Expert advice on prefinished hardwood floor cleaning, with pro tips and tricks to help you maintain and care for your beautiful hardwood floors

Prefinished hardwood floors combine the natural beauty of hardwood with the durability and easy maintenance of factory-applied protective finishes. But what is the best way to keep prefinished floors looking their best and make them last a long time? Using improper cleaning techniques, harsh chemicals, or abrasive tools can strip away their protective layer, leaving the wood vulnerable to damage, stains, and scratches. To minimize the risk of moisture-related issues and to preserve the lifespan of your floors, you need to use proven techniques.

A finished light oak, solid wood floor.
Prefinished hardwood floors are worthy of your best efforts in cleaning and care. ©Lukiyanova Natalia / Frenta /

Experienced advice from expert Don Vandervort

Don’s Advice: Using soggy wet mops for cleaning is a big no-no. Excessive moisture is one of the most significant threats to hardwood floors. It can cause warping, cupping, swelling, and staining.

In this step-by-step walkthrough, we’ll equip you with the exact materials, tools, and techniques you need to keep your floors looking their best while ensuring their longevity. So grab your cleaning supplies, put on your favorite music, and let’s dive right in!

1. Gather Your Cleaning Arsenal

Assemble the following materials:

  • A microfiber dust mop or a soft-bristle broom
  • A vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment
  • pH-neutral hardwood floor cleaner (avoid harsh chemicals)
  • A bucket
  • Microfiber or cotton cleaning pads
  • Distilled or filtered water
  • Protective gloves (optional)

2. Dust and Remove Loose Debris

Start by using the microfiber dust mop or soft-bristle broom to gently sweep the entire floor. This will remove loose dirt, dust, and debris that can scratch the surface. Pay extra attention to corners, crevices, and under furniture.

3. Vacuum the Floors

Next, attach the soft brush attachment to your vacuum cleaner and go over the entire floor, ensuring you reach all the nooks and crannies. The vacuum will pick up any remaining dirt and small particles that the broom might have missed. This step is especially important for pet owners or homes with high foot traffic.

Woman vacuuming around a wooden and tiled floor.
Vacuum the floors to remove any dirt and grit that can cause scratches. © Daniel Krylov |


4. Clean the Floors

In a bucket, mix a small amount of the pH-neutral hardwood floor cleaner with distilled or filtered water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid using too much water—again, moisture can harm the wood. Dip a microfiber or cotton cleaning pad into the cleaning solution, making sure it’s damp but not dripping. Clean the floor in small sections, moving generally in line with the wood grain and using gentle, circular motions to lift dirt and grime. If you encounter stubborn stains, apply a bit more pressure, but don’t scrub too hard.

5. Watch Out for Excess Moisture

Remember, excess moisture is Enemy #1 for hardwood floors. Be cautious not to oversaturate the cleaning pad or the floor itself. If you notice any pooled water, immediately mop up the moisture with a separate dry cloth. Make sure the room has plenty of ventilation to aid drying. After cleaning each section, use a clean, dry microfiber or cotton cloth to wipe the floor and clean up any residual moisture. This step will help prevent water spots and streaks.

6. Address Stubborn Stains

For stubborn stains like food spills or scuff marks, apply a small amount of the pH-neutral hardwood floor cleaner directly to a soft cloth. Gently rub the stained area until the stain lifts. Don’t use abrasive cleaners or tools that can damage the finish.

Preventative Maintenance Tips

To keep your prefinished hardwood floors looking great for a long time:

  • Keep floors clean. Regular cleaning helps prevent the accumulation of dirt, dust, and debris. Over time, dirt particles can scratch the finish and dull the wood’s appearance. Gently sweep or vacuum to remove these particles.
  • Place doormats at entryways to trap dirt and moisture.
  • Use furniture pads to prevent scratches and dents.
  • Trim pets’ nails regularly to prevent floor scratches.
  • Avoid wearing high heels or hard shoes on the floors.
  • Clean up spills immediately to prevent staining or warping. Use gentle cleaners and blotting rather than scrubbing to remove a stain without harming floors.


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About Don Vandervort
Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years as a remodeler and builder, Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” served as MSN’s home expert for several years, and is featured as Yelp's home improvement expert. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort