Clean Hardwood Floors
Learning to Clean

How to Clean Hardwood Floors so They Sparkle and Shine

How do people get their hardwood floors so clean? That’s what I used to ask myself. No matter how much I swept and mopped, there was always more dust and dirt left over. To top it all off the floors never looked quite so shiny and clean as I saw those model homes.

That all changed when I went to work cleaning homes professionally and learned the proper techniques and tools to use. These techniques are so friggin simple that I wondered why more people didn’t know about them! I don’t want you to have to go through training to be a professional cleaner before your floors at home are sparkling. So here are my top 3 tips to get your hardwood floors shiny in no time!

Pro Tip for Cleaning Your Floors #1: Vacuum ALL your floors not just the carpets.

Vacuum your carpet, area rugs, as well as hardwood and tiles. When you sweep, you are essentially getting a whole lotta dust up into the air. These particles may cause allergies to stir up. The part that I hate the most is that once the dust settles your floors look dirty again. By vacuuming you pick up all of the dirt and dust right away. Plus you don’t have to deal with the dreaded dustpan struggle.

You know that line of dirt right beside the dustpan that seems to always be left over? Well, you can forget that problem altogether when vacuuming. Just imagine not having to use that dustpan every time you clean the floors!

So no dustpan, got it?

Ok, so now you’re ready to vacuum your hardwood floors. The next question is what vacuum cleaner to use? I do not recommend an upright vacuum as they tend to not be able to get into hard-to-reach places, like corners, and under furniture. My favourite at the moment is a Dyson canister vacuum cleaner. Take a look at this beauty below.

Why I like to use this one is that it is SUPER easy to get into hard to reach places. Its head swivels every which way you could’ve thought that a vacuum could turn. When travelling from floor to floor it has an easy to grab handle to carry the canister. This comes in super handy when vacuuming the stairs.

When you’re done, to throw out the dirt you’ve just collected you simply push a button and the canister holding the dirt opens on the bottom. Thus easily emptying into the garbage can. Now I do have to say that I was a skeptic before buying this vacuum since it doesn’t use bags that you simply replace. I thought that this canister would be messy and difficult to clean out. But my experience so far has been great. It is so easy to empty out and attach back to the vacuum cleaner.

Use a Dyson Canister Vacuum with the hardwood floor attachment to pick up all the dust before mopping
Dyson Big Ball Multi Floor Canister Vacuum Cleaner

Note: When vacuuming hardwood floors, tiles, or laminate make sure that you have the special attachment for those surfaces. If you use the same attachment as for carpets, you may end up damaging your floors or the bristles in the vacuum. Plus it makes a terrible, loud noise instead of a gentle whooosh.

Now, we get to the mopping part of cleaning your floors. To do a good job with mopping you need to have both tools and technique.

Pro Tip for Cleaning Your Floors #2: Choose your mop wisely and use it properly

The tool

Going cheap with this will not pay off, as you will only spend more time mopping your hardwood floors and have a less than satisfactory result.

My go to are two types of mops:

1. Reveal Spray Mop by Rubbermaid: If you have large areas with hardwood floors and no many obstacles around, then get this one. It will get a nice shine and helps to cover more ground with every swipe. A former client introduced us to this mop and I’ve never gone back. You could even wash your floors with hot water.

This Rubbermaid Reveal Spray Mop is fantastic to get your floors sparkling.
If you buy it in store, you don’t get the extra mop heads and bottles. While the bottles aren’t necessary, the extra mop heads are strongly recommended!

2. Vileda Super Twist String Mop with Vileda Quick Wring Bucket: If you have more furniture, obstacles, curved or hard to reach places then I would opt for this mop and bucket.

The technique

No matter the tools or products you have, you need to make sure that you are mopping correctly. Here are some pointers:

  • Make sure that you wring out the mop really well. The more water you leave behind on the floor the higher the likelihood of you leaving streaks.
  • Mop in a Z pattern, going with the pattern of the wood planks. If you go perpendicular you will find it much harder to leave it streak free.
  • Side note: to protect your back, do NOT lean over while mopping. Do your best to keep the mop right in front of you while you shuffle. I learned this the painful way and then had lower back pain for days after my first real shift.

Pro Tip for Cleaning Your Floors #3: Choose a Product that will Both Cleans AND Polishes your hardwood floors.

I’ve had a client who had hardwood floors throughout the home and had a toddler who liked to crawl on those floors. As a result, she wanted us to use NO product whatsoever. And guess what, it worked. After vacuuming, we would use the Reveal Spray Mop with just hot water. Even with nothing else added the floors were impeccably clean and shiny.

If your floors are a bit dirtier you may want to use some product. Now I know that there are some people using dish soap and vinegar or other combinations. While some of those products definitely get your floors clean, they do not polish the wood. Polishing your hardwood floors is so important if you want to have them looking clean and shiny and new for years to come.

Wood, like leather and granite, are natural surfaces. Just like skin, they need special care so that they do not dry out and start cracking or become dull. One miracle product that I discovered when I was trained as a professional cleaner is this: Murphy’s Oil Soap. It is a mostly natural product that some of our grandparents may have used. All you need is a tablespoon in your Reveal Spray Mop bottle or two tablespoons in your bucket and you’re good to go.

This is Murphy Oil Soap, a wood floor cleaner that does the job well
All you need is a tablespoon for one spray mop bottle or two tablespoons for a whole bucket.

The beauty of this product is that it can be used on most floors – hardwood, tile, and linoleum. I’m not too sure about the science of it, but somehow it helps you eliminate streaks while washing the floors and then helps it all to dry quicker.

On a side note, my hubby HATES the smell of vinegar. This product, however, smells like lemons and cleanliness, which makes both of us happy.

There you go, 3 pro tips to clean your hardwood floors and getting them shining and sparkling once again. Let me know which tip helped you the most? Did any of these surprise you?

In case you now feel completely overwhelmed with all of the cleaning just for hardwood floors, don’t worry. Take a deep breath. In. Out. Good 🙂

You won’t have to go through this process every time. Once you have the tools it will just be a matter of perfecting your technique. My tip is that once you’re ready to start timing yourself – it’s both fun and motivating 😉

Take a moment to look at my thoughts on: How to overcome cleaning overwhelm

3 Comments

  • zivootblog

    Nice article. I am a museum professional. In our museum, we have wooden flooring. We make sure to polish it every now and then. I took a lot of men power and money. Your article gives me new insights. thanks

  • Alisa

    Thank you and wow! That sounds like such a cool job! I imagine there is quite an area to cover in a museum.
    Polishing wood floors in high traffic areas is a good idea to keep the wear and tear down to a minimum. At home though, Murphy’s Oil Soap is like magic.
    My floors look as if they were polished every time after I clean them 🙂

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