all wood floor manufacturers have websites with care instructions. When in doubt, check them out.
    • Do occasionally listen to Bob Seger while sliding across the floor wearing socks and impersonating Tom Cruise
      You know you want to!


    • Don’t wear heeled shoes in the house. High heels leave divets in wood that must be sanded to fix. Want to make enemies with a floor man? Wear stilettos on his kitchen floor. I double dog dare you.
    • Don’t vacuum with the beater bar spinning.
    • Don’t clean wood floors with vinegar (or lemon for that matter)- vinegar is an acid and essentially eats away the finish. This is called etching. It dulls, damages, and discolors the floor overtime and that will make you cranky. It also voids your warranty… eek! (For those of you saying “I use vinegar and have no problems” see what happens after repeated use and time. Sadness, y’all, sadness.)
    • Don’t use oil soaps or waxes as these leave a film that attracts dirt and dulls the finish.
    • Don’t use harsh cleaners like bleaches, ammonia, detergents, scouring powders or pads.
    • Don’t use products containing acrylics or urethane polish.
    • Don’t let water, fluid, or pet accidents sit on the floor.
    • Don’t wet mop!
      Remember this formula: Wood + Water= Warping
      *Warping = Sadness
    • Don’t steam mop!
      Let’s add on to that previous formula… Wood + Water + Heat= Mega Warp-age
      **Mega Warp-age= Rage

    So, let’s talk more about the ph neutral cleaner I mentioned. I know you probably rolled your eyes when you read that so let me explain. These types of cleaners are made to balance the ph to just the right levels that will leave floors clean without haze and streaking. They are designed specifically for wood floors. Keep in mind that you aren’t actually cleaning the wood, you are cleaning the chemical finish that is protecting the wood.

    You can purchase ph neutral cleaners from multiple sources like your local flooring store (Go see my folks, they’d love to help you!), home centers, or even on Amazon. I like to buy it by the gallon and mix it in a spray bottle. A gallon will last you a very long time and is your most economical choice. If you are worried about toxins, I like these cleaners because they are non-toxic, allergy and asthma friendly, and scent free.

    Here are the tools I use to clean my wood floors:

    Gypsy Magpie's Insider Flooring Series: Part 1- How to Care for Hardwood Floors

    I use a big shammy mop, a small shammy mop, a ph balance cleaner, and an old dish scraper.
    *To use the dish scraper, just spray a little cleaner right on the stuck on gunk then scrape gently with the scraper. Wipe up the gunk then go over the spot again with your mop.

    If, after you’ve tried everything and your floor still isn’t pretty, call a professional.
    It might just be time to have those floors redone.
    If you are in Utah, give my family a call!
    They’d love to answer questions.

    Trust me, some things are better left to the pros!

    Gypsy Magpie's Insider Flooring Series: Part 1- How to Care for Hardwood Floors

    Well, now that we’ve got that out of the way go enjoy your beautiful floor!

    Don’t be scared of your wood, embrace the beauty of it! Caring for a wood floor is actually quite simple once you know what to do, not do, and why. Though it’s an investment in the beginning, it will pay off for decades if loved and cared for.

    Oh, and for the love, don’t try that olive oil pin on Pinterest unless you are looking to drop a wad of cash on a new floor in your near future. Hint: Olive oil goes rancid, will start to stink, will seep down into every nook and cranny, and will turn your floor black. People, people, people… *facepalm*

    Come back next month for the next installment in the Flooring Insider Series!

    Have any experience with cray-cray wood floor myths?
    I’d love to hear!




CommentLuv badge
  • Alise
    16 December 2015

    These are great tips! Can’t wait to try them on my floors.

    • Missy
      16 December 2015

      Oh, thank you Alise! Let me know how it goes!

  • Belinda
    17 December 2015

    “Do listen to Bob Seger…” HA! Thank you for sharing these tips, for the first time in my life we live in a place with almost all wood flooring and sometimes I’m not sure if I’m cleaning it right! Saving this post for future reference!

    • Missy
      17 December 2015

      Thanks for stopping by, Belinda! Best of luck with your floors! They give such an awesome feeling to a home.

  • Kirsten
    19 December 2015

    I have been using Norwex and water since we put our Pergo in a few years ago, but I feel like they look like a streaked mess all the time. I am going to try this Bona for sure! Thanks for all the info!

    • Missy
      21 December 2015

      Hi Kirsten! Here is a link to Pergo’s website for their care instructions. Since it’s not real wood, you can use a vinegar solution. However, they still advise against a steam mop just like with real wood. Bona has a great cleaner made specifically for laminate floors and it’s awesome. You can find that at floor retailers and even Amazon. That’s what I would recommend. I love Norwex’s mop and I’m sure you could combine their mop and bona’s cleaner just fine.


  • Drew
    5 January 2016

    Great list of do’s and don’ts for cleaning hardwood. Trying not to warp the floors is very important. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Drew recently posted…How to Determine the Appropriate Amount of Flooring to OrderMy Profile

  • Kaylee Coleman
    12 February 2018

    Thank you for sharing. For occasional deep cleaning (dirt, oil and grime will build up over time), the best solution for cleaning wood floors is one cup of vinegar mixed with one gallon of water. Immerse a clean mop into the solution and wring it until it is damp-dry..

    • Missy
      15 February 2018

      Hi Kaylee! Unfortunately, vinegar is not a recommended method of cleaning wood floors. As was said in the post, it etches the finish and can void your manufacturer’s warranty. But, if you find it works for you and you aren’t worried about your warranty, then you do you girl. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Gabriela Lima Felgueiras
    7 June 2018

    bona products are very good
    thank you for the tips

  • Kirti
    20 October 2018

    It is really a big concern for cleaning the wooden flooring. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lawrence Trence
    5 August 2020

    Thanks for the tips! I recently had my hardwood floor refinished and was really skeptical about cleaning it since I had earlier used some harsh products which stripped off the entire finishing. I will be more careful this time. Again, thank you for the tips!
    Lawrence Trence recently posted…How to Move a Fridge Without Scratching the Floor?My Profile

  • Zoe Campos
    7 April 2021

    My sister isn’t probably aware that she shouldn’t use vinegar for cleaning hardwood floors as you mentioned. I visited her house last night and have noticed that some areas of her floor look cloudy and faded. I hope that having it refinished can restore its good appearance.

  • Luis Parker
    8 April 2021

    Good read, thanks for the guides and tips.
    Luis Parker recently posted…How Long Does Pressure Treated Wood Last: Life ExpectancyMy Profile