The best way to clean wood floors is hiding in your pantry.

By Amanda Lauren
Updated: May 16, 2019

Cleaning wood floors with vinegar is not only easy, it’s one of the best ways to get the job done. Residue from many commercial floor cleaners and the buildup of dirt, dust, and other unwanted debris can make wood floors look dull. If you’re wondering how to clean wood floors to make them shiny without leaving a film, the answer is vinegar.

When used properly, vinegar is completely safe on hardwood floors—but there are a few things you need to know.

Choose the Right Kind of Vinegar

Make sure you are using the right kind of vinegar. White vinegar is ideal for cleaning wood floors. You can also buy cleaning vinegar ($14; amazon.com), which generally has a higher concentration of acid than regular vinegar. If you need to clean your wood floors and don't have either one of these types of vinegar on hand, you can use apple cider vinegar as an alternative. Do not use red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Vacuum First

According to Jennifer Gregory, the brand manager of Molly Maid, cleaning wood floors with vinegar is very easy. The first step is to always vacuum first. “It is best to establish a weekly routine of vacuuming your floors, especially high-traffic areas like hallways,” she says.

If you have wood floors, a high-quality vacuum is imperative. The Dyson V11 ($600; amazon.com) is a cordless stick vacuum that easily fits into small spaces like narrow hallways or under tables and sofas. But perhaps one of the best features of this appliance is that it automatically adjusts for different types of flooring. No need to bend down or adjust a setting if you're transitioning from carpet to wood, tile, or other types of floors like laminate and linoleum.

Before you start cleaning, it’s important to check the underside of the appliance and make sure there isn’t any stuck-on debris that can potentially cause scratching. If there is, make sure you it's unplugged and clean it off entirely.

How to Clean Wood Floors With Vinegar

Once a month (or more often if necessary), wood floors should be mopped to deep clean the wood and make them shine, Gregory says. The O-Cedar Easy Wring Spin Mop ($35; amazon.com) is perfect for this purpose. The mop is soft and won’t scratch floors because it’s made of a microfiber blend. The triangle shape also helps to clean corners and other small areas. Additionally, it comes with a bucket that features a built-in device with a foot pedal to wring out the mop. No need to concern yourself with a mess, dripping, streaking, or accidentally using too much water, which can potentially seep into floors and ultimately cause damage.

Gregory suggests filling the bucket with a solution that contains one gallon of hot water and one cup of white vinegar. Don’t forget to mix! “Work the mop in an “S” motion, leading with the same side every time to catch the dirt, instead of spreading it around,” she says. Replace the dirty solution every time you move to a new room for maximum effectiveness.

Be careful not to overload your mop with the vinegar solution. “Never saturate your wood floors with water,” Gregory says. “Make sure to wring out the mop each time you dip it into your bucket.”

Once the floors are clean, use a floor polish or wax to make them really shine.

Natural Alternatives to Vinegar

While cleaning wood floors with vinegar and water is ideal, it isn’t the only natural option. If you like the cleaning power of vinegar but want to cut the smell, just add an essential oil, such as lemon. Lemon oil also helps to cut grease, which may be very useful if you’re trying to clean wood floors in a kitchen. It’s also a great disinfectant, which is something you may want to consider if you have pets that make your floors dirty.

Another way to clean wood floors naturally is with castile soap. Dr. Bronner’s ($18.50 for 2; amazon.com) is a great alternative to vinegar and has many other uses beyond household surfaces. It can be used in the shower in place of shower gel or traditional bar soap. You can also use castile soap to wash your laundry, instead of traditional detergent.

Another advantage of castile soap is that it smells great. Dr. Bronner’s is available in many different scents, including peppermint, cherry blossom, lavender, and green tea, along with an unscented version.

To clean floors using castile soap, mix 1/8 to 1/4 cup into a bucket of hot water. Then mop as you normally would. There's no need to rinse. Just be careful about using castile soap on waxed floors because it can potentially remove the wax.

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