A kitchen with a sink and a window

How to Clean a Painted Wood Floor

A message in my inbox this week came from Joan who asked, “What is the best way to clean a very grimy painted wood floor?”


A kitchen with a sink and a window


Before I get to an answer for Joan, let’s talk generally about wood floors and the difference between a painted wood floor and a finished wood floor. I would never suggest that anyone treat them as equals when it comes to cleaning.

RELATED: How to Clean and Care for Hardwood and Laminate Floors

Please, make sure you never use a painted floor cleaning formula on your finished hardwood or laminate floor because it will be too harsh and could cause damage.

Paint by definition is different than say a polyurethane finish, typically used on hardwood floors. Paint is tougher, especially latex enamel that has been formulated for wood floors.

Although water isn’t recommended for cleaning finished wood floors because it raises the grain, it’s safer for painted floors because the paint prevents the moisture from soaking into the wood.

Even so, Joan will want to dry her painted wood floor promptly to prevent the wood from absorbing moisture.

Because Joan used the word “grimy” to describe this painted floor, I’m going to assume this painted floor has dried on spills and dirt that’s been ground-in over a period of time—a worst case scenario.


Using a stiff bristle broom, thoroughly sweep the floor to loosen and remove as much debris as possible.


Vacuum the floor using the hard surface setting or attachment. If there are cracks between the boards, use the crevice tool to remove all of that dirt and debris.

Make cleaner

To mix up a batch of Painted Floor Cleaner, add the following carefully measured ingredients to a one-gallon container

Fill to within an inch of the top of the container with hot water. Mix gently until all ingredients are incorporated.


Test this cleaner in an inconspicuous place of the painted floor (like in a closet, behind a door) to make it does not cause any harm to the paint, especially if the paint is old cracking, brittle or even beginning to chip or flake off.

Scrub or mop

Fill a spray bottle with the cleaner, or pour into a mop bucket depending on how you wish to clean the floor: on your hands and knees with a rag, stiff brush, or sponge—or using a good strong floor mop. Either way, work in small areas—spraying or mopping a small area at a time, scrubbing until clean.

MORE: Some (But Not All) Spray Bottles are Designed to Fail


Fill a bucket with clear water. Rinse the mop if you’ve been using one, or get a clean one. Mop the floor a second time with the clear water to remove all cleaning residue.


Dry the floor immediately with a clean, dry towel. Drying by hand prevents streaks and collects any remaining dirt left on the floor.


Super Washing Soda

This is a specific product from the Arm & Hammer company that is very different from baking soda, typically available in the laundry aisle of stores like Target and Walmart, or you can Super Washing Soda It is also known as “soda ash” when used in swimming pools to manage ph balance. Washing soda is powerful against dirt, but can be harmful to some surfaces like fiberglass, acrylic and even painted surfaced if used to make a very strong solution. In the Painted Floor Cleaner formula, the washing soda is greatly diluted but still powerful. It should do no harm. Still, you need to test it.

MORE: 10 Brilliant Ways to Use Washing Soda That Will Make Your Life Easier


Sold mostly under the name borax , you’ll find this in the laundry aisle, often in supermarkets.

Blue Dawn

If you’ve been following for very long, you’ll recognize these ingredients as very similar to our Homemade Laundry Detergent. They are but in very different quantities. Please DO NOT use your batch of Homemade Laundry Detergent to clean your painted wood floors. It is way too harsh and you will not be happy.

Small Batch

If you would rather make up a much smaller batch of Painted Wood Floor Cleaner that you can mix in a 16-ounce spray bottle, I’ve done the math:

  • 1/2 teaspoon Super Washing Soda
  • 2 teaspoons borax
  • 1/2 teaspoon blue Dawn
  • 2 cups hot water

First published at Everyday Cheapskate: 7-25-16; Revised & Updated 7-7-19

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.

A man and a woman standing in the grass
A room filled with furniture and a mirror
A pile of luggage sitting on top of a bed
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Caught yourself reading all the way 'til the end? Why not share with a friend.

5 replies
  1. Kim says:

    All I can say is “thank you, thank you, thank you!” I truly thought it was just a different paint color in this room! I’m amazed!

  2. Jackie says:

    I’m excited to try this. I recently moved into a very old apartment in NYC and the wood floors are painted and I haven’t been able to cut through the grime. However, I do have a young puppy. Do you think this formula is diluted enough to be safe? would you suggest doing two rounds of a clean rinse?


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *