How do you clean wood floors? Hardwood floor maintenance is simple.

Here are 10 tips to clean wood floors and keep them in tip-top shape. Hardwood floors will last 25 years between sandings, if they are well-maintained.

Hardwood floor maintenance is simple.

Pile of dust on hardwood floor from sweeping

1. Sweep and vacuum your hardwood floors like crazy.

Here in Minnesota, we track all manner of grit, gravel and salt onto our floors. This photo is one sweeping of the shop floor on one typical day in January. These particles are abrasive, just like the grit on sandpaper.

Your weight on top of those abrasive particles turns you into a sanding machine that will grind down the finish on your floor as effectively as any floor sander – so get that grit off that floor regularly and often.

We recommend a canister vac with a very soft bristle wand head.

Wood floors refinished by Pete's customer

2. Recoat your hardwood floors before you wear any spot through to bare wood.

Wood floors don’t wear evenly. You will see wear first appear in small spots at exterior doors and in front of the fridge and you’ll think nothing of it because it’s just a tiny spot. But it is not nothing! Those little worn spots of driftwood cannot be spot-fixed; once you’ve killed the finish in one area of the floor, you need to resand the entire space.

So keep a vigilant eye on your trouble spots and recoat the floor BEFORE they wear through.

There is not a finish on the market today that will last even 10 years unless you periodically refresh it.

Recoat your floors when they first appear scratched and dull, but before they are worn through to bare wood. This can be as often as every year for kitchens that are not swept, or as infrequently as every 15 years in upstairs bedrooms.

Recoating involves lightly etching the existing finish of a floor with a fine grit screen under a buffer or pole sander, and then laying down a single layer of fresh finish.

You can hire a contractor to do this for you (current market rate for this service is about $1 per square foot) or you can easily rent a buffer from Pete’s in MN, buy your own polyurethane in our online shop (yes, from us too) and do it yourself for about 20¢ per square foot. Nothing makes us happier than discussing recoating procedures, so contact Pete’s already.

Wood floor with large gouges from furniture

3. Put floor protectors on all furniture that moves (especially beds) and replace them regularly.

We love-love-love the floor protectors we carry because the loosely-woven olefin fibers absorb pieces of grit instead of just bed gougestrappingthem against the felt, which leads to more scratches. Also, the adhesive is incredible and really stays stuck to chair legs. We sell them in several different sizes! They come in little circles, big Monsta circles, long rolls, or cut-your-own sizes.

And we even sell beige ones if you have furniture with pale legs. We have adorable caster cups as well to keep little wheels from grinding into your finish. We use them and they work wonders. Do it.

Low angle of textured wood floor damaged by steam cleaning

4. Never, ever steam clean or wet-mop a wood floor. Ever.

Those long-stick squeeze mops just don’t wring out the mop head thoroughly enough, and even small amounts of water can cause your floor to swell and cup over time.

Now, for all you strong, old-fashioned types out there, getting on your hands and knees and washing the floor with a carefully squeezed-out conventional sponge is usually not a hazard to your floor, but we feel bad making you clean your floors that way.

We recommend Bona Professional Hardwood Floor Cleaner Spray expressly intended for polyurethane or Monocoat floors (see below) wiped with a dry push-mop.

Bona, Pallmann and Rubio wood floor cleaners

5. Do not clean the floor with furniture polish, vinegar, ammonia, pine cleaners, or Murphy’s Oil Soap.

Those cleaners may dull or even damage the finish and will create problems when your floor needs recoating. We sell and recommend Pallmann Hardwood Floor Cleaner for all polyurethane-finished floors or for floors finished with Pallmann Magic Oil.

We also use and recommend the Bona Professional Spray Cleaner for polyurethane-finished floors -which actually has a better degreaser in it than the regular Bona floor cleaner that is sold in supermarkets and hardware stores. This also comes in a handy 4 oz. concentrate if you already have a spray bottle.

If you have a floor that was coated with Rubio Monocoat, please do not use the Pallmann or Bona cleaner!

You must use the Rubio Soap concentrate for all Monocoat-finished floors.

The Rubio Surface Care Kit is also available.

Old black and white ad for Johnson's Wax for wood floors

6. Never wax a polyurethane floor!

You’re looking at your polyurethaned hardwood floor and thinking that it looks dull and dingy and just needs to be polished up a bit. Don’t try it.

Polyurethane is simply plastic and buffing it will just dull it further and laying down a layer of wax will prevent you topcoating with more polyurethane, which is the correct way to restore sheen to your polyurethane floor.

7. Use rugs.

Place mats at exterior doors to trap sand and grit that arrives with incoming traffic.

Use area rugs in high traffic areas and spots where you pivot, like the base of stairwells. Just be sure to use Rug-Check Plus to keep your rugs from slip-sliding away without harming your hardwood floor’s finish.

Old wood floor with old adhesive carpet backing before refinishing

8. Be careful about rug underlayments.

Many people like to use a separate backing under their carpets to add cushion and keep them from slipping.

But synthetic rubber and polyurethane rug backing can react with the plastic in polyurethane floors and discolor and degrade it; natural latex or rubber underlayments will not. But the problem is, manufacturers are not very good about listing the components in their rug underlayments.

Pete’s sells a guaranteed natural rubber backer called Rug-Check Plus that works like a charm. $1.50 per square foot cut from a 6′ roll. We’ll be happy to cut you a nice custom piece just for your rug.

Wood floor with round water damage spot from leaky plant

9. Beware plants and Christmas trees.

Use stands under plants to allow air circulation; even a waterproof plant container placed directly on the floor can attract condensation and leave a water stain.

Woman holding paw of white dog with long toe nails

10. Love your pets.

But trim their toenails and wipe up their accidents.

Read What pets do to hardwood floors?

Pete’s Bonus Tips

Test before you recoat!

If you don’t know the cleaning or maintenance history of the floor you want to recoat, STOP!

If that floor has been cleaned with Murray’s Soap Oil (you know what we mean), Orange Glo or any acrylic waxes like Future or Mop & Glo, a modern polyurethane will not bond to it.

Yes, even if you screen it aggressively first, you are likely to experience “crawling,” the dreaded “fish-eye” or just widespread peeling after the finish is applied.

Do these tests to determine if you need to chemically strip the floor before recoating:
Test for a grease-based residue like wax or oil-soap

In a low-traffic area that has been cleaned thoroughly (behind a door is a good spot because it was usually cleaned or coated, but hasn’t been worn off – closets and pantries are not good test areas because those areas are often skipped during the cleaning process) place several drops of mineral spirits (also known as paint thinner) and let them sit for 2-3 minutes.

Wipe up the paint thinner with a clean, white rag. If there is a brown or yellow residue on the rag, or if the residue feels waxy, a contaminant is present. Scrub the floor with a small amount of paint thinner and steel wool (buffers are good for this) until all residue is removed.

Test for acrylic waxes or polishes

In a low-traffic area that has been cleaned thoroughly (behind a door is a good spot because it was usually cleaned or coated, but hasn’t been worn off – closets and pantries are not good test areas because those areas are often skipped during the cleaning process) place a large drop of a 1:1 water-ammonia mixture and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.

If the area turns white, then a floor polish or wax is likely present. Scrub the entire are with a 4:1 water-ammonia solution until all residue is removed.

Womens blue shoes with sharp pointy high heels

High heels kill floors.

Which puts greater force on a floor, a 125-pound woman in high heels or an elephant?

An elephant's foot has a ground pressure of 50 to 100 pounds per square inch (psi), but the lady in heels exerts a force of 200 psi!

High heels leave thousands of little dents in hardwood floors, and those dents can't be erased with a simple a screen and recoat - those dings need to be completely resanded.

So, the moral is, no high heels in the house.


Steam cleaners are bad for hardwood floors!

Yes, we know, you love your new floor steamer mop. And while it is true that it doesn't use any strange or harsh cleaners, it is still BAD for your hardwood floor.

Steam is water and water damages wood. Steam cleaning your floor is the same as leaving your floor out in the rain!

It will cause the finish to delaminate and the wood to swell. So, don't use steam-mops on hardwood floors.

Group of brown, round floor protectors for furniture

Buy hardwood floor protectors.

Check out Pete’s reliable hardwood floor protectors (you can order online!)

Get ’em before the floor scratches. As we like to say, the smallest things can do the greatest damage to your floor – and this includes hard plastic casters, chair legs…. basically any piece of furniture that will move or scrape along your floor. Our hardwood floor protectors will do the job so you don’t have to worry.

These little guys sell like hotcakes in the store, but we’ve put them online so our friends around the U.S. can shop, too.

Questions before you buy? Give the store a call at 651-698-5888.