How to Clean Hardwood Floors Without Chemicals

How to Clean Hardwood Floors Without Chemicals

If you’re wondering how to clean hardwood floors so they look beautiful and retain their shine for years, the key is to clean them often and methodically. After all, floors face the most significant wear and tear in our homes. Think about all the dust, dirt, grime, and debris brought in from the outside or that accumulates by wearing shoes inside the house.

Allowing wood floors to get too dirty is not only unclean and unsanitary, but it can also damage the wood itself, which is expensive to repair, refinish, or at the very worst, replace. By cleaning hardwood floors regularly with just a few tools and natural products, they can last longer. Follow these tips for cleaning hardwood floors naturally from Melissa Witulski, the business operations manager for Merry Maids.

How Often to Clean Hardwood Floors

Clean hardwood floors a few times a week, then once a month (or more often if necessary), mop your wooden floors to deep-clean the wood and make them shine.

Witulski suggests quick regular cleanings a couple of times per week to keep floors from getting too dirty: “The best way to clean hardwood floors is to use a microfiber dust mop to remove dust, dirt, and whatever other particles were brought into your home. The microfiber dust mop will not scratch your floors as some vacuums might.”

Considerations Before You Get Started

Check If the Floors Are Sealed

Before cleaning your hardwood floors, it’s essential to know what type of finish has been applied to the flooring. Is the floor sealed with a polyurethane finish? If a drop of water sits on the surface, then the floor is sealed and can be cleaned with a water-based solution or steam cleaners.

If the drop of water is absorbed quickly, the sealant is worn away or was never applied. If the floor is unsealed, you want to limit the water used for cleaning. “When you need to do a deeper clean, use a damp microfiber cloth (as needed) and dry immediately with a dry microfiber cloth,” says Witulski.

Clear the Clutter

Pick up any clutter and remove small items, such as area rugs, from the floor. This will help create a faster, easier cleaning experience.

Plan a Route

Start at one corner of the room and work toward the door to prevent leaving footprints on a clean floor. You don’t want to do double the work by having to reclean areas.

Find the Right Time

To avoid frustration and extra work, pick a good time for cleaning hardwood floors. The best time is when foot traffic will be minimal, like when everyone is out of the house.

Invest in a Vacuum

If you have a lot of hardwood in your home, you might want to invest in a cordless vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors. The Dyson Omni-Glide+, for instance, is a model that we’ve ranked as one of the best vacuums around.

If dogs or cats are in your home, look for a vacuum for pet hair that’s also good for hardwood floors. For those looking for something more hands-free, a robot vacuum designed to clean both hard surfaces and carpet is a sound choice. (Some robot vacuums for hardwood floors can also mop.)

Follow Cleaner Directions

If you decide to use a commercial hardwood floor cleaner, follow the product instructions carefully. Only use the amount as directed to avoid waxy buildup, which can make wood floors look dull.

Speed Up Drying Time

Turn on ceiling fans or add a circulating fan to help speed up the drying time. This way, you can walk on the floor sooner and replace any rugs or floor items you previously cleared.

What You Need:

To Clean With Vinegar

To Clean Cracks

To Clean Paint on Floors

How to Clean Hardwood Floors With Vinegar

Step 1: Clear Dirt and Debris

Always start your floor cleaning by removing loose dust and soil. You can use a broom or a vacuum without a beater bar (the beater bar can damage hardwood surfaces) to clear away the debris.

But the best choice is a microfiber dust mop. The fibers in the mop attract and trap the dirt, and you can then toss the mop head in the washer so you have a clean mop each time.

Step 2: Mix Cleaning Solution

In a large bucket or sink, combine 1 gallon of water with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar or 1/2 cup of cleaning vinegar.

Step 3: Mop Hardwood Floors

Dip a clean microfiber mop into the solution and wring the mop until it is just damp and not dripping. You do not want to apply excess water to the floor.

Start at the far corner and work toward the door until you have cleaned the entire room. Rinse the mop often (wring until slightly damp!) as the soil is transferred from the floor.

Step 4: Let Floors Dry

Allow the floor to air-dry before walking on it. Remember that excess moisture can damage wood floors.

How to Clean Hardwood Floor Cracks

Older wood floors and poorly installed hardwood can have cracks between the boards that trap dirt and dust. These cracks can worsen during periods of low humidity when the wood dries out. Removing the dirt and debris that becomes trapped is easy but a bit time-consuming.

Step 1: Divide the Floor Into Small Sections

Clean in small sections, starting at the furthest corner of the room and working your way to the door. This technique is helpful so you can pick up where you left off if you can’t clean the entire room at once.

Step 2: Mix Cleaning Solution

Combine 2 cups of warm water and 1/4 cup of distilled white vinegar in a small bucket. 

Step 3: Scrub Cracks

Dip a soft-bristled toothbrush in the solution and shake until just damp. Gently scrub the cracks, then wipe away the debris with a soft cloth. You can also vacuum it up with a handheld vacuum or a vacuum with a crevice tool.

Step 4: Clean Floors

Once the cracks have been cleaned, clean the floor as usual by dusting and mopping, following the steps above.

Removing Paint Stains From Hardwood Floors

Paint splatters and drips happen, especially when painting the interior of your home. Most can be removed from hardwood floors with a little elbow grease and the right cleaning products. Water-based paint (acrylic paint) is the easiest to remove, but it’s possible to remove oil-based paint too.

With Dish Soap

  1. Mix a few drops of dishwashing liquid with 2 cups of hot water in a bowl.
  2. Wet a cloth with the solution and wring it until it is not dripping.
  3. Work in the direction of the wood grain and scrub the paint splatter.
  4. As the paint loosens, use a dry rag to wipe it away.
  5. If it won’t budge, use the edge of an old credit card or a plastic putty knife to (gently) scrape it away.

With Alcohol and Lemon Juice

  1. If paint stains or drips still exist, try a more powerful cleaning solution of three parts rubbing alcohol and one part lemon juice.
  2. Dip a cloth in the mixture, wring it out, and place it over the paint drips.
  3. Let it sit for five minutes, then scrub gently with an old toothbrush or gently scrape with a credit card.
  4. Wipe away the paint.

With Heat

If the paint still won’t come off, direct a hair dryer set on high toward the paint to soften it and try the above cleaning methods again.

If the paint is oil-based, you may have to use a store-bought eco-friendly, citrus-based paint remover. Follow the directions on the label.

How to Keep Your Hardwood Floors Clean Longer

To help your hardwood floors stay clean longer, try the following tips.

  • Wipe up spills immediately. Excessive moisture can discolor floors, and sticky residue only attracts more dirt. A shop vac or wet/dry vacuum can be helpful in these situations.
  • Dust mop daily (or at least weekly). A quick swipe with a dry dust mop (especially through high-traffic areas) will capture loose soil, grit, and dust that scratches hardwood floor finishes.
  • Place doormats inside and outside entrance doors to catch dirt. Don’t forget to clean the mats regularly.


Should you steam-clean hardwood floors?

Steam mops are great for cleaning non-porous floors like sheet vinyl, ceramic tile, polished cement, and stone. However, the high temperature and infusion of too much moisture can cause hardwood floors to discolor, warp, and crack over time, especially if the wood is not sealed correctly.

If you decide to use a steam mop, double-check that your hardwood floors are well-sealed with no worn spots in the finish. Set the mop to the lowest temperature setting, and do not create “steam bursts” as you work. Never leave the mop in one spot for too long.

What should you not use on hardwood floors?

To protect your hardwood floors from damage, it’s best not to use abrasive cleaners, ammonia, or alkaline products when cleaning your wood floors. Stick to natural cleaning methods or cleaners specified for use on wooden floors.

Likewise, avoid using wax, oil, or furniture sprays on hardwood floors. This will prevent residue on the floor and keeps your floor from becoming too slippery. Plus, who has time to apply wax?

What will ruin hardwood floors?

In addition to skipping the cleaners and products mentioned above, follow these tips to help avoid ruining hardwood floors.

  • Avoid excessive sunlight. Too much direct sun can cause your wooden floors to discolor and become dull. Use blinds or window coverings on very sunny days.
  • Be careful with vacuum cleaners. Avoid using a vacuum with a beater bar that can scrape or dent floors. Also, turn off the vacuum brush.
  • Don’t slide furniture. When moving furniture around your house, pick up pieces to relocate them instead of sliding them across the floor. This way, you prevent scratches or dents.