We’ve all likely seen the pirate movies with the good old swashbuckler swabbing the decks. With trusty spaghetti mop in tow, he’s doing his best to clean the wood floors on a tossing and turning ship.

As much fun as that may seem, don’t let that be you (well, at least not at home; if you want to tackle that task at sea, we say, go for it).

At home or at the office, wood flooring won’t respond well to buckets full of water. And that’s not the only error you can make when trying to get your floors spic and span.

Below are 5 common mistakes when cleaning wood floors.

1. You use the wrong type of cleaner.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash

If you’ve purchased a wood cleaner for furniture or for a project, we understand the temptation to also use this cleaner on your wood floor, thinking it’s going to be perfect. Forgive us for being the bearers of bad news, but you can’t assume that any type of wood cleaner is okay to use on floors. Bummer, we know. This includes oils, waxes, and furniture sprays.

These types of cleaning agents add chemicals to your floor’s surface. Oils and shine-enhancing products are not designed to go on wood flooring, and they can make the surfaces slick (watch out because accidents can happen!), and they can also be difficult to remove once applied.

Though the shine might be appealing, these oils and polishes are not a good match for a floor you are meant to walk on.

2. You are tempted to concoct a homemade recipe.

Photo by Daiga Ellaby from Unsplash

Plenty of YouTube videos out there tout the benefits of homemade cleaners, and this is popular thinking. The idea is that there is no need to grab a store-bought cleaner when you can use household items you already have to get those wood floors clean. Yes, this makes sense. But . . .

Propagators of this idea suggest various solutions that usually contain parts vinegar, ammonia, baking soda, water, and the list goes on. It is an admirable idea, but more times than not, these cleaners can cause damage. Vinegar and ammonia are effective cleaners for certain surfaces (like dirty countertops), but these ingredients are highly acidic and will scratch, dull and damage your floor’s finish.

3. You use too much cleaner or too much water.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Less is more.” When it comes to cleaning your wood floors, that is certainly the case regarding liquids.

We know folks who use too much cleaner or too much water, thereby creating a situation where the wood floors have too much moisture on them, which will cause problems as that water settles into the wood.

As mentioned above, the wet mop-and-bucket scenario is one you want to avoid, no matter how many times you’ve seen offices or schools use mops and soapy water on their wood flooring.

In addition to too much water, you want to avoid putting too much cleaner on the floor. More often, like with prefinished flooring, some of the cleaner (and possibly water) can get in and remain in the cracks and cause damage.

4. You don’t dry clean the floor first.

Photo by Heather Ford from Unsplash

It’s essential before you clean your wood floor to get up all the dry debris before you mop. You can use a broom, a dusting mop head or a hard-floor vacuum.

If you don’t do the dry clean first, then you won’t remove all of the dirt and hard debris from the floor. Thus, when you are pushing around the microfiber mop (we’ll tell you about microfiber mops here in a moment), you are pushing around abrasive materials, such as little rocks or sand. This is as if you are running large squares of sandpaper across your floor, and it will result in surface scratches.

5. You forget to be proactive.

Photo by Giorgio Trovato from Unsplash

This is an easy thing to forget.

After a long day of work, you may not think to (or wish to) drop your shoes at the door and slip into flip flops or slippers.

Some folks don’t put down rugs or mats at the entryways, and that’s another problem. Without these types of dirt-stoppers, then when you walk in, you introduce dirt and debris from outside.

Also, if you don’t put protective pads on furniture, then you can get into trouble. When you rearrange a room, or when you move the furniture to clean, the sofa or table will scratch the floor. Everyday use of seating often moves the furniture. As you repeatedly stand and sit, potential scratching can occur. (Made even worse if outside debris is underneath your chair!)

How to properly clean your wood floor.

n light of the “don’ts,” let’s talk about the “dos.”

Always use the correct type of cleaner. No matter what brand it is, you need to use a manufacturer-recommended wood flooring product. These specific cleaners are engineered to work well with your floor’s finish and protective coating. Also, trust the manufacturer—don’t try to make up your own recipe!

Before you start cleaning, make sure to vacuum, sweep or dry dust. You want to get up all the dust bunnies and hard debris. Dry mop pads for your mop head are great ways to dry-clean quickly.

Ideally, use small rugs, take your shoes off at the door and use protective pads for your furniture.

You don’t need a bunch of water when you clean. Follow the directions on your floor cleaning product. Likely, you will pre-wet your mop pad with the actual cleaner itself (not water), then you will mist the floor lightly while using the microfiber mop. Ultimately, you will need to use very little product to be effective.

When it’s time to mop, bust out your microfiber mop. But first, make sure your mop pads are clean before you use them. We recommend our Real Clean Floors pads, which are machine washable, so they can be cleaned between uses.

Stay stocked up with mops and pads all year long.

Through our cleaning brand, Real Clean Floors, you can find all you need for properly cleaning your real wood floors.

Happy cleaning and happy spring!