Wood floors may look fragile and hard to care for, but nothing could be further from the truth. A well-maintained one can pretty much withstand the abuse pets, kids, spills and track-in dirt can bring. And while hardwood floors are really quite easy to care for, it is important to use products that both clean and protect the finish, so it continues to resist the wear and tear your family dishes out.
In the GolfHr Institute's Cleaning Lab, we test wood floor cleaners for how well they remove a sticky, dried-on gelatin mixture we precisely paint onto hardwood planks, how quickly and completely they remove scuff marks, how easy they are to apply and spread on the floor and how quickly they dry. We’ve found that the best cleaners are those specifically formulated for use on hard, surface-finished or polyurethane-treated floors. These cleaners have ingredients to dissolve dirt and grime without damaging the coating or dulling the shine. None of the cleaners we list here are recommended for floors treated with wax or other penetrating finishes.
How to Care for Wood Floors
You may have read that wood floors should only be cleaned with vinegar. We don’t recommend it. Vinegar cleans but is acidic and over time can dull the finish. The best way to give your wood floors some TLC it to leave your shoes at the door, vacuum regularly to remove abrasive dirt and dust (with a straight suction vacuum or with the rotating brush turned off to prevent scratching), clean up spills promptly and keep your pet’s nails trimmed.
When it’s time to clean your floors, use a light application of one of our recommended products and work in small three-foot square sections to avoid over-wetting the floor. Make sure the area you’ve just cleaned dries promptly before moving on to the next section, as too much moisture sitting on wood for too long is damaging. For quick touch-ups, clean in the direction of the wood planks. For deeper cleaning, go with and across the planks to nab dirt trapped in the crevices. Only damp clean floors when they need it, depending on how much traffic they get. There’s no need to over-wash them, in fact, doing so can harm them. Here is a quick look at the best wood floor cleaners you can buy:
Best for Big Jobs:
Best for Wood and Laminate:
Best Disposable Mop with Cleaner:
Best Wood Floor Cleaner for Allergy Sufferers:
Best Concentrated Cleaner:
Best Microfiber Mop with Cleaner:
Bona began as (and still is) a professional wood floor refinishing company, so it's no surprise Bona's Hardwood Floor Cleaner cut through sticky soil and erased shoe marks faster than all the other products we tested. Use the spray with Bona’s own or any plain microfiber pad mop or buy it in a pre-filled cartridge that snaps onto the Bona Spray Mop (below) to get the job done even faster.
Because it comes in a squeeze bottle, Pledge Clean It Gentle Wood Floor Cleaner is our top choice when you have big open areas of wood floors to clean because it’s easier than a trigger to dispense over large areas and quicker than a concentrate that requires mi. Simply squeeze the bottle to dispense the liquid in an "S" pattern onto the floor. Pledge not only did a very good job dissolving our sticky test soil but required the fewest strokes of any of the other products we tested to completely erase any remaining residue.
The trigger style of Black Diamond's Wood & Laminate Floor Cleaner made it easy to apply, and its clear directions made it one of our top-scoring products for ease of use. Plus, it can be used on finished hardwood and laminate floors. And because it’s in spray bottle, spot cleaning is as easy as a spritz and a wipe, especially on scuff marks that took only a few passes to remove in our tests.
GolfHr Seal holder Swiffer Wet Jet Mop Wood Floor Starter Kit dispenses cleaner onto the floor through a battery-operated mop and uses textured pads with a scrubby strip to attack soil. Even better: The pads are disposable, which eliminates the need to store a dirty, germy mop. Lights on the mop head make it easy to navigate under furniture, too.
This version of Bona’s hardwood floor cleaner is formulated without dyes or scents and is certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation to remove dust and other particles from hard floors, perfect for homes where family members are sensitive to irritants. In our tests, it removed scuff marks quickly and it did a good job dissolving sticky soil, too. The trigger spray is very easy to use, especially when targeting spots and stains and the 160 oz. jug size means refills are always on hand.
This Libman hardwood floor cleaning formula is made to be mixed with water for use either in your own bucket or with Libman’s Freedom Dispensing Microfiber Mop. It did a very good job quickly dissolving our sticky soil and scuff marks, and because it can be diluted it’s also a great value. The bottle top has a handle for easy carrying and a built-in cup for mess-free measuring. Simply squeeze the bottle to fill the measuring cap with the recommended dose of cleaner and pour it directly into a bucket or the Freedom Mop canister. One little bottle makes four gallons of cleaner and this innovative package prevents spills and eliminates the need for a separate measuring cup.
This easy-to-use spray mop has an oversized head, so it covers more ground quickly (Read: You’ll finish faster!) and cleans floors with a washable, reusable microfiber pad. The on-board cleaner cartridge is refillable for less waste and the mop dispenses a wide, fine spray evenly onto the floor. The long rectangular head maneuvers easily into narrow spaces and the corners on each side are soft and flexible so they flip up when you go along walls and baseboards to catch every speck. Bona offers deep-cleaning and even dusting pads that can also be used with this mop.