A Few DIY Damp Mop Recipes For Shiny Hardwood Floors

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.

Homemade Cleaners

Combine 1 gallon warm water with your choice of the ingredients below…

Recipe #1

  • 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

Tea Mixture:

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

Scuff Marks:

  • 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.

Dark Spots:

*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).

To Remove:

  • 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.

DIY Polish:

Wash surface as usual and dry thoroughly. Using one of the mixes below, apply polish then buff dry with a cotton rag.

Recipe #1

  • 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.

Scratch Repair:

  • 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.

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What Readers Are Saying: 89 Comments
  1. PatV says:

    I love your homemade recipes. Thank-you!!

  2. sue says:

    have been looking for hardwood floor cleaner.thanks!

  3. Kandy says:

    Ive notice several very dirty spots on my hardwood floors. Usually by the corners of doorways. It looks as though there is dirt build up and like a clear coat of something over it, almost as if it sealed. I’ve scrubbed but I can’t get through the seal to get the dirt under it. Can you help??

    • Miranda says:

      When your wood floors were previously refinished they didn’t clean all of the gunk out of the corners. Some of it may also be an old stain that wasn’t properly sanded down in the corners before a new stain was applied. Either way, it’s sealed in so unless you want to strip your floors, sand them, and reseal them you may just have to deal with the grimy looking corners. At least you’ll know they’re clean to the touch.

  4. Rita Caldwell says:

    A couple years ago I moved into an old farmhouse that we inherited and am re-modeling one room a year. Our master bedroom was the bedroom of a gentleman with Alheimers and he would frequently urinate in the floors and his caregiver would put down paper but not change it regularly. Now there are large black spots in the hardwood floors. I’m looking for a way to remove those if possible before we begin re-finishing the floors. I’m afraid these spots are deep and will be a permanent stain all through the wood. Any suggestions????

    • Ginny says:

      Did you ever find out a solution to your problem?

      • Mirah says:

        Rita,If u haven’t found a solution yet,Peroxide is definitely the way to go! It %100 antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal so in and so on. Peroxide’s mechanism of action(how it works) is creating an oxygen rich environment on whatever it comes in contact with, hence ask the little bubbles you see when you pour peroxide on a scrape or use it as a disinfectant,and it’s oxidizing properties work wonders for lifting biological stains and becuase of it’s extra oxygen molecule (H2o2)it will nuetralize any odors that may be there as well.You may want to test in an inconspicuous area first or try diluting it as to not bleach out all of the color in the wood.Hope this helps,good luck!

    • Amy says:

      When we moved into out new home, my male dog ‘marked’ so much of our hardwoods. I used just water to wipe it down and wen tover it with a solution of vinegar and water. It took the urine up. I am not so sure about dark stains. You may need to get the area sanded owna nd refinisihed.

    • Rachel says:

      My incontinent dog saturated her bed with pee – which we only discovered when we moved her bed and revealed a black spot in our hardwood floor.

      I lightly dabbed hydrogen peroxide on the black stain for several days in a row and it’s all but gone. Watch out not to saturate the wood too much with the peroxide or the liquid will damage the floor.

    • Penny says:

      I refinish wood floors for a living. There is a floor bleach you can buy. But be very carefull when using it. Where gloves and eye protection. Do as the direction. Rinse with vinegar and water 50/50 . Do not use household bleach!!!

    • Margif says:

      Urine can burn the wood and leave permanent black marks that might never come out. Try to refinish- if the black marks don’t come out you may have to replace. We learned this because we once lived in a home that was “christened” by many dogs and it was left on the hardwood floors. We cleaned the floor multiple times, then refinished it. The smell mostly dissipated (it occasionally would smell when the weather was damp), but we really had to replace it as it was too yucky to have my children playing on, and to look at.

  5. Kelly Stubblefield says:

    To Kandy –
    use a paste of water and baking soda to gently scrub the build up off the floors. Then use the cleaner of choice from above. Baking soda is a good scratch free cleaner.

  6. rachael says:

    do you have any homemade solutions for engineered hardwood floors?

    • Sheryll Finger-Morris says:

      On Engineered Hardwoods if your floors are under warrenty you absolutely need to use what the manufactors suggest. If you don’t you could void your warrenty. The very best thing to do for these floors is to use a damp…and I mean not wringing wet micro fiber mop. I love these mops. They are easy to use and leave all wood floors clean, streak free and beautiful. And mop. When it gets dirty take off the pad and wring it out in clean water. I also have another mop that I use to dry the floors. The less water you use the better the floors look and the better they stay, you could also use a dry microfiber mop and a spray bottle of water and mist your floors. These floors are made in layers and can’t be refinished when they are damaged. If your floors are really really dirty put a squirt of dawn dish soap use the microfiber mop and mop, rinse and dry. I would only use this if you absolutely have to. Keeping floors beautiful and clean isn’t about the chemicals you use it is about the equipment. Go to the manufactors sight and check what they suggest. What is cheaper than plain ole tap water?
      I am not a Commerical dealer. I have a high end Commerical and residential cleaning business. I go to the manufactors to find out how to clean all surfaces. it is my job to know.

  7. Jane says:

    We got black scuff marks on our wood floods awhile back. I remember where I work the janitor using a tennis ball on marks. Using the tennis ball with some elbow action along the grain of the wood brought up those marks.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I have been using water and vinegar for my hardwood floors for over 5 years using damp cloth.

    • Patty Schuttenhelm says:

      I use vinegar and water, but add a tablespoon of murphy’s oil soap. It brings back the shine. I also wipe the floor dry as I go. Works great and the Murphy’s oil soap gives the cleaner and wonderful smell.

  9. Miss Sonja says:

    My new house has hardwood kitchen cupboards with a natural poly finish on them. The previous owners left dark build-up marks around the handles and some drip marks from being over the sink. How can I clean these without having to re-finish the whole lot? My previous cupboards were laminate and easy cleaning.

  10. Kate says:

    Are these solutions safe for bamboo flooring?

    • Maryann says:

      I’ve been using white vinegar & water solution on my bamboo floors for 6 years. Sometimes in a spray bottle with a drying towel and sometimes in my floor steamer. Works great and no streaks.

  11. IDBEDD says:

    Would anyone know how to clean up wooden handrails on stairways?

    • Nancy G says:

      I had the same problem on a beautiful oak banister. It was sticky from the finish getting dirty, etc. we used Murphy’s Oil damped on a rag with some ‘elbow grease’. This removed the dirt but not the fine finish. Then we used a small brown lunch sack and went upstairs & downstairs using the sack, not our hands. It works like super-fine sandpaper. It smoothed any bumps and brought the luster back.

    • ruth says:

      Use a mild solution of water soap and vinegar.Wipe with a rag or washcloth grabbing the handle as you when when using stairs. Wipe with clean cloth until cloth comes away clean. Try not to cringe when you think about all the nasty little hands that have been on it!

    • Kim says:

      I would like to know about the handrails too.

  12. IDBEDD says:

    LOL…..ok this to funny. Ah….WOULD anyone know? Not wood! LOL @ me!

  13. Kim says:

    I was told that to bleach dark spots on my hardwood floors, to apply lemon juice, it has bleaching properties. Just leave on and check it every so often. If not lightened enough, reapply. Worked for me.

  14. Andrea says:

    I have laminate wood floors, so KIND OF wood but not really….are any/all of these recipes safe for this kind of floor?

  15. Cheryl says:

    Thank you for these! I was looking at my floors this morning and wondered if Tipnut had a cleaner I could use and woila! Of course you did! Your site is the very very best and I just love it!

  16. Debbie says:

    How do you get the grime/ dark coloring out of the tongue and groove lines in a light colored hardwood floor?

    • Mary Beth says:

      Hi Debbie, I have the same problem. Engineered lighter colored maple floors. I recently noticed that between each board there is a black line. Upon further inspection, I realized that it was the wet grimy dirt that was being pushed around with a mop. I tried using a thumb tack to scrape in between the boards. The stuff comes out as a powdery dirt. I tried a steamer, then it comes out sort of like mud. There is no way I can clean my entire house this way. It’s definitely worse in the high traffic areas. Have you found anything that works? Anyone else? Help!

  17. Vicky says:

    I have laminate wood floor walnut color from costco, this floor looks like natural but dull color can you please let me know if any of mentioned recepies are good for this kind of laminate floor, i have tried the ones recomended for the manufacture company but they don’t really work.

  18. morgan says:

    For laminate floors I use equal parts water, vinegar and alcohol. Just water and. Vinegar leaves streaks. But the alcohol evaporated quickly, so it leaves a great shine and cleans better than store bought cleaners.

  19. Barbara Thetford says:

    Does anyone know of a recipe for washing untreated floorboards which will also take out the smell of dog urine and leave a pleasant aroma afterwards. Thanks

  20. Lisa says:

    Just something worth mentioning to those with pets, cats in particular……essential oils are toxic to cats (lavender oil, peppermint oil, etc) so I would NOT add these to your mixture. Cats’ livers lack the enzyme to break these oils down and exposure to them (even just the residue left on the floors they’re walking on) can cause liver damage/failure and death.

  21. Beth says:

    We needed to get black stains out of the grain before having the finish on our floors covered with another coat. Those white “magic erasers” worked amazingly well. The floor guy was even impressed!

  22. Jessica says:

    Hi, I am looking for a way to clean my hardwood floors, the problem is they have never been finished. I want a way to clean them without all the sanding. The house has carpet so the backing of the carpet has left marks on the floors as well. Thanks alot!!

    • Ann says:

      I would like to know about cleaning unfinished hard wood floors too. If you ever find an answer, please let me know!

      • Nancy says:

        Steam works well on unfinished floors, but it is labor intensive. Steam a small area at a time, and rinse off residue with slightly damp hand towels or old bath towels, ect. Rinse out the wiping cloths after every foot or so. Best of luck to you!!

  23. SavtaDonna says:

    I have dark stained floors which were finished with polyurethane about ten years ago. The finish is now dull and many scuff marks how should I clean the floor and how to remove the scuff marks- or should I have it refinished? Thanks much !

  24. Karin says:

    Please do NOT use furniture polish on a wood floor….unless you want to break a bone or two! It makes the floor SOslippery….even just a little spray, knowing you used it there and being careful, made me fall, even after realizing that it made it slippery and trying to clean furniture spray off the floor.

  25. Fabiola says:

    Would the hardwood cleaning mixes work if used with the steam shark mop?

  26. Diane says:

    WD-40 works well for scruff marks and anything gummy or sticky. it is a fish oil product and won’t hurt the floor plus gives a great shine. Wipe off excess or it can be slippery. also works great on stainless steel.

  27. anonymous says:

    eucalyptus oil + vinegar smells like nail polish remover – just fyi

  28. RachelJ says:

    We ripped up the carpet and found gorgeous hardwood floor underneath. In 1 of the roomsthe previous owners painted the room and got white paint on the gorgeous floor and proceeded to lay carpet over it. How do I remove the old paint without damaging the floor? I mopped it, tried different solutions, paint will not come up. Any suggestions?

    • Nan says:

      use equal parts of water and fabric softener cheaper stuff works best. Mix in a stray bottle. Also works on dried paint on windows. My daughter found this out when she was removing wallpaper and drip some on the woodwork. When she wiped it off, to her surprise the old paint drips came off. On old lead based paint I have use 100% fabric softener and a scraper.
      Anybody know how to get food coloring stain off unfinished wodd? I have tried bleach, peroxide, magic eraser. I am ready to sand but am afraid it is deeper than I can sand may have to paint

  29. Marie says:

    Try baking soda – works for removing grape juice and wine stains from countertops. Use a gentle scrubbing motion.

  30. KaliCat says:

    How do you get pet stains off of unfinished floors? Seems like a FAQ with no answer. Obviously have pets so I want a natural solution that won’t harm them or my floor. Thanks for the Tips 🙂

  31. Eliz says:

    For cat or dog urine u can try mouthwash w/ water. I have not tried this, but another landlord has tried it and said it worked for him. Not sure what mixture he used, but thought I would mention this in case somebody wanted to try it.

  32. Michelle says:

    You never want to use vinegar on natural hardwood floors (as opposed to laminate or any type of man made). The acidity causes “etching” in the surface much like it would if you clean granite with it.

    • Nancy G says:

      Earlier comments have suggested using water & a small amount of vinegar with a damp (not wet) mop. I Now I’m a bit worried because you mentioned etching. I have natural hardwood floors that were refinished over 20 years ago by the previous owners. I didn’t know about vinegar, water & damp mop until a year ago. It really gets the dirt. What is ‘etching’?

  33. Diana says:

    Try a TSP mixture. You can get it in most any paint dept.

  34. Falcon Moon says:

    Can I use walnut oil as essential oil?

  35. Bunsterj says:

    What do you do with white spots on wood floors from water?

  36. Anna says:

    Does anyone know how to remove dark circles from chair legs off unfinished hard wood floors ??? Help

  37. Linda says:

    I have old hardwood floors from the 1930’s. After years of carpet, I finally pulled the carpets up and exposed the hardwood floors which were in realativly good condition. However, after years of shampooing carpets and other damage, the finish was ruined so they are no longer sealed.
    I can not afford to have tham sanded and refinished so, I have learned to keep them in good condition with the following items. I have dogs and cats and tons of traffic but my floors look good.
    1. When they really need to be cleaned, usually in the spring and fall, I clean them using windex or ammonia/water solution. Windex is actually ammonia and ammonia will clean them up to look brand new but, it dries the wood and takes any protection from the surface of the wood so it is open to getting dirty. I also use ammonia and water in a spray bottle for quick clean ups but I have to use an oil after it dries.
    2 After cleaning, I use orange oil spray to protect the surface of the wood and make it slicker. Not fall on your bottom slick but slick enough that dust is easier to swiffer up. I don’t use olive oils or walnut oils because they become sticky on the top surface and dust does not slide as easy. I spray on, covering the area well, let is set for about 3-5 minutes and than rub it in well with soft rags.
    3. I never use just water on the floor as it leaves streaks.
    4. I use paste wax or bees wax on the edges to keep the dust down. The slicker you make the edges, the easier it is to keep it clean. Be sure to buff it well after it has dried.
    5. I clean my floor in heavy traffic areas with furniture oil on a cloth every few days, I just use an old towel and a sweeper mop, spray the oil onto the cloth and wipe the floor.

    • Luisa says:

      I just pulled up my carpets and used water with Eucalyptis oil…the mop was dark and I got scared thinking I was ruining the floors….so, are they just filthy or do I need to stop?? (The house has been carpetted for years and we pulled it up yesterday – house is 50 years old.) I also cannot afford to buff strip wax…etc…so I feel your comments can help me….

      Let me know – are the floors filthy and do I keep washing???

  38. Kphernan says:

    i have bamboo floors, is it safe for me to use the vinegar, water & alcohol solution to clean my floors? please help 🙂

  39. Amy says:

    I was hoping you could help with a tough problem. I put a non-slip carpet pad under a runner. After I took it up it left a sticky residue. It looks like a waffle pattern on the surface of the floor. Any suggestions? I have read everything from goo gone to olive oil to non abrasive liquid-free hand soap, but I’m afraid to try them because I don’t want to ruin the floors. Thank you!

    • Barbara says:

      I have hardwood floors and also had the sticky waffle look on my floor. We used label and sticker remover and it came right up. It will leave a little oil residue but that is vert easy to clean. Also works for scuff marks as we’ll.

  40. Shelley P. says:


    Just a reminder to everyone that essential oils are deadly to cats. They cannot metabolize them and can die within months of contact. The contact doesn’t have to be physical, it could be the vapors in the air.

  41. Deni says:

    Do you have a cleaning solution for a finished cork floor? Can I use vinegar and alcohol mixed with water to clean cork?

  42. russ says:

    Hi can you recommend a solution to clean my hardwax oiled wood floors I was told I need a cleaner that nourishes the wood aswell as cleaning it.

  43. Angie says:

    Any ideas on how to clean the groove between wood floor planks? I love my floors, but some of the higher traffic areas look bad because of the darker “stripes”. Thanks !

    • Jackie B says:

      A steak knife and a rag and vacuum cleaner attachment. Takes a long time. But does the job. I eventually had the groves sanded out.

  44. Manda Stuart says:

    I have laminated floors (light color) and I have to use my swifter daily to remove dust and dirt. What can you recommend for preventing such dust build up on my floors? HELP

  45. Kim says:

    Are these safe for laminated wood floors?

  46. Gen says:

    Can I mix a gallon of this and store it to use multiple times or will it go bad? Thanks

  47. Barb says:

    I have older wood floors that are not sealed anylonger. What can I do to bring a shine back to them. They also squeek badly anything to help make them not squeek? thanks

  48. Mary says:

    I have prefinished wood floors in my whole house and the finish is very shiny I see every little spot on it. There is anything to clean those floor with to make it les shiny or get the shine off? Please help.Thanks

  49. Nick says:

    I read on the dr bronners site that it’s not reccended to use Castile soap with vinegar because one is acidic and one is basic and they cancel each other out and can curdle.

  50. Faye says:

    My son purchased a home that was built in 1928. We pulled up the old carpet and it has hardwood floors. I removed the tape, but it left a shiny residue where the tape was placed. Any ideas on how to remove this?

  51. Ariel says:

    Any suggestions on removing grease and oliveoil off hardwood floors? I find vinegar leaves a residue/film behind.

  52. Julie says:

    Is there a good DIY cleaner for oiled hardwood floors?

  53. Mini Clean says:

    This post is really great! Thank you for the share especially the DIY Polish. I have been using commercially made products that are sold in stores. But most of the effective ones are really expensive. I used to do my own cleaning at home and these new recipes would help me a lot to save money! Thank you!

  54. Connie says:

    If you have hardwood floors with polyurethane finish DO NOT USE ANY TYPE OF WAX OR OIL on your floor. The reason is, if a section of your floor gets scratched or the finish gets roughed up you will not be able to just sand it lightly, wipe down and give it a coat of polyurethane varnish. The oil or wax will prevent the varnish to adhere. Just use plain water and a soft cloth that is damp with the water. Rinse the cloth as needed. This information came from a business that installs hardwood floors.

  55. LouAnn Mallon says:

    What about VINYL wood fllors?
    What to use for DRY mop and for wet?
    And how can we remove or fix a superficial sratch?

  56. Gayle says:

    We are seniors renting a home from an absentee landlord overseas. We have dark hardwood floors or engineered floors? not sure or even how to tell the difference. My question is, does anyone know what homemade solution I could use to clean the floors but at the same time not make them slippery. It seems that adding any oil would make floors slippery? This is a great concern as my husband experienced a fall when walking on a wooden floor in his stocking feet. Whatever finish that was on this floor was extremely slippery. It took some time for him to recover. Any safe suggestions for a homemade floor cleaner would be greatly appreciated.

  57. Diamond says:

    want is a good mixture that remove scratches out of s wood floor
    This is my first time asking this question. I looked for the answer
    On other people and could not find it

  58. Franny says:

    does anyone have an idea for how to clean pre-finished hardwood? Mine are 8 years old and the finish looks hazy and smeary. I’ve tried almost everything. Thanks

  59. Maddy Duggan says:

    Can you use rice vinegar? Its all I have.

  60. Craig says:

    I have natural wood floors that are 4 years old. I was told by many people to use vinegar and water and it has worked great, except now we see it does not shine as much as it use to. What can I use to make the shine come back? Thank you

  61. ric villa says:

    does the polishing recipe also needs a gallon of water?

  62. Dawn says:

    We have engineered wood floors that something stuck on them. I cleaned and now there’s streaking and it looks a little pitted. How can I repair or refinish this section of the floor to make it shine and protect it.
    Thank you

  63. Linda says:

    Dish soap leaked from dishwasher leaked out on floor and dried. Won’t come up. What do you suggest.

  64. Amelia says:

    I love your information and the simple directions. Do you advise using the same hardwood methods for engineered wood?

  65. Jeremy Parker says:

    Solution #4 worked for me perfectly!

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