My fiancé and I recently purchased our first home, and much to my enjoyment, our first floor is a beautiful swath of dark hardwoods. Much to my enjoyment — and my horror. How am I to clean these floors, I thought? The last thing I wanted to do was damage such beauty, and such an investment. After scouring various sources, I found many conflicting tips, some of which seemed too scary to even consider. (Steel wool? On hardwoods?) I decided to turn to a most trusted source of home care — Martha Stewart — and take her word as the “golden rule.” So, here’s my advice, based on Martha’s, on how you should care for your hardwood floors.
Start first with a vacuum, whether your floors are waxed or sealed with a polyurethane. Vacuuming will remove particles and everyday dust, making mopping easier. Using a microfiber dusting pad when you don’t have time to vacuum is highly recommended.
Most hardwood floors these days are prefinished floors and can be damp-mopped but not wet-mopped. With damp mopping, you apply water or a cleaning solution to the mop and wring it out so it’s only slightly wet. Wet mopping — or leaving lots of excess liquid in the mop or dumping the liquid directly on the floors — can be risky because water can seep between the boards and start to ruin the wood.
A water-based floor cleaner formulated for hardwoods can be used for deep cleaning, but never allow puddles of liquid to pool on your hardwoods.
If your floors are waxed, never wet-mop them, as the liquid could damage the wood. Instead, wipe spills immediately with a damp paper towel and buff with a soft cloth.
Despite some reports to the contrary, it is never a good idea to use vinegar on wood floors. Because vinegar is acidic, it will eat away at the sealant, leaving your floors exposed to further damage.