What Should You Avoid When Cleaning Your Hardwood Floor?

set of cleaning equipment on a wooden floor

Hardwood floors are beautiful focal points to a home and their durability makes them stand out against other floor coverings. Another benefit of wood floors is their minimal maintenance. Cleaning hardwood flooring is relatively easy, but the wrong cleaning supplies can actually damage your floor. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at what types of cleaning agents to avoid using on your hardwood surface.



Even the toughest hardwood floor can be scratched by the wrong cleaning habits. Abrasive cleaners are designed to scratch away heavy dirt and stains on things like cooking utensils and barbeques. Yet, when they’re applied to a wood floor they can damage the finish by scratching away at the protective surface. Abrasives include natural cleaning agents like baking soda, as well as manufactured cleaning products like scrub pads and bottled cleaner and should be avoided at all times.


Vinegar should be avoided on hardwood floors

Vinegar and Water

Dirt accumulation in a wood floor occurs in the finish of the floor rather than in the wood itself; because of this, treating your finish kindly is the first step to a long lasting floor. Vinegar and water is a popular eco-friendly alternative to harsh household cleaners. But when this combination is applied to a wood floor, it can eat away at glossy finishes and reduce the protection they offer. If using eco-friendly cleaners in your home is a priority, try using a very damp mop or other eco-friendly floor cleaners instead.









Avoid using excessive water to clean hardwood floors

Excess Water

Moisture is the enemy of hardwood flooring, but keeping your floor clean is also a priority. When it comes time to mop your floor, use a very damp mop (that has been almost completely rung out) to remove stains and dirt. If you’ve accidentally spilled a large amount of water on your floor, quickly soak it up with towels to avoid stains and wood rot.



Steam CleanersSteam Cleaners should not be used to clean hardwood floors

Designed for deep-cleaning shag carpeting, steam cleaners can single-handedly ruin your hardwood floor. When used on wood, the hot steam coming from the machine is injected into the small cracks throughout your hardwood. This steam increases the floor’s suitability to rot and crack further, which will require you to replace it prematurely. The bottom line is – never use a steam cleaner on a wood floor.

Vacuums with Beater Brushes


You can vacuum your hardwood floor (in fact, it’s probably one of the easiest ways to clean it), but be wary of what type of vacuum you use. Many vacuums are designed for carpet flooring and use beater brushes to dig into carpet fibers and disrupt deep-seeded dirt. These brushes turn extremely fast, and when used on a hardwood floor they can scratch the finish and potentially damage the wood beneath. You can tell if your vacuum has a beater brush by turning it over and checking for a long-cylinder with bristles stretching from end to end.


Keeping your hardwood clean the right way will make you happier about your investment and prolong the life of your flooring. Remember to avoid using abrasive cleaners, beater brushes, and large quantities of water when cleaning your floor to prevent scratching the finish or enabling moisture and rot. If you’re thinking about updating your floor finish, take a look at this guide to picking the best finish for your home.





A Homeowner’s Guide to Hardwood Floor Finishes

As the outer shell that protects your timber floor from scratches, spills, and the wear and tear caused by foot traffic, your floor finish is the guardian of your hardwood. But over time, the protective coating wears down and will need to be sanded and refinished. Whether you plan to refinish a floor yourself or hire professionals, picking a coating is the first step to a smooth and protected floor.

A Homeowner’s Guide to Hardwood Floor Finishes
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The Most Popular Hardwood Floor Finishes

According to Hardwood Floors Magazine’s, State of the Wood Flooring Industry 2016: A Steady Climb, 49% of the finishes sold between 2015-2016 were water based. After that, oil modified, conversion varnish and tung oil (or shellac) coatings were also popular.



Easy to brush on and relatively inexpensive, Shellac finish has very few VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), however shellac isn’t very durable and will need to be recoated on a regular basis. Because this finish isn’t compatible with contemporary finishes (like polyurethane), only use this if you’re touching up aged wood flooring with an existing Shellac finish.


Penetrating Oil Sealants:

An easy to apply finish, oil-based sealants have a mild gloss and are known for the absence of toxic components. Its ability to penetrate pours in wood enables these finishes to bring out subtle grain patterns, making it the perfect way to bring out the contrast of a grain in light and dark floors. Because penetrating oil sealants are quite easy to work with, they’re a good choice for homeowners interested in tackling this project themselves.


Wax Finishes:

One of the original ways to refinish floors, wax has been tried and tested over centuries. Wax finishes are susceptible to stains, and must be reapplied regularly to truly benefit the floor. Perhaps one reason they’ve declined in popularity over the years is the need to completely remove the floor’s existing wax layer before applying a new coat. Regardless, wax finishes are easy to apply compared to other finishes and offer a low VOC output for cleaner air quality.


Moisture-Cured Urethane:

One of the most durable hardwood floor finishes available, moisture-cured urethane finishes are extremely effective in frequently used areas like kitchens, entryways, and hallways. Because the finish is extremely quick to dry, it is not recommended for DIY projects. It’s also important to note that these finishes are very high in VOC’s, and the fumes from the application can last for weeks. Because of the high toxin levels in moisture-cured urethane sealants, homeowners and pets are usually asked to leave the home while flooring professionals get the job done safely.



One of the most popular types of flooring polyurethane finishes (also known as “polys”) is a staple of today’s hardwood flooring industry. There are currently two primary types of polyurethane coatings:


Unbelievably durable and appropriate for DIY use, oil based polys are relatively inexpensive. Although they are easy to apply yourself, it can take anywhere from 8-10 hours for them to dry per coat. Over time, oil based polys may begin to yellow.


Unlike oil polyurethane finishes, water-based hardwood floor finishes are relatively quick to dry and do not yellow over time. They also are much lower in VOC output, however are slightly more expensive than their oil-based counterparts.


Picking the right finish for your home will be a matter of personal preference. Consider your budget, time frame to complete the project, and the value you place on picking an eco-friendly, long lasting finish. Once you know the answer to these points, you can begin picking the best floor covering for you. If you thought the information in this blog was interesting, click here to read a larger selection of our previous blogs.