How to clean hardwood floors for a scuff-free polish

Greg Stevens

Cleaning and maintaining hardwood and laminate flooring is straightforward, but there are things to avoid when it comes to caring for them. To help break down how to care for hardwood, engineered hardwood and laminate flooring, we spoke to experts about what tools and cleaning solutions to use.

How to clean hardwood floors

Caring for hardwood floors requires a combination of dry and wet cleaning. Follow these instructions for daily, weekly and monthly cleaning and maintenance of hardwood floors.

Libman Extra Large Indoor Outdoor Angle Broom

$13.97 at Home Depot

Sweep regularly with a soft-bristle broom; an angle broom will get into corners and along baseboards. Perry recommends sweeping or dry mopping daily; Bradley also recommends this type of regular maintenance, “Most hardwood floors should be swept or dusted a few times a week to avoid micro scratches from dirt or debris.”

O-Cedar Hardwood Floor N More Microfiber Mop

$13.97 at Home Depot

“A microfiber dust mop pre-treated with a dusting agent will pick up dust and dirt and prevent scratches,” Perry says.

Eureka PowerSpeed Multi-Surface Upright Bagless Vacuum Cleaner

$69.98 at Home Depot

Vacuum your hardwood floor using the hard floor setting on the vacuum, which raises the vacuum cleaner and deactivates the brush roll to prevent scratching and other damage. Perry recommends vacuuming hardwood floors once a week.

O-Cedar EasyWring Microfiber Spin Mop and Bucket System

$29.97 at Home Depot

When mopping hardwood floors, make sure to wring most of the water out of the mop so it’s damp and not sopping wet. Rinse the mop when necessary. Clean heavy-traffic areas with a damp mop twice a month.

Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner

$8.97 at Home Depot and Amazon

“Sealed hardwood can be easily damaged by some cleaning solutions, like vinegar and water, and should always be cleaned with a solution specifically innovated for that surface,” Bradley says. Perry recommends mopping with a hardwood floor cleaner once a month.

How to clean engineered hardwood and laminate floors

Laminate flooring and engineered hardwood look similar, but there are differences between them — both are easy to clean, and can be cleaned using the same methods, but engineered wood flooring has holes and grains that collect dirt, unlike laminate, which is smooth and therefore wipes clean more easily.

Bona Hard-Surface Cleaner

$9.99 $7.97 at Amazon or $8.97 at Home Depot

“In the case of both hardwood and laminate we recommend first dusting the floor, then using a microfiber mop with a cleaning solution formulated for that surface,” Bradley says.

HDX Microfiber Wet-Dry Flip Mop

$11.97 at Home Depot

Perry suggests streamlining wet and dry mopping operations by using a microfiber flip mop. “The gray, solid, fluffy side is perfect for cleaning light dirt, dust, pet hair and debris on hardwood, tile, laminate and other hard surface floors,” she says. ” Simply flip over to the striped side for wet mopping.”

Bona Hard-Surface Premium Spray Mop

$41.94 at Walmart or $42.36 at Home Depot

Another tool that can help to simplify laminate floor care is a spray mop. Spray mops have a chamber to hold cleaning solution and are fitted with a mechanism to dispense the right amount onto the floor.

How often should you clean hardwood and laminate floors

When it comes to the frequency with which to clean hardwood and laminate floors, Bradley recommends cleaning high traffic areas weekly, moderately trafficked areas every other week, and lesser used areas monthly. “Most hardwood floors should be swept or dusted a few times a week to avoid micro scratches from dirt or debris,” she says.

Bissell Crosswave Pet Pro All in One Wet Dry Vacuum Cleaner and Mop

$269.59 at Amazon

If the idea of using both dry and wet cleaning tools seems like a hassle, a hybrid mopping tool can help to make quick work of cleaning hardwood and laminate floors. The drawback of these machines is that they are bulkier, more cumbersome and pricier than brooms, mops and most standard vacuums.

Hizero UltimateClean Bionic Hard Floors Cleaner

$749 at Amazon

Yang Yi, a product manager for Hizero, says that one benefit that Hizero’s floor cleaning tools offer is that they sweep, wash and dry the floor in one go. “Hardwood flooring can be easily damaged by scratching, or exposure to excess water. While laminate flooring is much more resilient to scratching and water than hardwood, it is important to use a tool that is gentle on the floor, and does not leave excess water behind.”

What to avoid

When it comes to hardwood, engineered hardwood and laminate floors, using the wrong cleaning products and tools, or using those products and tools incorrectly, can cause irreversible damage.

“Always avoid oversaturation when cleaning laminate and particularly hardwood,” Bradley says. “Also, avoid DIY cleaning solutions such as vinegar and water which is a highly acidic solution that will damage the flooring surface.” Perry and Bradley offered this list of other “don’ts” to keep hardwood, engineered hardwood and laminate floors looking their best.

  • Avoid leaving any standing water on the floor, which can damage the wood; this is especially true for prefinished hardwood floors.
  • Steam cleaning is not advised because steam can dull the finish and damage the wood.
  • Opt for a microfiber mop over a sponge mop or string mop and bucket, which leave too much liquid on the floor, damaging the floor over time.
  • Don’t use abrasive or acidic cleaners that can strip the protective coating from the floor.
  • Don’t use steel wool or scouring powder, as they can leave scratches on the floor.
  • Avoid oil-based cleaners and products designed for cleaning wood floors, cabinets and furniture, as they can leave streaks on laminate that are impossible to remove.
  • Don’t use products designed for vinyl or tile flooring on hardwood floors.
  • Don’t over-wax a wood floor; if it is dull, try buffing instead.
  • Don’t ever wax or polish laminate floors.
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