Here are several different recipes for mixing up your own cleaners for hardwood flooring, just a few simple ingredients are all that’s needed. Keep in mind that a little goes a long way, you just need enough liquid to dampen the mop (or cloth) and scrub away.
If you’re content to work with straight water, try adding approximately 10 drops of essential oil per gallon for a boost in disinfectant power. Some suggestions: lavender, tea tree, pine or eucalyptus will add antiseptic qualities.
You’ll also find tips on this page for getting rid of scuff marks and stains, how to test for wax finish (and remove it), a few DIY polish recipes and a scratch repair method that may surprise you.
- Before getting started: Sweep or vacuum to remove as much dirt and dust as possible.
- When using one of the solutions below, damp mop only. Saturating the surface with liquid may cause spotting or warping. You can either lightly spray one section at a time or gently spray the mop head.
- Scrub in the direction of the grain of the wood to grab and lift as much of the dirt as possible.
- Wipe down with a soft cloth after washing.
Combine 1 gallon warm water with your choice of the ingredients below…
- 1/4 C. vinegar
- 1 TBS castille soap
- 1 C. white household vinegar (*Is it safe to use? See notes below)
- 1/4 C. borax
- 1/2 teaspoon mild dish detergent (liquid)
- 1 C. vinegar
- 10 drops peppermint essential oil
- 1/8 C. mild dish soap
- 1/2 C. vinegar
- 1 TBS Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap
- 1/8 C. vinegar
- 1/4 C. brewed black tea
Steep 1 bag of tea in 2 cups of boiling water and leave until it comes to room temperature. Take out the tea bag and soak cloth in solution, wring out then wipe area clean. Dry with a soft cloth. The tannic acid in the tea will help bring wood to a shine.
For Oil-Finish: Finish off with a clear rinse (and dry) after washing with the solution below.
- 1 TBS rubbing alcohol
- 2/3 C. hot water
*Is vinegar safe to use? Isn’t it too acidic for hardwood?
If you poured a bottle of it directly on the hardwood and allowed it to sit, it would most likely damage the surface. However, in the mixtures above it is well diluted and only used as a damp mop (meaning excess liquid is squeezed out). Vinegar is an excellent household cleaner and brings a lot of muscle to the job. If you’re concerned about the effects it may have on the finish over the long-term, consider doing a clear rinse after using the solution (then wipe down as usual).
Troubleshooting Tips & Helpers
- Keep a spray bottle with a mixture of 50/50 vinegar, water and about 15 drops of essential oil of your choosing.
- Sprinkle scuffs with baking soda then spray solution, let fizz for a few seconds.
- Scrub marks until they are removed then dry with a soft towel.
*Test a small hidden corner to make sure one of the techniques below won’t do any damage or discoloration to the material.
- Gentle use of a Magic Eraser may lift the stain.
- Bar Keeper’s Friend (Oxalic Acid): Make a paste with water and then apply to stain. Gently rub it in (with the grain) and leave it for about 30 minutes or so. Scrape it up once it’s dry.
- Use a toothbrush to apply a generous coat of freshly squeezed lemon juice over the stain and allow to soak in. This will act as a natural bleach. May take several applications.
Wax Testing & Removal:
- Wet your fingers with water then flick into a corner of the floor where there’s not much traffic. If there’s wax on the surface, the surface will turn white under the water beads (may take a half hour or so to turn white).
- Scrub the area with mineral spirits using a household sponge with a nylon scrubby side. Wipe up with a flannel or cotton rag as wax is dissolved. Repeat process a second time if needed.
Wash surface as usual and dry thoroughly. Using one of the mixes below, apply polish then buff dry with a cotton rag.
- Combine equal parts olive oil and white household vinegar.
- 1/4 C. vegetable (or olive) oil
- 2 TBS cider vinegar
- 3 TBS vodka
- 1 TBS olive oil combined with 1 tsp lemon juice. Apply to a clean, dry mop and treat floors after washing.
Quick Tip: You can also spray commercial furniture polish onto the mop head and then sweep over area.
- Rub a crayon that is the same color as the flooring into the scratch, filling the space as full of the wax as you can.
- To seal in place, heat with a hair dryer to soften the crayon, allow to cool for a few seconds then buff with a piece of of flannel.