I swear by this incredibly easy 5-step method for cleaning real wood floors

Keep your real wood floor looking polished and as good as new with these top tips

Three images of rooms with polished hardwood floors
(Image credit: Future / Ted Todd / Woodpecker Flooring)

Maintaining beautiful real wood floors is definitely a labor of love, but it is so worth the effort, in my opinion. 

Cleaning real wood floors requires a gentle touch and the right techniques to prevent damage while enhancing their natural appeal. Thankfully, having had real wood floors in my home for a number of years, I've picked up quite a few tricks for keeping them looking polished and pristine. 

Below, I share the five tips I use time and again to maintain their natural beauty. 

1. Vacuum

Geometric wood floor in Louise Bradley's Home

(Image credit: Future)

First things first - start with a good vacuum or dry sweeping to remove any loose dirt, dust, and debris. I recommend using a microfiber dust mop from Amazon or one of those vacuums specifically designed for hardwood floors.  Vacuuming is key for wood as it helps prolong the finish. If you can, move all furniture and decor out of the room, so you have complete access. This allows you to clean thoroughly without obstructions, and you'll want to steer clear of wet mopping at this initial stage since excessive moisture can potentially damage that lovely finish.

Deep Clean

Once you've got the surface cleared off, it's time for a deeper clean. This is where I recommend doing a weekly damp mopping using a quality hardwood floor cleaner solution. I've had great results with the Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner from Amazon - it's pH-neutral, so it won't dull or strip that finish. 

Eliana Coca, Owner of E.C. House Cleaning, suggests applying hardwood floor cleaner using a microfiber mop, working in sections, and rinsing the pad frequently as you go. Just be sure to allow the floors to fully dry before walking on them again.

To tackle tougher stains, a diluted vinegar solution can be effective. However, it's crucial to use this sparingly and to ensure the mop is well wrung out to avoid excessive moisture, which can be harmful to wood.

dining room with white walls woven chairs and oval wooden table

(Image credit: Amy Bartlam)

3. Scrubbing

Every month or two, I also like getting down on my hands and knees for a gentle scrub session. Following the advice from Alex Varela, General Manager of Dallas Maids, I'll go section-by-section to really agitate any ground-in dirt and grime from those tight grain crevices, using a soft-bristle brush and a wood floor cleaning solution. The key here is avoiding overwetting and ensuring you fully dry the floors immediately afterward with a microfiber cloth or dry mop. 

4. Polishing

Then, for that gorgeous, just-installed shine, I'd recommend doing a polish application twice a year or so. I'm a big fan of the Bona Hardwood Floor Polish from Amazon. Apply it in small 3x3 foot sections, allowing each section to fully dry for about 30 minutes before moving on. Floor polish not only enhances the floor's shine, restoring the wood floor, but also provides a protective layer. 

It’s important to choose a polish compatible with your floor's finish. Once it's all covered, go back with a dry microfiber cloth to really buff out that freshly polished gleam.

Plank wood flooring in a white living room

(Image credit: Genevieve Lutkin)

5. Use rug pads

One last pro tip: diligently placing rug pads under all furniture legs is an absolute must for preventing dents and scratches on your real wood floor. Oh, and avoid walking on the floors in high heels if possible. Those stacked heels can do some serious damage over time!   

At the end of the day, a simple routine of dry cleaning, damp mopping, gentle scrubbing, and semi-annual polishing is really all it takes to maintain that gorgeous luster. A little TLC on a regular basis goes such a long way toward keeping real hardwoods in pristine condition for years and years to come. Trust me, it's worth the effort! 

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.