Rehabbing A House

How To Clean Old Wood Floors

Wood floors are durable, they can tolerate an amazing amount of dust, mud, grit, food and debris. Eventually though your wood floors will require a proper cleaning beyond what a vaccuum or damp mop can provide. There is a proper method for cleaning wood floors, and a lot of ways that things can go wrong, so here is a list of do's and dont's to get your wood floor clean again.

House Rehab

Preventative maintenance

The best way to keep wood floors looking their best for decades is to prevent wear and damage in the first place. Learn how to clean wood floors without damaging their finish. You can accomplish this by being diligent about using floor mats by the entry ways and insisting people take off their shoes and boots at the door. Regular dirt and dust removal with a vaccuum and a quick wipe of the floor with a dry-mop will prevent dirt from acting as an abrasive on wood floors.

What you want to avoid is using steam, applying too much water or using a harsh chemical product on your floors. Even a britle brush that is too rigid can cause scratches in the polyurethane finish or varnish that most wood floors are covered in. Once the protective coating is weakened it's only a matter of time before unsightly stains and an overall dull appearance take over.

Experts at the National Wood Flooring Association recommend a bi-weekly wood floor sweeping schedule to remove abbrasives such as dust that accumulate naturally over time. For areas with heavier traffic consider a weekly or even daily cleaning schedule. A few minutes spent cleaning regularly will keep your wood floors looking their best and will delay any refinishing work for years. Make sure to spot clean any spills immediately.

Thorough cleaning tips

The vast majority of dirt and stains can be removed with a warm damp cloth, patience and a lot of gentle rubbing. If you've been diligent with preventative maintenance you won't need to do a deep cleaning very often. Here are a few handy wood floor cleaning tips:

  • Use a warm damp cloth
  • Avoid harsh chemicals
  • Rub with the grain
  • Don't use too much water
  • Don't use steam or a scraper
  • Sweep up any dust and dirt before starting
  • Be patient

The tools you'll need are one or all of the following: a broom and dustpan, a vaccuum cleaner, a microfiber mop and cloth, a ph neutral cleaning solution(warm water works well). Optional: An oil based wood protectant when finished.

Refinishing wood floors

When a thorough cleaning is no longer enough to restore the sheen of your wood floors or they look dull no matter what you do it may be time to refinish the wood. Don't worry, it's easier than you think. You can rent a floor stripper or sanding machine and with a little elbow grease restore the floor to like new condition.

Always follow the grain when sanding a wood floor and complete an entire strip from wall to wall at a time. Never go across the grain or randomly around the floor or you will gouge the floor and the grooves will remain visible after finish. A wood floor sander will not reach the area right next to walls so you will need a hand sander to completely remove existing finish all the way to the wall.

When the old finish is completely removed use a vaccuum to clean all of the dust from the room. Afterwards use a slightly damp cloth or mop to wipe the floor, this will make the small fibers in the wood swell slightly. Let the wood floor dry completely and it will be ready for an optional stain, oil coating such as those manufactured by Minwax, and/or polyeurothane finish. Follow the specific application instructions that come with the finish of your choice.

Important: This page is dedicated to real wood flooring only. There are many flooring products that look like wood but cannot be sanded or refinished without being damaged. Make sure you're dealing with a real wood floor before attempting to refinish it.

( Back to Top | View Sitemap )