Hardwood floors add timelessness to a home. They simultaneously create an air of character, warmth, and style. But unfortunately, they aren't the most low-maintenance floor material when it comes to cleaning.

There are tons of high-chemical cleaners lining the aisles of grocery stores that seem to get the job done in one fell swoop. But ingredients in those products, like ammonia, chlorine, and phosphates, can be harsh on the environment — and your family's health. It's better for you, your home, and our planet to go with a natural floor cleaner that's effective and gentle.

As far as filling up a bucket with water and a squirt of dish soap, hang on to your mops for a few minutes. The traditional hot, soapy water method of mopping isn't always the best practice for hardwood floors. Water and wood go together as well as cats and dogs… They just don't get along.

If water stands on hardwood floors for too long, it can get into the cracks and lead to warping and bending of the floors. While you do technically have to get the floors wet to clean them, you'll want to find a method that allows for them to dry quickly, resulting in a lower chance of damage.

Types of finishes on hardwood floors and how to clean them

Before you start cleaning, you need to know what type of finish your hardwoods have. Different finishes call for different cleaning methods.

Surface-sealed floors are sealed with polyurethane, polyacrylic, or urethane. Most new floors are surface-sealed, which means they're water- and stain-resistant. (Score!)

Do this:

To clean them, just sweep or vacuum to pick up any hair and dust. Next, fill up a bucket with warm water and squeeze in a small amount of natural dish soap to mop. A quarter cup of soap in a bucket of water is the perfect amount.

Not that:

Make sure you wring the mop out completely so it's only mildly damp — you don't want it to be soaking wet.

Varnished, lacquered, or shellacked floors are semi-resistant to water, wear, and stains.

Do this:

You can clean these with a natural multi-surface cleaner. This will gently remove any marks or spills, without resulting in damage to the floors.

Not that:

Cleaners with strong, synthetic chemicals might seem like the tougher approach to getting clean floors, but these can actually harm the wood and finish.

Laminate wood floors are made of manufactured wood, so they're a lot more durable.

Do this:

It's still best to choose eco-friendly cleaning products for laminate floors to keep harmful chemicals away from your home and family. You can either use a natural multi-surface cleaner or mop with natural dish soap-infused water.

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Not that:

Stay away from synthetic cleaners with ingredients you've never heard of or that are hard to pronounce.

Oil-treated and penetrating seal-treated floors are treated in such a way that the sealant seeps into the wood grain and sets.

Do this:

The only way to clean this type of finished hardwood is with a premium liquid or paste wax. Clean unfinished floors using the same method.

Not that:

Using water-based cleaners on these types of floors can cause irreparable damage, so stick to the wax method.

9 tips for protecting your hardwood floors from stains and other damage

In between cleaning days, it's smart to take care of your hardwood floors to protect them from lasting damage. Take a look at these simple tactics for keeping your floors in prime condition.

  1. If you spill anything on your hardwood floors (especially liquids), wipe it up immediately with a dry towel.
  2. In high-traffic areas of your home, as well as near sinks, place rugs to protect your floors from excessive wear and moisture.
  3. Under chair legs, place felt pads to protect your floors from scratching.
  4. If you have any pets, make sure their nails are trimmed to reduce scratches.
  5. Try not to wear high heels inside, as they can create small dents in your hardwood floors.
  6. Changes in color will naturally occur from sun and wear over time, but you can reduce drastic discoloration by closing blinds while you're gone or using sheer curtains.
  7. Rearranging your furniture once a year will also help minimize uneven aging.
  8. In places where there's a lot of foot traffic, you should try to sweep once a day and mop your hardwood floors at least once a week. For lower traffic areas, mopping once a month or once a season is sufficient. As always, please make sure to follow the guidelines we noted earlier based on the type of hardwood flooring you have in your home.
  9. Some people recommend mopping with just vinegar and water. While this is a natural approach, it's not as effective at fighting dirt buildup as using soapy water. Some schools of thought even say that vinegar dulls the sheen of hardwood floors over time. Opt for a using a gentle and natural dish soap.

Using Puracy Natural Dish Soap or Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner to spruce up your hardwood floors will not only maintain the integrity of their condition, but also benefit your family's health and the environment.

Final tip:

Want to reduce your carbon footprint and save money at the same time? We recommend using our 64 ounce Natural Dish Soap Refill Pouch, as well as our Natural Multi-Surface Cleaner Concentrate. By doing so, you'll save 90% in plastic, water and energy compared to our typical packaging, and you'll help us support our mission of maintaining a cleaner environment for generations to come.