The One Thing Pros Want You to Stop Doing to Your Wood Floors

published Nov 17, 2020
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It’s hard not to love wood floors. Not only are they classically cool from a design standpoint, but, unlike carpet, they’re also really easy to clean. Spill red wine? No problem. Step on a chip and crush it into a million pieces? No need to stress about it working its way into the deepest fibers of the carpet.

Even though they are lower maintenance, that doesn’t mean you should clean them with any product out there. In fact, there is one cleaning method you should never, ever attempt: Steam-cleaning.

“You shouldn’t use a steamer to clean your hardwood floors, because wood and water don’t mix well at all,” says Val Oliveira, founder of Val’s Services, a cleaning company in Chicago. “The first time you use steam to clean the floors, it might look fine. But with repeated steam cleans, you’ll start to see potentially permanent consequences.” 

According to Consumer Reports, the water from steam cleaning, combined with the high temperatures, can seep in between the joints of the wood and eventually cause it to warp. In the long run, you may also compromise the color and quality of the wood or even start to see bumps and buckles in the wood’s texture, Oliveira explains. 

To protect your wood floors, avoid walking on them with outdoor shoes, says Oliveira. “Set aside a pair of ‘inside shoes’ that you won’t wear outside to avoid tracking grease and bacteria into your home.” 

And when it comes time to remove dust or dirt from the floors, Oliveira suggests vacuuming gently (even better if you have a vacuum with a hardwood setting) and then mopping with lukewarm water mixed with a pH-neutral hardwood cleaner, like Mr. Clean or Bona. (Never, ever use harsh cleaning agents like bleach!) If you prefer to go the homemade route, you can mix up a DIY version by combining 1/2 cup of vinegar with a gallon of lukewarm water.

“Begin mopping from the back of the room, moving towards the front, so you don’t track through the covered area,” says Oliveira. Be careful not to use too much cleaning solution, as the floor shouldn’t get too wet, but rather do a second pass once some of the water has dried.