Gorgeous hardwood and laminate kitchen floors

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. 


Gorgeous hardwood and laminate kitchen floors




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 wiht 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, just that 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. 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 to not only clean but also protect and preserve 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

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. Or if you 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. Ellie Davis says:

    I loved that you mentioned you need to sweep or vacuum your hardwood floor to keep debris, sand, and grime at bay. My husband and I are thinking about installing hardwood floors in our house, and we are looking for advice to keep them in good shape. I will let him know about your article to help him understand how to keep our hardwood flooring free of danger. https://www.nywoodfloor.com/about-us

  2. Huey Levy says:

    The laminate floors become gritty over time. It starts functioning like a plywood subfloor. It happens. So, no need to worry. Understanding the process of cleaning will help you keep your laminate floors serviceable for a lasting spell. You need to vacuum laminate floors on a regular basis in order to remove the surface dirt that can cause scratches. Dust mop, vacuum cleaner- are the tools that you can use to clean your laminate floors. Better you consult a professional , so that you can get better solutions on cleaning.

  3. 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!

  4. Randy Chorvack says:

    Thanks for the tip on putting a drop of water on the floor. I have no idea if my floor is finished or not but it definitely needs to be cleaned. I’ll make sure to find out what kind of flooring I have before I clean it. https://www.panelcenter.com/hardwood-flooring

  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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