How to Deep Clean Hardwood Floors

If you’ve got hardwood floors, you know how beautiful they can be. But they can also get a bit dull and dirty over time, and that’s when you need to know how to deep clean hardwood floors.

We’ll look at the best way to do your semi-annual deep clean and get rid of any accumulated dirt, stains, or grime. But it’s also important not to neglect regular cleaning to keep your floor in a good condition.

There are very different ways to approach deep cleaning depending on the type of floor you have, and using the wrong method can permanently damage your floor, so it’s important to get it right.

What Is The Best Way To Deep Clean Hardwood Floors?

deep clean hardwood floors

Have A Good Daily/Weekly Cleaning Routine

Before you settle down for a big deep clean every few months, do yourself a favor and establish a good regular cleaning routine. This will keep your floors looking good year-round, and make deep cleaning a much easier task.

When it comes to regular cleaning of a hardwood floor, you have three main options: sweeping, dry-mopping, or vacuuming. What’s important here is not what you choose, but the fact that you avoid putting water on your floors too often.

Sometimes there will be a spill, or you’ll need to wash something with water. But for maintenance, you simply want to be removing surface-level dust and dirt, keeping your floors clean.

Then, when it comes to deep cleaning, you won’t have as much build-up of grime to deal with, making deep cleaning a less daunting task.

Know What Type of Finish Your Floor Has

Before we can look at how to properly deep clean your hardwood floor, we have to understand exactly what it is made of, and what finish it has. What you can use to clean engineered hardwood floors is going to be slightly different from the best way to clean Brazilian Cherry hardwood floors

But even more important than the material is the finish because this indicates how it has been sealed and how well it can tolerate water. The two most common kinds of finish are surface finish and penetrating finish.

deep clean wood floors

If your floor is sealed with a surface finish (like polyurethane), then it will have a glossy look and the finish forms a waterproof barrier that protects the wood. This finish sits on top of the wood.

A penetrating finish, on the other hand, is normally an oil, such as linseed oil, and it soaks into the wood rather than sitting on top of it. This means that the wood is not waterproofed in the same way. With a penetrating finish, it is normal for there to be a layer of wax over the floor to give it some shine. 

How To Check Your Floor’s Finish

The way to check whether your floor has a surface or penetrating finish is to do a scrape test. Find a corner where some minor damage won’t be noticed, and use a knife to scrape gently at a small part of the floor. If you end up with a flake of clear material, then you have a surface finish.

If it merely smudges the floor, then you probably have a penetrating finish. However, if your floor is not sealed, then you’ll need to look at how to clean unsealed hardwood floors

Another important thing to check is whether you bought unfinished or prefinished wood. If it's the latter, you’ll need to look more specifically at what to use to clean prefinished hardwood floors

Once you know what type of finish your floor has, you’ll be able to determine what kind of cleaner will work best. For penetrating finishes, you’ll need to use a solvent-based cleaner rather than a water-based one to reduce the risk of water damage.

Remove Stains

how to deep clean wood floors

Before you look at deep cleaning the entire floor, you want to spot clean areas that have been stained or have something stuck to them. This means you’ll have to spend less time deep cleaning these areas. You have to be smart about the best way to clean and polish wood floors

Oil And Grease Stains

For oil or grease stains, we recommend a cleaner with trisodium phosphate (TSP) that will break down the stain but not damage the finish on your floor. Once you’ve applied it to the stain, use a lightly damp cloth to wipe up the TSP, and then immediately dry the floor with another cloth.

Food On The Floor

If you have things like food or gum stuck onto the floor, you’re going to need to manually remove those by scraping them off. With gum, you can put ice on it to make it more solid and brittle so that it comes off in one piece. 

When scraping, use something like a plastic knife or spatula to avoid gouging the floor. With a surface finish, you are unlikely to scratch it enough to cause damage. However, you may remove some of the wax top coat of a floor with a penetrating finish. 

If this happens, simply take some hardwood floor wax and work it into the affected area with a soft cloth until it has blended with the existing wax. 

how to deep clean wooden floors

Deeper Stains

For deeper stains or ones left by water or pet urine, you might need to gently sand down the floor to remove the stain. It’s important to use very fine sandpaper and a very light hand to avoid damaging your floors. This is also the best way to clean unfinished hardwood floors

If you do this on glossy wood floors, you’ll end up with scratches and ugly marks. In this case, it might be best to call in professionals or look up how to clean up hardwood floors without sanding

Stubborn Stains

For stubborn stains on surface-finished floors, you can also use a baking soda solution to help lift stains - but don’t try this on floors with a penetrating finish. 

Deep Clean

Once that’s been dealt with, let’s look at the best way to clean floors with different finishes. There are certain things in common, like choosing the best mop to clean hardwood floors and making sure you are using high-quality cleaning products.

You might be wondering “what is the best tool to clean hardwood floors?” and that is difficult to answer simply. Different people have different methods. Some people like a more traditional mop, whereas others prefer something like the Orbital floor scrubber.

best way to deep clean hardwood floors

The best way to clean hardwood floors without streaking is to always mop in the direction of the floorboards. 

Surface Finish

With a surface finish, you can use a water-based solvent designed for hardwood with a surface finish. That doesn’t mean you should be washing the floor with tons of water or a sopping mop. While the finish protects the wood from moisture, it can still be damaged by too much water exposure.

Choosing Your Solvent

A water-based cleaning solvent also does not actually need to have water added to it. You simply need to spray it onto the floor (in 3ft sections) and then mop the floor in the direction of the floorboards. 

Using The Right Mop

It is important to make sure that you opt for a microfiber mop as this is the gentlest on your floor. Not only does this help prevent streaks, but it also allows you to get dirt out of the gaps between floorboards.

Dry The Floor

deep clean wooden floor

Once you have mopped a section of the floor, go over it with a clean dry cloth to make sure that it dries fast. 

Alternative Cleaning Solution

It is always the best idea to use a cleaning solution specifically designed for hardwood floors. But if you’re in a pinch and can’t get hold of anything, you can mix warm water with a few drops of gentle dish soap and lightly spray this onto the floor using the same method outlined above. 

Add A Wax Coat

Lastly, you can apply a coat of wax to get your clean floor looking extra sparkly. This is not strictly necessary but is a good way to condition your wood. Gently buff a thin layer of wax into your floor. 

Penetrating Finish

With a penetrating finish, there are more limitations. You must ensure that you have chosen a cleaner designed to work on this specific finish. That means that it can’t be water-based but has to be solvent based. Water will damage a floor with a penetrating finish.

One way to clean these floors is to follow the same procedure as above, just using a different cleaning solution. However, there is also another way to deep clean your penetrating finish hardwood floors.

Replacing The Wax Coat

how to deep clean floors

Because the outer wax layer does protect the wood, it's also where most of the dirt will collect. Because of its waxy texture, it might also have gotten a bit damaged over time. So one way to deep clean your floor is to remove and replace the wax top coat. 

Removing The Old Wax Coat

You can remove the wax using mineral spirits. Leave the spirits on each area for 5 minutes before wiping it up with a clean moistened cloth, followed immediately by drying it with another cloth. 

When you are stripping the floor and then later when you are buffing the new wax in, it is recommended to work in 2ft sections to ensure that you have enough time to deal with the whole area.

Refinishing The Floor

To refinish the floor, simply take an appropriate hardwood floor wax and work it into the floor, using either a cloth or an electric polisher (if you have one). An electric polisher will be faster, but there’s nothing wrong with a bit of good old-fashioned elbow grease. 


When it comes to deep cleaning hardwood floors, there are lots of do’s and don’ts. It can be hard to keep track of them all, which is why this article provides a comprehensive guide. Following the steps outlined here guarantees you’ll have a sparkling and well-looked-after floor. 

best way to deep clean wood floors

The most important takeaway from this article is that you need to be aware of your specific floor, its finish, and what that means about the cleaning rules. Make sure to purchase cleaning products that are specifically designed for your kind of floor.

If you keep those things in mind, you can easily keep your floors fresh and clean without damaging them. 

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