How to Clean Engineered Hardwood Floors

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​​When it comes to knowing how to clean engineered hardwood floors, it can be an easy task. But, its vital to know what to use to keep from damaging your floors. There are various light cleaning and deep cleaning choices out there to select from. We’ll go through and review how to clean engineered hardwood floors, in a way that keeps them safe and free from damage.

Determine Your Hardwood Flooring Type

​Before you can begin cleaning, you need to identify (and ensure) that you have engineered wood floors. The biggest difference between engineered wood floors and real hardwood floors are hidden in the layers of the flooring. Real hardwood floors are pure wood all the way through.

How Engineered Hardwood is Constructed

Engineered wood floors are typically real wood on the top, usually protected by a protective treatment layer. Below the wood are two to three layers of plywood.

This added layer helps deter moisture accumulated damage that can develop in humid areas, along with making the construction cheaper.

Each layer is positioned in a different direction so that the flooring won’t warp or bow if it gets wet.

Engineered flooring has only been around since the 1960’s, so chances are you won’t find this type of wood when you pull old carpets up.

Engineered hardwood floors

How to Test Your Flooring’s Finish

If you are unsure whether your wood floor has a finish then you can find out with a simple test. Put a small drop of water on your wood floors.

If the water beads up then your floors have a finish. If the water soaks in to the floor and leaves a dark wet spot, then there is no finish.

All engineered hardwood floors will have a finish, unless it has been severely damaged and the finish has been stripped away. Any questions or concern you have about your engineered hardwood floors can be directed to the manufacturer or store that you purchased them from. 

How Long Should It Take To Clean Your Home?

What is the size of your home in square feet?

What type of flooring do you have?

Why You Need to Determine

You need to know your specific floor type before you begin cleaning. If you put the flooring in yourself, then you should speak to the company to find out which commercial chemical cleaners will be okay to use.

For ​example, you have to use a specialized vacuum that works on hardwood flooring, as you don’t want to scratch your engineered floors.

Different brands of engineered hardwood floors have different top layer finishes. One brand may be great for one type, but over time and constant use it can damage another type of flooring. Finding the right cleaner for your floor brand will be addressed further down.​​​

How to Clean Engineered Hardwood Floors

The best way to clean engineered hardwood floors starts with not having to deep clean ​the flooring, if possible. Caring for your engineered flooring daily and weekly will prevent having to use strong (and possibly harmful) chemicals to clean.

If you are unable to clean your floors daily, then try to focus on the main high traffic areas such as doorways and hallways. You may not need to sweep your entire floor everyday, but these areas will need the most attention to cut down on dirt buildup.

how to clean engineered flooring

With that being said, there will probably come a time when you do need to deep clean your engineered hardwood floors. When it comes to the thin protective layer on your floors, you will want to protect it by using gentle cleaning techniques. 

Here are the steps to carefully clean your engineered hardwood flooring:

1. Sweep or Vacuum the Floor

Dirt, sand and small grain debris is a wood floors worse enemy. These small particles sit on your floor and will sand down the floor’s finish. A standard broom or vacuum designed for laminate floors are easy to use for daily cleaning.

When choosing a broom to sweep your floor with, look for one with soft bristles that is meant to be used inside. Outside brooms, and even some all-purpose brooms, may have stiff bristles that can leave scratches on your flooring.

If you opt for a stick vacuum, make sure the hard floor setting is on or use a hose attachment. You want to avoid the bristles rotating on your floor as this can lead to scratches and scuffs on the floor. There are also specific floor made vacuums and brooms whose bristles won’t harm your wood floor.

Also, take a look at the top rated canister vacuum on the market. Because of their unique design, canister vacuums are very convenient to use on engineered flooring, and also designed not to damage them.

You may also consider using a Roomba or other robotic vacuum cleaner for daily cleaning. It is important to check that the model you have, or are considering purchasing, does not use metal or stiff bristles in the bottom. Rubber wheels and rollers are also a good thing to look for so they do not scuff your floors.

2. Clean Spills

​Small spills should be cleaned up as soon as possible with a damp rag or damp paper towel. Do NOT let any spill sit on your floor for an extended period of time. The very top portion of your flooring is wood, and longstanding moisture will cause permanent damage.

No chemicals or cleaners are needed if the spill is recent. Simply wipe it up and you should be fine. You might need to use a little bit of elbow grease, but nothing more.

When learning how to clean engineered hardwood floors, many make this mistake and use a cleaner that damages their flooring. Spills often happen in a moment of panic, and the quick reaction is to pull out a chemical cleaner. Don’t do this.

Certain cleaners utilize heavy (and destructive) chemicals. They clean well… but they can also leave your engineered flooring in bad shape. For sticky spills, soak it up first, and then try cleaning it with a damp cloth. You may be surprised at how effective water can be in these situations, but be sure to dry it thoroughly when complete.

How to Pick the Best Engineered Hardwood Floor Cleaner

​As mentioned before, you will want to know your type of engineered hardwood floor. Specifically, the finish, before you start pouring any cleaners on it.

If you do not know anything about where your floors came from, then you should consult with an engineered hardwood floor expert. This might seem like an out-of-the-way step, but not all hardwood floor cleaners are made for your type of flooring.

The wrong cleaner could damage or strip away the protective finish. It won’t happen right away, but over time your floors will lose their longevity and begin to dull and take on damage. The dullness normally comes from a waxy buildup of cleaner, and to get rid of that, you may have to use even harsher chemicals.

Also, make sure that the cleaner you choose is formulated for wood floors. Choosing a tile or vinyl floor cleaner can permanently damage your engineered hardwood floors. Consider diluting any cleaner you purchase and test it in an inconspicuous corner before spreading it across the entire room.

engineered hardwood flooring

Natural Cleaner for Engineered Hardwood Flooring

If you are opting for a more natural cleaner, then there are a few gentle cleaning products you can find in your pantry to clean. 

While Vinegar is a household cleaning miracle, it is not the right choice for engineered hardwood floors. The high acidity in vinegar, even when watered down, can strip your floors and ruin the finish.

Again, don’t use vinegar. Even though it can be a great option for cleaning carpets, you want to avoid it on your hard flooring. 

Instead of vinegar, try rubbing alcohol. You can choose from rubbing alcohol, denatured alcohol or a cheap vodka.

The PH balance in this product is neutral, so it will not pose any harm to your flooring. Another great benefit of alcohol is that it will disinfect while cleaning.

Homemade Cleaner for Engineered Hardwood Flooring

For a great homemade natural cleaner, mix half and half alcohol and distilled water (tap water can be harder and leave white marks), then add a few drops of Dawn.

These gentle three ingredients will cut through dirt, grease and also disinfect. This is also one of the best methods for how to clean engineered hardwood floors without streaks.

Finding the right cleaner for your floor not only takes care of the cleaning, it also takes care of the life of your floors. So before you grab a cleaner off the shelf, make sure it is compatible with your floors.

How to Mop Engineered Wood Flooring

Mopping is a great way to clean and refresh your floors. Once you have found the right cleaner for your floors then you can take this next step with confidence.

However, when you are learning how to clean engineered hardwood floors with a mop​, there are some dos and don’ts that you will need to follow to keep from damaging them.

1. Sweep Your Floor First

Don’t skip sweeping before you mop. While it adds an extra task, sweeping is necessary to get up excess dirt and debris so that you aren’t smearing it around while you are trying to clean your floors. Note: a easy to use stick vac also does the trick!

Do take the time to pick things up off the floor. Move small tables out of the way and set chairs in another room or on the table. If you are going to take on the task of mopping, then make sure you do a thorough job and don’t skip around furniture.

2. Use a Dry Mop Next

​Use a dry mop, otherwise known as a microfiber mops. These mops have special microfiber pads that will collect dirt and dust that your broom will miss. The microfiber is also soft against the floor and won’t scratch or damage it.

In case you’re wondering, this is not a mop that uses water or liquid. Instead, it gathers and collects dust that hardwood flooring naturally picks up. It will also pick up a few debris that your vacuum might have missed.

Believe it or not, its best to stop here. Vacuuming and dry mopping your engineered hardwood flooring should be enough for the vast majority of debris, and if possible, you want to avoid putting water on it’s surface.

However, there will be times when your engineered flooring will need more care, and for that you’ll want to use a wet mop.

White fluffy mop cleaning a hardwood floor

​3. Use a Wet Mop When Necessary

Don’t use a mop that is soaking wet. Using excess water on any type of wood floor (engineered or not) is a huge no-no. This is because excess amounts of water will be soaked into the wood and cause your floor to be damaged.

Even though your floor’s finish deters water, it can still soak in over a longer period of time. Again, make absolute certain to squeeze the majority of water out of your wet mop before using it.

An excellent choice for wet mopping is using one of the new breed of microfiber mops such as the E-Cloth Deep Clean Mop. The washable covers included with these mops, while made of high quality microfiber, also have additional materials that help with cleaning. When used with water, this type of material removes grease, dirt, & over 99% of bacteria from all types of hard flooring, including wood & laminate.

Since there are no additional chemicals used in a mopping solution, the use of this type of microfiber avoids streaking, does not dull your floors with waxy buildup, and is environmentally friendly.

5. Dry Your Engineered Flooring

​After you mop, use a towel or paper towel to wipe up any excess puddles of liquid that are left behind. A standard sponge mop may work as well, or any mop with a soft head to it.

A damp floor is fine, but you want to avoid any pooling of liquid left on your floor. Open windows or use a ceiling fan to rotate the air and help your floors dry quickly.

How to Maintain Your Engineered Floors

​Engineered hardwood floors are meant to last almost a full lifetime. When you take the time to care for your floors, then you are extending their life.

  • Investing in large area rugs for entryways and hallways can cut down on the dirt that can be carried in and spread in high traffic areas. 
  • Having a rug outside entry ways helps encourage people to wipe their feet before they come in. A second rug inside the door can catch excess dirt as they walk in.
shoes on engineered flooring
  • If you opt for a shoe free household then, this will also help the life of your engineered hardwood floors. Shoes can track in dirt and drop it in various places throughout the home. High heels can scuff and scrape away at your finish over time. Consider keeping “indoor only” slippers next to the front door.

Are Steam Mops Safe for Engineered Hardwood?Floors?

A fairly new item on the market is the “steam mop,” a low powered steam cleaner with a mop head and upright handle. These devices are advertised as working on all hard surface flooring, but as we know, liquid, even though it’s in steam form, can damage engineered hardwood by seeping between the layers.

In addition to the liquid being forced onto the floors, the heat from a steam mop has the capability of weakening the adhesive that keeps the multiple layers of flooring together.

All in all, we would not recommend using a steam mop on this type of flooring. It is possible that using a steam mop on its lowest setting and immediately drying the floor after cleaning a small area may not harm it, but we feel that the potential for damage may be too high.


There are many steps you can take in learning how to clean engineered hardwood floors. The process is made easier by performing minor cleaning like sweeping or using a dust mop on a daily basis. Floor coverings like area rugs can also protect your floors from dirt and damage.

Proper care and maintenance is important for any type of flooring, but especially for floors made of these materials. Each time you make an effort to clean or protect them is a step in the right direction to keeping your floors beautiful for years to come.

Lauren Moldvay is a freelance writer from Virginia and the mother of one (not always) sweet little girl. She specializes in trying to help others find easier ways to clean, manage the home and save money with DIY projects.