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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best hardwood floor cleaners

One of the benefits of hardwood flooring is that it’s pretty easy to care for compared to carpeting. That said, you still need to clean wood floors. While regular sweeping or vacuuming will help keep your floors from getting dull over time, a good mopping with the right cleaning solution will restore your floors’ shine.

Don’t just slather on whatever’s sitting in the cupboard! Many cleaning products meant for other flooring types aren’t the best option for wood. Some contain ingredients that can damage or dull your sleek wood floors. That’s why it’s essential to pick a suitable cleaner, and we can help.

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Sweep and vacuum hardwood frequently to remove traces of dust and debris that might scratch and dull the finish. Regular cleaning means you’ll need to mop less often.

Hardwood floor finishes

Keeping hardwood floors looking shiny and clean requires proper care, and using the right cleaner prevents damage that can make wood look dull. Hardwood floor cleaners are explicitly designed to help protect floor finishes and are less harsh than other types of cleaners. Using other floor cleaners or too much water on hardwood can leave your floors looking streaked and grimy.

When deciding how to clean your hardwood floors, it’s important to know that the type of wood doesn’t matter. Your floor’s finish is the most crucial factor in determining which cleaner to use. If you’re not sure about your floor’s finish and recently had it installed, the manufacturer can recommend a cleaning solution for your particular hardwood floor.

Surface sealed

Sealants include polyurethane, urethane, and polyacrylic. The benefit of these finishes is that they’re water-resistant, stain-resistant, and simple to clean. Most hardwood cleaners are suitable for these floors, and you can tackle messes easily on these mop-friendly floor finishes. Wax products shouldn’t be used on surface-sealed floors.

Expert Tip
Sweep or vacuum prior to cleaning your hardwood floors.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Penetrating finish

Penetrating finishes are typically oil-based but also include wax finishes. These finishes penetrate into the wood grain, harden, and protect against surface scratches and moisture. Penetrating finishes require a little more maintenance than surface sealed, but they’re low odor and non-toxic, so the application is less involved.

Wax is one of the oldest types of hardwood floor finishes around. It’s an inexpensive alternative to other finish types, but it requires unique maintenance and regular upkeep. Waxed floors should be cleaned with solvent-based cleaners instead of water-based ones. Every so often, wax should be stripped with a liquid wax stripper. The floor should be allowed to dry before you re-wax it.

Other finishes

Other hardwood floor finishes include lacquer and shellac. These are technically surface finishes, but they’re not as water or stain resistant compared to their urethane cousins. Floors with this type of finish are easier to damage and require more upkeep, similar to penetrating finishes. Sweep or vacuum to remove small particles, like you would with sealed hardwood. Instead of damp mopping, buff particularly dirty areas with a dry mop.


Untreated floors require the most care because they can be easily scratched and stained.

Hardwood floor cleaner ingredients

Check the product label to see whether yours is a water- or solvent-based cleaner. The ideal formula depends on your floors’ finish. Harsh, abrasive cleaners intended for other types of flooring can damage your wood floors. A cleaner that isn’t diluted correctly can have the same effect. Soap-based cleaners tend to leave residue on hardwood. Commonly used ingredients in hardwood cleaners include the following:

  • Solvents: These prevent streaking and help the cleaner dry more quickly, so you don’t have to wait hours for your floors to be ready. Quick-drying cleaners include Isopropyl alcohol.

  • Surfactants: These help to loosen and lift grime and dirt off the wood.

  • Citric acid: This loosens dirt and helps maintain a neutral pH.

  • Oxidizers: Formulas with oxidizers offer extra-strength cleaning power.

  • Scent: When you clean your floors, the smell will fill up your home, so choose a product with a smell that doesn’t bother you.
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Expert Tip
Clean your hardwoods when there’s a lot of sunlight out or turn on all the lights in the area. This will help you see all the dirt.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert


  • Vacuum or sweep floors first. You’ll avoid pushing around dirt and prevent small particles from creating microscopic scratches in your flooring.

  • Remove furniture and other obstacles that are in the way. This will make the mopping process more efficient.

  • Dilute the cleaner if required. If the cleaner isn’t dilute enough, it might leave streaks or make your floors sticky.

  • Mop with the grain. That way, you’ll prevent streaks.

  • The floor should be damp, not soaking wet. Once you mop a spot, it should dry quickly. Using too much water is bad for hardwood, even well-sealed wood.

  • For extra shine, buff the floor after you mop. It’s an extra step, but it’s worth it for a beautiful shine. You can skip it if you’re short on time.

  • Reduce the need to clean your hardwood. Avoid wearing shoes indoors, clean up messes right away, , sweep or vacuum regularly, and put doormats at your home’s entrances.
  • Avoid steam! It can seriously damage the finish on your hardwood floor.

Hardwood floor cleaner prices

You can expect to pay about $8 to $30 for enough hardwood floor cleaner to cover approximately 300 square feet. The cost varies by brand, with eco-friendly cleaners costing a little more.

A person wearing a black shirt and gray cardigan uses a spray on hardwood floor cleaner to clean a wood surface.
Did your floor come with manufacturer or installer protection? Check that before cleaning your floor. Some cleaners contain ingredients that could void your protection agreement.


Q. How often should I clean my hardwood floors?

A. High-traffic areas may require at least a weekly mopping. Low-traffic rooms can be mopped less frequently, such as once a month or even a few times a year. You’ll still need to vacuum and sweep periodically, especially if you have pets.

Q. How can I tell what kind of finish my wood floors have?

A. Use the smudge test to find out. Run a finger over your floors. If the surface doesn’t smudge, that means you likely have a surface sealant. To determine whether you have wax-sealed floors, drop some water in a discreet spot and wait a while. If you discover a white spot has formed, you have wax-sealed floors.

Expert Tip
Be sure to apply an even layer of cleaner on your hardwood floors.
BestReviews Cleaning Expert

Q. Can I just use water and vinegar to wash my wood floors?

A. This mix will do in a pinch for surface sealants, but these two ingredients aren’t the best for scrubbing off stubborn dirt and grime. This mixture might also dull your floors. Also, the vinegar smell may not appeal to everyone.

Q. Can water damage sealed hardwood?

A. Yes. Water and hardwood don’t mix. Never use a mop that’s sopping wet. Squeeze out the mop until it’s nearly dry. If you finish cleaning and discover areas that don’t appear to be drying quickly, dry them with a cloth.

Q. How can I get scuff marks out of my wood floors?

A. A bit of elbow grease and baking soda will get out surface scratches and scuff marks in no time.

Q. When will I need to refinish my hardwood floors?

A. Most hardwood flooring will likely need resurfacing and resealing every decade or so, depending on the amount of traffic in your home.

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