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Should You Use Vinegar, Baking Soda, or Hydrogen Peroxide on Hardwood Floors?

Which DIY Cleaners are Safe for Your Hardwood Floors?

So, in our post Keeping Your Hardwood Floors Beautiful, we gave you some advice about general maintenance of your wood floors—vacuum or sweep regularly, never damp mop, clean up spills right away—but there are some messes that take a little something extra and there is a lot of advice on the internet about how to clean them.  Below are some things you should consider before trying any of these DIY remedies.

Tip #1: When trying something new, always remember to test it out in a small, less visible area before tackling the whole stain.

You will probably also want to wait a few days between testing and wider application to allow any chemical reactions to take full effect and to ensure the test spot has dried.

Tip #2: Seek advice from the experts.

If you know where your floor came from, the first step is always to find out from the manufacturer what products they recommend for your particular floor.  Because the exact composition of finishes and other treatments varies from floor to floor, the manufacturer is your best source of information on what products are least likely to cause damage.

In some cases, of course, it is difficult to know the origin of a hardwood floor, and, occasionally, even if you know, you may be unable to contact the manufacturer.  In these cases, try to find a product recommended by hardwood floor­—not cleaning—experts.  Many of the products on the shelves, even many of those that specify “safe for hardwood floors”, can actually cause damage or leave very stubborn residue on your floors.  Likewise, there are many cleaning solutions that, while effective at removing stains, can also remove finish or cause damage that will only become noticeable over time.

Talking to a hardwood floor expert can save you time, hassle, and money and will often spare you the pain of further damage.  Plus, many hardwood floor distributors and installers have used their years of experience with all manner of flooring to develop cleaning products, like MacDonald Hardwoods’ Easy Hardwood Floor Cleaner, that has been tested again and again and proven safe and effective on a wide range of flooring.

Tip #3: Know the risks.

Of course, here at Macwoods, we are best qualified to tell you about the risks to your floors.  For information on the impact of specific products on your health and the environment, you can check out the Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Household Products Database.


Baking Soda on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses: Removal of pet odor, prevention of pet stains when urine is fresh
  • Risks: Low-risk for dry baking soda, though it can be abrasive and must be thoroughly removed after use; many cleaning sites recommend a wet baking soda solution, but this carries with it all of the drawbacks related to moisture.
  • Recommendation: Can be very effective for soaking up potential stains; not recommended as a wet solution

Verdict: Use with Caution


Vinegar/ Ammonia on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses: Mixed with water for general cleaning; used in higher concentration to removes stains.
  • Risks: Can dull the finish on the hardwood over time; can leave a subtle odor that may encourage pets to use the spot again.
  • Recommendation:  Not recommended.

Verdict: Unsafe


Hydrogen Peroxide on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses: Removal of pet urine stains and odor; removal of soaked-in stains from blood, wine, etc.
  • Risks: Will almost certainly cause discoloration to finish, stain, and possibly the wood itself.
  • Recommendation: Can be used to remove stains prior to sanding and refinishing if the original wood is not too dark or some visible discoloration is acceptable.

Verdict: Use With Caution

Learn more about the pros and cons of hydrogen peroxide on wood flooring.


Bleach (Including Wood Bleach) on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses: Stain removal
  • Risks: Any bleach is almost certain to cause discoloration.
  • Recommendation: Can be used to remove stains prior to sanding and refinishing if the original wood is not too dark.

Verdict: Use with Caution


Mineral Spirits on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses:  Removal of wax, glue, carpet backing and similar substances
  • Risks:  Tends to leave residue on finished flooring.
  • Recommendation:  Can be used effectively to clean up small spots; always clean the area thoroughly with hardwood floor cleaner after use.

Verdict: Safe

Some people love using Danish oil on Maple flooring.


Citrus-Oil Based Cleaners on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses:  Removal of sticky residues
  • Risks: Often leaves filmy residue and can dull finish over time, but is great for floors that aren’t exposed to sunlight through a large window or door.
  • Recommendation:  Preferable to use mineral spirits.

Verdict: Safe

For related information, read about the benefits of using citrus oil on hardwood floors.


Floor Polish on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses:  Creation of high-gloss shine
  • Risks:  Residue will build up over time creating a layer of sticky film that becomes increasingly difficult to keep clean and almost impossible to remove.
  • Recommendation:  Do not use floor polish, even those labeled for use on hardwood floors, on finished wood flooring.

Verdict: Unsafe


Tri-Sodium Phosphate (TSP) on Hardwood Floors

  • Common uses: Heavy-duty cleaner used to remove residue like that left by non-recommended cleaners and polishes
  • Risks:  Will often remove finish as well.
  • Recommendation:  Should only be used in preparing a floor for sanding and refinishing, preferably by a professional.

Verdict: Use with Caution

Learn more about the right way to use TSP on hardwood floors.


Scrubbers (Steel Wool, etc.) on Hardwood Floors 

  • Common uses: Removal of stuck-on messes or set-in stains
  • Risks: Will scratch finishes and, potentially, wood if the finish is thin.
  • Recommendation:  Best to avoid if possible; can be used for removing stains from floors that are to be refinished.

Verdict: Use With Caution


Steam Cleaners on Hardwood Floors 

  • Common uses: General cleaning, cleaning surface stains
  • Risks: Causes rapid and frequent changes in the moisture content of flooring, causing grain ridges, cracking, and separation of finish from wood.
  • Recommendation:  Never use steam to clean a wood floor, even if the product claims to be safe for hardwoods.
According to Riley Ellis, a cleaning professional from London, most manufacturers will say anything to convince you in buying a steam cleaner and you should always figure out if the type of material you have could or could not stand the moisture, especially steam. 

Verdict: Unsafe


Final Thoughts

The experts at MacDonald Hardwoods are always available to answer your hardwood questions.  Give us a call to discuss your project at 888- 459-4735.