Guide on Cleaning Old Wood Floors Without Refinishing

September 18, 2022

Cleaning & polishing the hardwood floor.

A question that you would often hear from hardwood floor owners is, “Why regular maintenance of hardwood floors is better than total repair?” The answers to this question, of course, are pretty obvious. First, it is the proactive thing to do with your hardwood floor. Moreover, regular maintenance is less costly than a major repair. It can prolong the lifespan of hardwood floors without necessarily spending more on expensive repairs. 

Regular maintenance of hardwood floors, of course, necessitates knowing which formulations and materials you should use in regularly cleaning the hardwood floors. It also requires knowledge of the substances you should not use on your hardwood floors. 

Refinishing, of course, is the best way to keep the original look of your hardwood floors. Yet, such a task requires sanding, staining, and sealing. It is a time-consuming and messy job that might take several days to finish. Moreover, it is expensive. On the other hand, regular maintenance will save you the hassles involved in refinishing but would allow you to maintain the original look of your hardwood floors over time.

Steps on Clean Old Wood Floors Without Refinishing

If it is your first time cleaning your old wood floor, you might be at a loss as to how to go about the cleaning process. Below is a rundown of the simple steps you can follow to achieve a perfect cleaning of an old wood floor without refinishing your floors:

Step 1: Begin with Thoroughly Sweeping the Floor

The main thing you should do is to sweep and vacuum your hardwood floors. These tasks, of course, should be done regularly. Once done with sweeping the floors, you can begin with the other steps in maintaining your hardwood floors.

Sweeping and vacuuming regularly can prevent minor scratches due to dust and dirt swept by foot traffic. These minor scratches can dull the look of your hardwood floors.

Step 2: Clean the Hardwood Floor Finish

After sweeping the floors thoroughly, you can check for minor damages like holes and dents. You can also examine if there are insect-infected and damaged boards due to termite attacks. You can also check if there are protruding or loose nails. 

You can maintain the wood floor by using floor polish that suits the finish type of the floor. If the hardwood floors got a polyurethane finish, you need to apply wood-floor polish. But if it got a wax finish, you also need to use a wax finish. 

You must choose a wood stain that corresponds to the color of the present finish of the floor. Besides, you can restore the appearance of your hardwood floor by recoating the floors. To recoat means to apply an additional layer of protection that matches the present finish of the hardwood floors. Recoating, of course, is faster and easier than total refinishing. 

You can also enhance the tone of the wood floor by spraying the wood floors with a unique concoction of vodka, essential oil, and olive oil. You can also add lemon and lemongrass for additional scents. Using this concoction, you can begin spraying on a small part of the floor and dry the droplets using a microfiber mop.

Step 3: Polish Your Hardwood Floors

Another thing you should do is polish your hardwood floor. Sweeping and vacuuming will not bring out the desirable result afterward. So, it will be best to polish the floors by polishing them with wax to smoothen the floor surface. You can fill in with wax polish the minor scratches to ensure that they are not obvious. 

The application of polisher is different from cleaning using hardwood floor cleaners. You need to pour the polisher onto the floors and use your mop to spread the polisher. You should also mop to prevent buildup on the hardwood floor. Besides, if you feel that cleaning isn’t sufficient for making the floor look good, you need to polish it. 

You can cover the holes and scratches with the use of polishing solutions. Let the polishing ingredients dry. Moreover, polishing should be done every two to three months to ensure that the hardwood floors maintain their excellent look and shine.

Cleaning Options for Old Hardwood Floors

Aside from knowing the simple steps on how to clean old hardwood floors, it will be helpful likewise to familiarize yourself with the following cleaning options and solutions you can use on your hardwood floors:

1) Commercial Floor Cleaners

Commercial wood cleaners especially the hardwood floor refinishing kits are an excellent option to get rid of scuff marks and soil particles. These commercial cleaners don’t cause fading or damage to the wood floors. One example of commercial wood floor cleaners is the Bruce Floor Cleaner. This formulation is perfect for hardwood floors. Hence, it won’t leave a film on your wood floor surface. It also doesn’t emit a foul odor.

Nevertheless, you should not use this product on oil or wax-based finishes. Instead, you can use the Bona Floor cleaner if your wood floor is finished with oil or wax finishing. This wood finisher is also easy to use and doesn’t leave a residue. 

You can spray both the Bona and Bruce cleaners onto the floor and mop the floor afterward using a microfiber mop. Both these products also provide fantastic results and are affordable.

2) Homemade Wood Floor Polish

Instead of buying a wood polisher, you can also concoct your homemade wood floor polish. In this way, you can restore the old finish of your hardwood floor without using toxic formulation. To create your formulation, you can mix two spoons (olive oil) and a spoon of distilled white vinegar. Mix these ingredients in two warm water cups. 

Likewise, you can mix with your formulation lemongrass essential oil to do away with pet urine odors. Once mixed, this solution will be very effective in restoring the glossiness of your wood. Spray the solution onto the floors and wipe using a microfiber mop.

3) Diluted Vinegar

Although vinegar is acidic, you can mix it with water to lower its acidity. It can be an effective cleaner solution with decreased acidity levels for old hardwood floors. You can use the vinegar solution to remove debris, grime, dirt, and other gunk sticks from the wood floors. 

But before using your vinegar solution, you should ensure that you vacuum or sweep the floor. You can mix warm water with vinegar, using half a cup vinegar and half a-bucket warm water. Stir to combine the water and vinegar well. Afterward, add six drops of essential oil like olive oil or lavender oil to produce that good scent.

You should use a mop to apply the solution and put the mop inside the bucket. Wring the mop out to remove excess water. Once done with wringing out the mop, you can mop the floor, ensuring that the debris and dirt get removed. 

If the mixture gets dirty, you can do away with the dirty mixture and remix a new solutions. You can also use a clean and absorbent towel to remove excess water.

4) Castile Soap

The castile soap is made from organic plant extracts and vegetable oil. This soap helps in revitalizing the floor. It cleans the scuff marks and stains off and brings back the original sheen of the wood floor. 

It is easy to use likewise. You only need to mix a spoonful of this soap and four cups (lukewarm water). Then stir to combine. You can also spruce this concoction with several drops of essential oil to do away with foul odors.

5) Black Tea

Another excellent concoction you can use to clean grime and dirt is black tea. It removes dirt from hardwood floors and leaves the floor shiny. To prepare this concoction, you need to boil 4 cups of water. Once the water boils, you can add three to four bags of black tea. 

Let the tea bags steep for up to twelve minutes. Once done with steeping, you can remove the tea bags and dip a cotton cloth onto your solution. Then, wipe the stained spots down the wood floor to remove grime and dirt. 

6) Diluted Lemon Juice

You can mix lemon juice and olive oil with warm water in a bucket. The olive oil will make the floor shine, while the lemon can remove grime and dirt. Then, you can soak your cotton mop into the cleaning solution and wring out the head to remove excess water. 

You can also use a spray bottle to control the amount of solution you will apply onto the floor. Afterward, you can use clean towel to remove excess water.

7) Baking Soda and Vinegar

You can mix an equal amount of baking soda and vinegar to create a paste. This paste will serve as an effective solution for removing dark spots and marks. It can also restore finishes to their former look sans scrubbing. You can apply the paste onto the stained area using a cloth or sponge. 

Let the paste sit there for a time until it dries. Once the paste has dried, you can wipe it using a clean towel. You can also spray olive oil, essential oil (fifteen drops of lemongrass and lemon), and a cup of vodka. Using a microfiber, you can dry the paste.

How to Maintain the Deteriorating Wood Floors

Anything that gets subjected to constant use and friction must be maintained regularly. Similarly, hardwood floors will see much foot traffic over time. Thus, the floors must be maintained periodically. Below are the simple steps you can engage in to prolong the lifespan of your hardwood floors:

Wipe Liquid Spills Quickly

Most hardwood floor damages are due to ink, coffee, juices, tea, paint, and chemical spills. Pet urine and poops can also damage the hardwood floors if left uncleaned. So, once you’ve spilled something onto the hardwood floors, ensure that you wipe the spills quickly. 

In this way, the liquid will not seep into the fibers and grains of the wood. You can use a damp cloth to remove the spills. Make sure that the mop doesn’t get saturated with the liquid. 

Vacuum or Sweep the Floor Regularly

The trick to keeping your hardwood floors shiny is to clean them regularly. You can use a broom, mop, or vacuum to clean the floor regularly. Make sure you have a complete kit for the cleaning process. The vacuum cleaner, of course, is a faster way of cleaning the hardwood floors.

By cleaning the floors daily, you can prevent the onset of more scratches because dirt and dust, when stepped upon, might cause minor scratches on the floor. Hence, if you sweep the floor daily, you prevent the development of minor blemishes that could become obvious over time. 

Sweep or mop the floor in the wood grain’s direction to prevent the grime and dirt from settling in the cracks. Lastly, it would help to utilize a soft-bristled broom when sweeping the floor.

Mop the Hardwood Floors Using Hardwood Cleaner Every Month

It will be best to choose cleaners meant for hardwood floors at the onset. You should avoid vinegar, ammonia, and other products that carry harsh chemicals. You should also not use water-based hardwood floor cleaners. 

You can damage the hardwood floors if you use wet mops more often. If you think your hardwood floor was not finished well, you should also refrain from using a wet mop. Instead, use a mop that is a bit damp. 

Spray a tiny amount of cleaner onto the hardwood. Then, wipe the floor using a dust mop or dry cloth mop. You can remove stains, spots, and scuff marks using mineral spirits. Afterward, mop thoroughly the location or area.

You Should Refrain from Sanding Unless it is Really Needed

It will be best to apply wax or utilize a microfiber pad for buffing to make the floor’s luster last longer. If the hardwood is already twenty years old or older, you should refrain from sanding. You should only sand if the hardwood floor exhibits many stains and marks that you can’t remove using mineral spirits.

Rely on the Opinion of the Experts!

If you are not sure about what to do with your hardwood floors’ cleaning and restoring process, it will be best to consult the experts. The experts can provide you with the necessary pieces of advice on how to clean and restore your hardwood floors. Their opinions will save you from making costly mistakes in the refinishing or restoring of your hardwood floors.


Cleaning hardwood floors is not that complicated. But it will surely help if you know the steps on how to do it and the cleaning options for hardwood floors. Knowing how to maintain your hardwood floors regularly can help you avoid significant damages to your hardwood floors. Besides, you can save more on regular maintenance than on making substantial repairs to your hardwood floors. 

However, if you fail to engage in regular cleaning and maintenance, chances are, the minor damages might balloon into significant damages that require refinishing. Refinishing, of course, is time-consuming and messy. It also requires sanding which might take several days to accomplish. So, if you don’t want to engage in refinishing, it will be best to engage in regular maintenance.

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