Hardwood floors are durable long-term investments. They look good in any home and are easier to keep clean than dirt-magnet carpets.
If your home has prefinished hardwood flooring, make sure you’re cleaning it properly so the boards don’t warp and the color stays beautiful. I gathered these expert-approved tips for cleaning prefinished hardwood floors so you’ll know exactly what to do.
What Are Prefinished Hardwood Floors?
Prefinished hardwood floors receive a protective coating in the factory instead of being sealed on site after installation, like traditional hardwood floors.
The process for prefinished and traditional hardwood floor cleaning is generally the same. However, most prefinished hardwood floors feature a tough, water-repellent urethane coating, making them extra durable.
Dusting Prefinished Hardwood Floors
Nothing is worse than seeing a layer of dust or pesky pet hair when the sun shines on your flooring. That’s why Brett Miller, vice president of technical standards, training and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA), recommends “sweeping with a broom or using a dry, soft microfiber [or similar] dust mop on wood floors on a daily basis.”
Gentile microfiber mops trap and lock particles in their fibers. This minimizes the risk of dragging grit across the surface of your prefinished floor, which can scratch the protective coating.
Vacuuming Prefinished Hardwood Floors
While dust mopping removes dust bunnies without scratching, Miller recommends running a vacuum on the bare floor setting once a week, or as necessary. This sucks up any swirling or embedded dirt your microfiber mop misses.
Mopping Prefinished Hardwood Floors
Sometimes, your prefinished hardwood floor needs more than just a dry mop or vacuum to leave it sanitary and sparkling.
“Use a professional wood flooring cleaner monthly, but be sure to use the right cleaning solution and avoid over-wetting or leaving behind a residue on the floor,” Miller says.
“Many people have the idea that using a regular mop with a bucket full of water is a good approach, but applying high volumes of water in any form [liquid or vapor] to a wood floor can cause permanent damage.”
Miller says you should never use a steam mop. “Steam is the vapor form of water, which means it can travel deeper and faster into and between the cracks and cells of the wood,” he says. “This can permanently damage the wood and the floor’s finish.”
Instead, go with a slightly damp mop and a specific hardwood floor cleaner, like Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner.
Most hardwood floor cleaners are suitable for standard prefinished hardwood flooring with a polyurethane coating. However, always check for specific manufacturer instructions.
Some cleaning products you shouldn’t use on hardwood flooring include abrasive baking soda, or caustic ingredients like bleach or vinegar.
Polishing and Protecting Prefinished Hardwood Floors
A specific hardwood floor cleaner, as mentioned above, should be enough to maintain the shine. Miller says avoid using anything that claims to restore luster, polish or add shine.
“These types of ‘maintenance products’ leave behind a temporary, non-protective, shiny film that will interfere with the adhesion of any future maintenance coats of professional wood floor finish,” he says. They can also make your floor a slippery accident waiting to happen.
“Only use professional wood floor cleaning products recommended by your contractor, flooring manufacturer or finish manufacturer,” Miller says.
For additional protection, stick protective pads under furniture legs to prevent scratching. And consider using area rugs in high-traffic areas to reduce wear.
If, over time, your flooring loses its luster no matter how properly you clean it, it could be time for recoating. The NFWA recommends a new coat of finish for hardwood flooring every three to five years, and a full sand and refinish every few decades.
Cleaning Stains on Prefinished Hardwood Floors
Prevention is better than any cure for stains. That’s why cleaning up any spills immediately with a dry or slightly damp cloth is your best defense. While the coatings tend to be water repellent, if water or other liquids eventually penetrate the flooring, it can be tricky to remove stains.
The NFWA recommends touch-up markers for minor surface stains. However, if a large, unsightly stain soaked in, sanding and refinishing the damaged area is sometimes your best option.
Some other tips for keeping prefinished hardwood floors clean and in top condition include:
- Putting door mats at entrances and removing shoes at the door, to minimize the chance of fine dirt or moisture getting on the floors.
- Checking the manufacturer’s site or any documentation that came with the floor about cleaner recommendations. Using the wrong products on prefinished hardwood floors can void warranties.
- Consider an annual inspection by a professional. They can offer tips for adapting your cleaning techniques and advise when expert intervention, like recoating or refinishing, is due.