How To Deep Clean Hardwood Floors

By Marilee Nelson |

How To Deep Clean Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are beautiful, functional, and (typically) one of the least toxic flooring options available.

However, as with any floor type, hardwood floors require deep cleaning beyond a quick vacuum or steam mop.

Fortunately, this doesn’t require the use of harsh or costly chemical cleaners and can be done quickly and easily.

In this article, you’ll learn how to deep clean your hardwood floors safely and effectively using non-toxic products.

Hardwood Flooring Essential Cleaning Supplies 

The right tool for the right job is essential in protecting your wood floors during everyday and deep cleaning.

Here’s what you’ll need

  • A dust mop or vacuum with hardwood floor attachment (we like HEPA vacuums for their efficiency and how they improve indoor air quality.
  • Wet mop with cleaning pad
  • Hardwood floor cleaner, like Branch Basics Concentrate (we’ll explain more on this coming up)
  • Microfiber cloths (for drying floor)
  • A putty knife

How to Deep Clean Hardwood Floors Using Branch Basics

Hardwood floors can easily be damaged by harsh floor cleaners that damage their finish.

Even naturally acidic vinegar, if used undiluted, can dull hardwood’s surface over time.

This is why cleaning experts recommend using hardwood-specific floor cleaners and DIY options.

Branch Basics is ideal for most urethane/acrylic/polyurethane/UV cured synthetic floor finishes because it is a natural, non-acidic, synthetic, chemical-free, soap-like cleaner that can be custom diluted for these types of finished wood floors.

Note: Hardwood floors sealed with a natural oil or wax finish should only be cleaned with the manufacturer's recommended cleaner. Branch Basics will likely remove these finishes. If you have these types of flooring, follow these instructions using the manufacturer’s recommended cleaner.

Here’s how to use Branch Basics Concentrate + water to deep clean your hardwood floors without damaging their finish.

Step 1: Make Your Branch Basics Hardwood Floor Cleaning Solution

  • Combine 1/8-1/4 teaspoon Branch Basics Concentrate with 2 cups of distilled water
    • Note, since all flooring types are different, always test the diluted Concentrate in a hidden area to ensure it doesn't negatively affect the finish on the floor.* 
    • When in doubt, make it more diluted—use less soap and a higher ratio of water - i.e. more is not better
  • Place this mixture in a spray bottle.

Step 2: Dry Mop or Vacuum

  • Next, dry mop or vacuum your wood floors to remove dust, dirt, and debris prior to wet mopping.
    • Note: regular vacuuming or dry mopping is essential to maintaining the longevity of your wood floors. 

    Step 3: Wet Mop Using Branch Basics Solution

    • We recommend spraying the soap mixture onto a slightly damp mop, rather directly on the floor or using a mop and bucket method. This helps ensure you don’t over-wet the floor (and wetness is the enemy of hardwood longevity)! 
    • Mop until thoroughly clean.

    Step 4: Dry if Necessary

    • If the floor looks wet (not damp) after cleaning, follow up with a microfiber cloth or another dry mopping to dry off any wet spots that could damage the floor.

    For more details, see our User Guide or watch our YouTube tutorial: 

    Other Effective Non-Toxic Hardwood Floor Cleaners

    Using Branch Basics solution is just one non-toxic option for deep cleaning hardwood floors.

    Depending on your flooring type and manufacturer’s recommendations, you could also try:

    • A diluted vinegar or lemon juice solution. Less is more here, as too much acid can damage your floor’s finish over time. Experts recommend at least 50:50 water to distilled white vinegar or lemon juice. Some recipes also recommend adding a little olive oil (a few drops) to condition the wood.
      • Note: As mentioned previously, undiluted vinegar or lemon juice may be too acidic for some floor finishes. Many non-toxic cleaning enthusiasts and experts use diluted vinegar as a DIY solution, but always research your specific wood floor type and finish to avoid unintended damage.
    • Diluted natural liquid soap with water
      • Liquid castile soap can be diluted with water, per brand instructions, and used as a wood floor cleaner. 
      • A general recipe is 1 teaspoon liquid castile soap to 4 cups distilled water placed in a spray bottle.
      • Black Tea Solution
        • It may sound strange, but strongly brewed black tea can be used as a spray solution on wood floors to deep clean and add luster to the wood.
        • To use, brew 2 bags of black tea in 3 cups of water.
        • Let cool.
        • Add to a spray bottle and spray-mop using a microfiber mop.

      No matter what you use, always make sure you dry the floor thoroughly to avoid moisture damage.

      We’ll discuss non-toxic stain removal options next.

      See: Branch Basics Ultimate Guide to Non-Toxic Floor Cleaning (it’s easier than you think!) for more non-toxic floor cleaning tips. 

      How to Remove Tough Stains From Hardwood Floors

      Many people choose hardwood floors to avoid the hassles of cleaning up stains from carpets.

      However, hardwood floors aren’t immune to stains, especially if they are left untreated.

      Fortunately, there are non-toxic ways to remove stains from hardwood that can help you avoid sanding and refinishing.

      As always, we recommend researching your particular floor type and finish to ensure these methods are compatible and won’t cause damage.

      Note: For deep or very stubborn stains, sanding and refinishing may be required.

      Method 1: Use A Putty Knife To Remove Dirt Or Stuck-On Debris

      A putty knife has just the right sharpness to gently scrape off stuck-on food, dirt, and grime without harming floors.

      The key is to use gentle pressure, slowly scraping away the stuck-on stain until it’s lifted.

      If you see a stain left behind, follow up with one of the other recommendations in this section.

      Method 2: Try Hydrogen Peroxide

      This is one of the most popular methods for removing stains on hardwood. 

      Hydrogen peroxide is a non-toxic bleach alternative that is generally gentle enough to use on hardwood floors (check manufacturer’s recommendations).

      To use:

      • Soak a cloth in 3% hydrogen peroxide (in the brown bottle).
      • Apply directly to the stain and let dwell for a few minutes (test in an inconspicuous area first!).
      • Wipe clean, and follow up with a spritz of water to ensure no residue.
      • Repeat as needed, taking care not to remove the floor’s finish.

      Note: Some experts warn against using hydrogen peroxide on hardwood floors due to its natural bleaching action. However, the key is to use it sparingly, monitor dwell time (don’t just leave it there for hours), and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

      Please test in an inconspicuous area to make sure the hydrogen peroxide is compatible with the floor finish.

      You can also use hydrogen peroxide to disinfect your mop. Just spray it directly on the mop and let it air dry.

      Learn more about this non-toxic cleaning and disinfecting powerhouse in: How To Use Hydrogen Peroxide For Non-Toxic Cleaning, Disinfecting, Laundry, & More.

      Method 3: Try Branch Basics

      Natural soap, like Branch Basics, can work well to remove stains from hardwood floors, but we recommend doing so with care.

      To use: 

      • Spray All-Purpose or even more diluted solution onto a slightly damp microfiber cloth and scrub (when in doubt, err on the side of less versus more).
      • Repeat until stain is gone 
      • Always follow up with removing soap with a dry dish towel and properly ventilate are to avoid damage

      Always test in an inconspicuous area of your floor to ensure compatibility. Branch Basics is likely to remove natural finishes. Branch Basics works well on most urethane/acrylic/polyurethane/UV cured synthetic floor finishes.

      Method 4: Remove Scuffs With Socks, Wool Dryer Balls, or a Tennis Ball

      High heels, sneakers, and furniture can leave scuff marks on wood floors.

      These are easily removed by gently rubbing the scuff with a sock, wool dryer ball, microfiber cloth, or tennis ball.

      We also recommend keeping a no-shoes-indoors policy—for the prevention of scuffs and a healthier home.

      Method 5: Make A Baking Soda Paste

      Baking soda is another non-toxic bleach alternative that is generally gentle enough to be used on hardwood floors (check manufacturer’s recommendations).

      It’s also absorbent and a gentle scouring agent, making it effective on various types of stains.

      To use:

      • Make a thick paste of baking soda and water.
      • Apply to the stain with a toothbrush or microfiber cloth.
      • Wipe clean and re-wipe with water to remove all traces of baking soda.
      • Repeat as needed.

      Discover more ways to use baking soda for non-toxic cleaning in: Cleaning With Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) 12 Surprising Uses.

      Method 6: Try Ironing A Damp Cloth For Water Stains

      This may sound strange, but ironing can prevent the need for sanding or refinishing and can work well on watermarks and stains.

      To use:

      • Cover the stain with a wrung-damp cotton cloth.
      • Go over it with a hot iron (not set on steam) for two to three seconds.
      • Repeat as needed.

      Note: Please carefully test this in an inconspicuous area

      Products and Ingredients to Avoid on Hardwood Floors

      Hardwood floors require special care and cleaning products that won’t damage their finish.

      Never use the following on hardwood floors:

      • The wrong vacuum or attachment: It is essential you use a vacuum or vacuum attachment/setting specifically designed for hardwood floors. Direct contact with the vacuum’s rotating brush or wheels could damage the floor.
      • Ammonia: Apart from being highly toxic to people and pets, ammonia will damage hardwood’s surface and dissolve lignin (what binds wood fibers together) in the wood.
      • Ultra-wet mops: Too much moisture on a mop can damage wood floors. Instead, opt for a damp microfiber mop.
      • Steam cleaners: This is somewhat controversial (and we love steam mops for non-toxic cleaning of other floors and surfaces) as some steam mops are marketed as safe for hardwood floors. However, since steam cleaners create humidity and can leave behind excess moisture, we don’t recommend their regular use on hardwood floors.
      • Undiluted vinegar: As previously noted, vinegar’s natural acetic acid can dissolve a wood floor’s finish, leading to dullness over time. Instead, dilute it at least 50:50 with distilled water.
      • Bleach: Bleach is incredibly toxic to people, babies, children, and pets, is too harsh for wood floor finishes, and can discolor a wood floor fast. Instead, turn to 3% hydrogen peroxide to remove stains and disinfect mops.
      • Too much natural soap or Branch Basics Concentrate: As previously mentioned, a little goes a long way when it comes to natural liquid soap and Branch Basics Concentrate. Too much can remove the finish or make your floors sticky and appear dull. When in doubt, err on the side of less versus more.
      • Too much oil: Although the right amount of olive oil can help bring shine and luster to your floors, too much can leave them dangerously slippery. Generally, just a few drops of olive oil in a DIY floor cleaner is enough to add shine without sacrifice.
      • Toxic wood floor cleaner: Not all wood floor cleaners are toxic, but many of them contain potentially harmful chemicals. Note: We used EWG to check on the toxicity status of several popular hardwood floor cleaners. Sadly, the majority were rated “D” to “F” for concerns about allergies, asthma, developmental and reproductive toxicity, and environmental toxicity.

      To avoid this, we recommend using the products and DIY options listed in the article or using our vetting method for tossing the toxins. 3 Tools You Need To Become Your Own Product Advocate.  (See excerpt below)

      “Reading labels can be helpful but "Non-Toxic" on a label is not enough as many products, even “natural” ones, use strategies to help themselves appear safer or greener. Reviewing each ingredient in a product is the best way to ensure that the products in your home are safe. It is so simple. You can start right away!

      EWG Skin Deep is our favorite tool to rate cleaning, skin, beauty, and personal care products. We recommend that products kept in the home should have all ingredients rated a 1 or 2 on EWG Skin Deep (with some usage exceptions). Simply, go to EWG Skin Deep’s website and search the ingredients. Ingredients are rated 1-10 with 1 being the safest to 10 being the most toxic. Toss all products with any ingredient rated 3 or more. Hint: To save time, start with the last ingredient on the list. Typically, you will find preservatives here and you may only have to look at one ingredient to find a 3 or above rating. Once you find an ingredient rated 3 or more, look no more and “toss that product”.

      Note: People trying to heal inflammatory skin conditions, hormone disruption, or chronic illness should also avoid products used on the skin with the following ingredients that can be inflammatory (citric acid, sodium coco sulfate, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, phenoxyethanol, and any ingredient with a quaternary ammonium component like polyquarternium - 11) even though they are rated a 1 or 2 on EWG Skin Deep.  

      Hardwood Floor Preventative Care

      Regular cleaning is the best way to ensure the longevity and beauty of your hardwood floors. Here are some other tips:

      • Place doormats on the inside and outside of your home entrances.
      • Dry mop or vacuum several times per week. This will help remove dust and debris and keep staining to a minimum.
      • Address spills or pet accidents immediately to avoid staining.
      • Adopt a no-shoes-indoors policy to avoid scuffs, scratches, dirt, grime, and bacteria from building up.
      • Place a mat beneath plants, pet bowls, or anything that could cause dirt, dust, or moisture build up on the floor’s surface.
      • Put felt pads on the legs of furniture to avoid scratching.
      • Put down rugs to protect floors.
      • Use a kitchen rug in your main food prep areas to help prevent spills from reaching the floor.

      Hardwood floors are an investment that can last for decades with proper preventative care.

      These tips will also reduce the need for more frequent deep cleaning and mopping. 

      When cared for properly, hardwood floors should not need mopping more than once per week.

      Looking to upgrade your cleaning tools? Check out: Essential Cleaning Tools For A Happy And Healthy Home.

      Toss the Toxins With Branch Basics 

      Now that you know how to clean your hardwood floors without harmful chemicals, let’s talk about non-toxic cleaning products!

      Branch Basics was created as a simple, non-toxic cleaning system that utilizes one natural Concentrate to replace every cleaner and laundry product in the home. 

      If you’re new here, here’s how it works.

      When you order a Branch Basics Premium Starter Kit, you’ll receive the Concentrate, Oxygen Boost (a bleach alternative, laundry booster, natural scouring agent, and so much more), and five bottles to make your own All-Purpose, Bathroom, Streak-Free, Laundry, and Foaming Wash.

      Wait—where’s the floor cleaner?

      As you’ve just learned, Branch Basics Concentrate can be diluted to work wonders on deep cleaning and mopping wood floors (and nearly every other type of floor too). However, due to variances in floors, we could not provide a one-size-fits-all dilution.

      Branch Basics products are EWG-verified and rated A+, Made Safe Certified, not tested on animals/cruelty-free, and safe for pets, babies, children, and the chemically sensitive.

      For more details on how to use Branch Basics on all types of flooring, check out: Branch Basics Ultimate, Guide to Non-Toxic Floor Cleaning (it’s easier than you think!).

      Marilee Nelson

      Marilee Nelson

      Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.