How to Clean Old Hardwood Floors (Shine without Refinishing)

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When it comes to restoring the shine of wood floors, homeowners often prefer to refinish their wood floors. However, you don’t always have to go through the lengthy and messy process of sanding, staining, and resealing your aging wooden floor surface.

More often than not, cleaning the floor with a wood floor cleaner or revitalizer will get the job done. And for minimal environmental impact, you should go for natural wood floor cleaners and polish.

Can I Clean old Wood Floors without Refinishing

Hardwood floor refinishing is usually considered the most effective way to restore the original look of hardwood flooring. The process typically involves sanding the hardwood surface, followed by staining and sealing.

However, floor refinishing is a messy and time-consuming process. A floor refinishing project typically takes several days and is quite expensive considering the equipment required and labor costs involved. Thus, if you’re working on a budget or limited free time, your best option would be to clean your old hardwood flooring without refinishing it.

Cleaning Old Wood Flooring by Sweeping

The fastest and easiest way to clean old hardwood surfaces is by sweeping. And even if you’re going for a thorough cleanse using a commercial or natural cleaner, sweeping should be the first step. Sweeping old hardwood floors will get rid of surface dirt, dust, and debris.

To keep your hardwood floor in pristine condition, you should sweep it at least three times per week. A commercial floor sweeper such as a Swiffer Sweeper will get the job done.

Cleaning Old Hardwood Flooring using a Commercial Wood Floor Cleaner

Commercial cleaners that are specially made for wood surfaces are effective at getting rid of soil particles and scuff marks caused by furniture and pet claws. What’s more, unlike universal cleaners that might cause fading, wood floor cleaners won’t cause any damage to your wood flooring planks.

One of the best commercial wood floor cleaners on the market right now is Bruce Hardwood and Laminate Floor Cleaner. This product is specially formulated for hardwood floors, thus won’t leave any residue film on top of your wood floor surface. Even better, Bruce cleaner has a mild odor that won’t cause discomfort after you’re done cleaning the floor.

However, this product isn’t meant to be used on wood floors with wax or oil-based finishing. If you have a waxed or oiled wood floor, we recommend using Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner instead. This cleaner is also residue-free and easy to use.

To restore the shine of your wood floor using Bruce or Bona cleaners, simply spray the solution onto the floor as you wipe it along with a microfiber mop. Both products offer great value for money, as they’re rather affordable.

Cleaning Old Wood Floors using Multi-Surface/Universal Cleaners

When using universal cleaners on your wood floor, check to ensure that it’s ammonia-free. Ammonia is a harsh chemical substance. As such, ammonia-based cleaners will cause your hardwood surface to fade and leave it with a dull appearance.

A good example of an ammonia-free multi-purpose cleaner that’s effective on wooden flooring is Windex Ammonia-Free Universal Cleaner. It works just like the special cleaners discussed above. Simply spray the floor surface and run it over with a microfiber mop.

No additional water is needed when using Windex. This helps to minimize the chances of water damage caused by water pooling on the wood surface for too long during cleaning.

How to Naturally Clean and Shine Old Wood Floor

i. Naturally Clean Old Hardwood Floor using Diluted Vinegar

Acidic vinegar is great at dislodging dirt, dust, and grime from old, dirty wood floors. What’s more, it’s a natural floor cleaner, thus doesn’t pose any risks to the environment or house occupants. However, in its concentrated form, vinegar is too strong and may cause irreversible damage to your wood surface.

To effectively clean your old wood floor using vinegar, mix two spoons of white vinegar with 2.5 gallons of warm water inside a mop bucket. You can also add olive oil into the mixture for extra shine.

Dip a mop into the solution and wring it before wiping the wood floor surface. Repeat this until you’ve cleaned up the entire wood floor. Once done, use a dry piece of cloth to soak up any excess water that could damage the wood planks.

ii. Naturally Clean Old Hardwood Floor using Diluted Lemon Juice

Just like vinegar, lemon juice is also acidic, and will effectively dislodge built-up dirt and grime off the surface of your hardwood floor. To use lemon juice on wood floors, simply mix two teaspoons of lemon juice with a gallon of water inside a mop bucket. You can add olive oil to give your wood floor a glossy look.

Mop the floor with the mixture and dry off excess water with a dry towel. Alternatively, you can transfer the lemon juice solution into a spray bottle and spot-clean your wood floor by spraying then wiping using a dry towel.

iii. Naturally Clean Old Hardwood Floor using Vinegar and Baking Soda Paste

For spot-cleaning of pet urine stains and scuff marks on your old hardwood floor, vinegar and baking soda paste are your best option. Simply mix vinegar and baking soda to an oatmeal-like consistency. Then, apply the paste directly onto the stains or spot marks.

Let the paste sit on the stains for a few minutes before wiping off the paste and stains using a cotton swab or paper towels. The main advantage of this natural cleaning method is that it doesn’t leave behind any standing water. As such, you won’t have to worry about moisture damage to your wood planks or mold growth after cleaning.

Remedies to Shine Old Wood Floor Naturally

While cleaning your wood floor using the aforementioned methods will certainly get rid of dirt, dust, and allergens, it may not be enough to restore the original gloss of the floor. As such, to restore the shine of hardwood flooring, many homeowners shine their old wood floors using polyurethane revitalizers.

However, these chemical-based revitalizers contain toxic ingredients that can impact the environment and the health of house occupants. A safer alternative is to use natural wood floor revitalizers, as discussed below.

Homemade Wood Floor Polish

A homemade wood floor polish will effectively restore the gloss of your aging wood floor without any toxic side effects. To make a homemade wood floor polish, mix two spoons of olive oil with a spoonful of distilled white vinegar and two cups of warm water.

You can also add lemongrass essential oil into the solution to eliminate any pet urine odors. Once done, shake the mixture. Then, transfer the solution into a spray bottle before spray mopping the hardwood floor with a microfiber mop.

Castile Soap

Made from vegetable oil and other organic plant extracts, Castile soap is another great natural floor revitalizer. It’ll not only clean stains and scuff marks off your wooden floor, but will also bring back the floor’s original gloss.

To make this natural floor polish, mix a spoonful of Castile soap with four cups of lukewarm water and stir the mixture. You can also add a few drops of essential oil to the mixture to eliminate any lingering floor odors.

Black Tea

Black tea contains tannic acid which not only cleans dirt and grime from hardwood surfaces but also leaves the floor surface with a shiny finish. To use this natural floor polish on your wood floor, boil four cups of water before adding 3-4 black tea bags into the boiling pot. Then, let the tea bags steep for 10-12 minutes.

After the steeping time elapses, remove the black tea bags and dip a cotton cloth into the solution. Next, wipe down the stained spots on the wood floor using the cotton cloth.

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Joe McGuinty
I’ve been working with floors for over 12 years. I started as a flooring contractor, primarily in materials selection. Then, I switched careers into accounting, so my wife and I began buying, renovating, and re-selling homes on the side. You’d be surprised how much value you can add to a home simply by adding new floors.

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