A kitchen with a wood floor

How to Clean and Care for Hardwood and Laminate Floors

Taking care of hardwood or laminate floors can be challenging given the everyday conditions of a family and pets. But keeping your home looking good is crucial to maintaining its value.

Generally, there are two types of residential wood flooring: real wood (solid or engineered) and laminates that are man-made to look like wood. 


A kitchen with a wood floor




Solid hardwood floors are made of planks milled from a single piece of timber.


Engineered hardwood is made from layers of material that have been glued together, with a layer of hardwood on the top. Typically engineered wood comes finished with a clear protective coating or finish. 


Laminate flooring is manmade, a multi-layer synthetic flooring product fused together in a factory using a lamination process. The top layer of laminate flooring is photographic material that is made to look like wood including a clear protective finish.

Is it finished?

Don’t know what you have exactly? No worries. When it comes to cleaning wood floors (solid, engineered or laminate) the only thing you need to figure out is whether or not your floors have a finish. You don’t really need to know the type of finish. The important fact is whether the floors have been treated in some way to make them resistant to standing water, which is the enemy of all wood and wood-like floors.

MORE: The Wonders of Hydrogen Peroxide

Drop-of-water test

To find out if your flooring is finished, drop a single drop of water on the floor. If it beads and just sits there, the flooring has been finished. If the drop of water soaks in and disappears leaving a dark spot, the wood is not finished.

What follows is for finished solid or engineered wood and laminate flooring only. Unfinished hardwood CANNOT be mopped since it will damage the floors.

If your floor is unfinished, or if it’s an old wood floor and some of the finish has started to wear away, then don’t use any moisture or product on the floor at all. Just dust-mop it with a flat-head mop.

Wood floor cleaners

When it comes to wood and laminate cleaners, you can spend a fortune on commercial products like Bona  Black Diamond. Or you can make your own for pennies. 

The key to making your own wood and laminate floor cleaner is similar to the commitment of a physician: First, do no harm. The trick is making a product that will clean well without harming the finish of your floors, even when used repeatedly over many years.

No, vinegar

White vinegar is a fabulous cleaning product because it cuts through dirt well. But it is highly acidic and used repeatedly will over time can attack the finish on your wood or laminate floors, making them look dull. Vinegar can also soften the finish, making it feel gummy or sticky. So let’s just agree that when it comes to cleaning wood or laminate floors, no vinegar.

RELATED: How to Clean Gunk and Grime from Kitchen Cabinets

Yes, alcohol

Alcohol is also a fantastic cleaning product. Rubbing alcohol (70% is most common, but 91% works is great, too), denatured alcohol, even gin or plain vodka all work. Alcohol is also a disinfectant, as you know from visiting a doctor’s office or hospital. The great thing about alcohol as a cleaning agent is, that like water, it has a nearly neutral ph—neither acidic or alkaline. This makes alcohol the perfect ingredient in your homemade cleaner. It not only cleans but also protects and preserves beautifully finished wood and laminate floors.

Distilled water

Your regular tap water, while safe to drink, may leave water marks and hard water build up on your floors over time. The best way to avoid this is to use distilled water in your floor cleaner (available in any supermarket) to eliminate streaking, hard water marks, and mineral build-up.

Blue Dawn

A very small amount of Blue Dawn will break the surface tension of the water making the cleaner much more effective—but not so much that it requires rinsing.

Homemade Wood and Laminate Floor Cleaner

The proportions are: one part alcohol (rubbing alcohol is cheap and available in any supermarket or drug store) to four parts distilled water plus a few drops blue Dawn dishwashing liquid. Here it is again:

  • 1 part alcohol
  • 4 parts distilled water
  • 2 or 3 drops Blue Dawn

Example: 1/4 cup alcohol, 1 cup distilled water, 2 drops Blue Dawn.

Mix this up in a spray bottle each time you clean the floors. You can make it up ahead. Be sure to label it well and keep it out of the reach of children.

How to clean

Sweep or vacuum the floor (you’ll read more about this below). Spray the cleaner in a small area, scrub well with a cloth or sponge and immediately wipe the area dry with a microfiber cloth.

The secret is to spray, scrub and wipe dry immediately. If you do not want to do this on your hands and knees, I recommend this Microfiber Spray Mop for both wood and laminate floors. It sprays the cleaner from its removable bottle that lets you make your own cleaner. It has a large surface mop and machine-washable microfiber pad, which makes scrubbing wood and laminate floors a breeze.

Routine Maintenance

Vacuum or sweep

Here’s an easy routine to care for your wood and laminate floors: At least twice a week vacuum (or sweep) your wood or laminate floors to remove the real enemies here: dirt, sand, grit, pebbles, and grime. It comes in on your shoes and gets ground into the finish and surface of your beautiful floors every time you and the kids walk on them.

Unless the vacuum you use has a hard floor attachment (not just a setting for hard floors), you’d be better off using a broom to dislodge, sweep up and remove debris and dust. My Shark Navigator Lift-Away vacuum uses these washable microfiber pads that dislodge dirt and debris and then acts as a dirt and dust magnet.


Then every two weeks, clean and scrub the floors with your homemade cleaner and a good mop that cleans and wipes the floor nearly dry in a single effort.

Felt need

Protect your wood and laminate floor from scrapes and scratches with felt furniture pads. The kind of felt pads that are self-stick are inexpensive, easy to apply and will last for many years. Felt reduces friction which makes it easy to slide chairs in and out and also cut the noise.

Taking good care of your wood and laminate floors will not only keep your home looking great, you’ll be protecting your home’s value—which is likely one of the biggest investments you will ever make.

First published:9-16-15; Revised & Updated with new information 5-21-19


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9 replies
  1. Dee says:

    1 star
    An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a friend
    who was conducting a little research on this. And he actually ordered me lunch simply because I stumbled upon it for
    him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the
    meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to
    talk about this topic here on your blog.

  2. Juliane says:

    5 stars
    What’s Taking place i am new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively helpful and it
    has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & assist different customers like its
    aided me. Great job.

  3. Michael says:

    I installed engineered hardwood and I’m loving it so far aside for the fact that maintaining it can be really difficult so thanks for laying down some steps and I’ll give it a try as soon as possible.

  4. Penny Waite says:

    Mary Hunt to the rescue once again! we are selling our home, and our beautiful wood floors need a touch of cleaning. So happy this article was posted today! Thank You Mary!

  5. Judy Hoxworth says:

    Help! I had my bedroom carpets cleaned yesterday! I gave the cleaner beach towels to lay under his hoses in the hallway. When I came in he was starting to leave and his hose had dripped a spot about 2 in by 2 ft. on the solid light wood floor. I immediately grabbed a towel but it was too late. The spot appears to be set from his cleaner in the hose. He rubbed on it with a damp cloth but it only made it bigger. What on earth is the answer now? I love my floors and it shows right down the hallway immediately when walking in….

  6. Patricia Goff says:

    My floors were finished at one time but 50 years of being used has worn the finish off I am sure. I wish I could get mine to look clean but no matter how often I wash them they still look dirty. I will try some of these ways and see what happens.

  7. Sandra Golightly says:

    We recently did a deep cleaning at our parents home. Our dad passed away after being in hospice in their home. His hospital bed and daily care was in the main living area which has laminate floors. A spray mop with laminate floor cleaner would not clean it. It took three of us about 2 hours on our hands and knees using hot water and Mr. Clean magic erasers to clean three rooms. We then went over it with a spray mom using laminate floor cleaner and dried it with another mop. The floors look like new. It was amazing how just cleaning the floors lifted everyone’s spirits.

  8. Naomi Wheeler says:

    When you are talking laminate flooring, does that include luxury vinyl planks? I think of laminate as a flat surface floor. Most of the LVP flooring has more texture and the look of wood. I am not sure whether I would treat it differently. Thanks.

  9. pawandclawdesigns says:

    I LITERALLY just bought that mop to clean up after our old kitty cat who likes to play in his water and then leave wet paw prints down the hall. Good to know about the vinegar ; the recipe I was GOING to make called for it. Glad I checked my e-mail before mopping the floors 🙂


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