How to Clean Old, Nasty Hardwood Floors So They Shine

clean old hardwood flooring

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More often than not people move into home and apartments that have old hardwood floors from previous owners. These floors have no background information other than they came from the early 1900s and they have years of wear and tear on them.

While these floors are beautiful, they can be more challenging to clean since you do not know what type of finish or sealer is on them. Most old hardwood floors will need resealing or refinishing, so we will look at the standard cleaning procedures for untreated wood floors.

clean old hardwood flooring

Remove Floor Dirt and Debris

Before you break out your mop and scrub brush, you need to spend a little time getting all of the dirt and debris off of the floor. Otherwise, you’ll only be driving it in while you clean. Here are several methods for getting the dirt up:

  • The first step is to sweep. You will want to get up as much dust, dirt and hair as you can. This will keep you from scrubbing the debris deeper into the wood crack.
  • You can also use a dust mop. These microfiber padded dry mops trap in dirt and dust as you maneuver it easily around the floor. Make sure that you move any furniture around and clean underneath it.
  • Finally, you can actually use a vacuum, provided its a cleaner designed for hardwood flooring. Vacuums need to be specially designed to work on hardwood, and they typically have features like adjustable brush rollers (or none at all), and rubber wheels.
  • If you’re not sure whether your vacuum cleaner will work, you should use a vacuum attachment. While you can vacuum your hardwood floors, you will want to use a hose attachment or a specialized wood floor vacuum that will turn the rotating bristles off. The bristles can beat against your floors and cause damage to them. A hose attachment will work just as well if you have already swept or dust mopped.
  • Use the extended length of the hose to vacuum in corners, around furniture legs and in tight spaces to ensure you get everything up. You can also skip using a dust pan and vacuum up small dirt and hair, opting for a high quality canister vacuum.

Mop the Wood Floors

You can find all types of floor cleaners on the shelves of grocery and home improvement stores. While these cleaners work well, a lot of people opt for natural home cleaning supplies when they are learning how to clean old hardwood floors. This offers a safer cleaning option for your pets and children.

Related: Cleaning Your Engineered Hardwood Floors Without Damaging Them

White vinegar is on the top of everyone’s list when it comes to cleaning hardwood floors. The acidic properties of vinegar are what makes it a top pantry cleaning product. When you mix it half and half with water then it lowers the acidity to a safe level for your hardwood floors.

Vinegar works wonders on carpets, hardwood floors, and even tile. You do have to be a bit careful, as it can dull the shine on your flooring.

mop for engineered flooring

You can also add a few drops of Dawn to the mixture to help with any grease or grime on the floors. If you don’t like the vinegar smell then you should add a few drops of essential oils. They are not harmful to your floors and will brighten your home with your choice of smell.

The most important thing to remember before you mop is to make sure that you use a damp mop or rag (not soaking wet). You never want to put large amount of water on your wood floors, whether they are sealed or not. Water is wood’s worst enemy and will warp your floors.

Related: Cleaning Hardwood Floors After Removing Old, Nasty Carpet

If the floor is really dirty, then you can go over it multiple times, but resist the desire to dump water on it. Once you use your preferred cleaner on the floor then you can go back over it with clean water to flush out leftover vinegar or Dawn.

  1. Mop Your floors using a damp mop or hand wash with a damp rag.
  2. Mop in straight lines if you are using a sponge mop, or a figure eight pattern for rag mops.
  3. Use a paper towel or rag to clean hard to reach corners.
  4. Use a microfiber cloth or towel to go over the floors after you finish mopping to pick up excess water.
  5. You can also open widows if it is a warm day or use a ceiling fan to circulate the air to help the floors dry faster.

Following these mopping steps are the best way to clean old hardwood floors. It will get them primed and ready if you need to reseal them or for untreated enjoyment as they are.

Related: How to Pick Between Laminate vs Hardwood vs Tile Flooring

Maintain Clean Floors

Daily sweeping or dust mopping can help keep your floor looking spotless, along with dusting and vacuuming. If you are unable to sweep your entire floor daily, then try to focus a few moments to sweep the high traffic areas such as front doors, hallways and the kitchen.

cleaning old hardwood floors

Encourage family members and guests to take off shoes to limit dirt being tracked into the house. You can also put down area or small rugs in these high traffic spots to help trap dirt. Also keep an eye on the amount of dirt your pets are tracking into the house.

If you have pets that shed then a dust mop or quick vacuum will help make the pet hair cleanup easier. A primary wood or laminate floor vacuum is a great investment if you made mostly wood floors and don’t want to be limited to using an attachment for cleaning.

Know When to Deep Clean

While mopping will deep clean your wood floors, you don’t want to mop all the time. Since water is bad for wood, it is good to limit your mopping to once a month or try to spot clean your floors if they are sticky or grimy.

If you are able to keep your floors clean by simply sweeping then you will find that you don’t need to mop as often. Now that you know how to clean old hardwood floors, you can sit back and bask in how easy it can be to keep them beautiful.

About the Author Lauren Moldvay

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.