May 6, 2020

How to Clean Hard Surface Floors

Everyone loves a clean floor, right?  We might all have different methods for cleaning our floors but finding just the right combination of products and tools is magic and makes the chore of floor cleaning just a little more enjoyable. I love testing out products to recommend to you – this post is a result of my extensive testing.

Before I clean the floors, I always start by dry dusting or vacuuming to get rid of crumbs and dirt. If you have pets or a lot of dust, you may want to follow up with a quick sweep using a microfiber based floor duster. If you follow the Clean Mama Routine, Wednesdays are Vacuuming Day and Thursdays are Floor Washing Day.  This post shows how you can split these days up too if you are interested.

Why do I wash floors on Thursdays?

I wash floors on Thursdays because all the hard floors were thoroughly vacuumed the day before on Wednesday. I realize that it would be even more thorough to vacuum and wash floors all on the same day, but that takes so much time, don’t you agree? So, years ago when I was developing my cleaning routine, I split it up and vacuum on Wednesdays and wash floors on Thursdays. Do I have to re-vacuum on Thursdays? No. I do CHECK FLOORS before I wash the floors but rarely do I need to re-vacuum. Any re-vacuuming is minimal and it is usually under the kitchen table or around the island.

Favorites:

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about what tools I use for washing floors. Here are my favorites on my favorites page and you can also see my favorites on Amazon as well. Truth be told, my favorite method is with a microfiber cleaning cloth – especially in the bathrooms because I think you can get a better clean but most weeks I only have time for a quick wash and mops are great for that!

Daily Maintenance:
Every day of the week I have ‘check floors’ as part of my routine. This means that after meals we check the kitchen floor and sweep or vacuum as needed. If I see something on an another floor in the home, I do a quick sweep or vacuum. This checking of the floors is something that I do, my husband does, and the kids will also grab a broom and help out. It’s not intended to be a full-on floor sweeping or vacuuming, it’s a daily dirt clean up. With 3 kids and 2 dogs, this is necessary.

We recently re-did our first floor floors and have hardwood throughout. I’ve found that these dusting mops are really helpful to clean the floors quickly. The microfiber and cotton mops on 1 and 2 can be used dry or barely damp, the wool dusting mop is intended to be used dry. I also use these products for cleaning walls too – they’re great multi-purpose items. You can see all my favorite floor cleaning products on my Amazon page here.


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The mop that I use the most is a microfiber mop – here are 3 of my favorites.  I use them with and without a DIY spray cleaner (keep reading for my favorite recipe). A microfiber mop works great for quick touch ups – just dampen the microfiber pad. They also work well with a cleaner – both DIY and purchased.


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Tip for Microfiber Mop Pad: Dampen the mopping pad before starting and add a drop or two of lemon essential oil to give your home an uplifting scent as you mop.

Here are a few other floor mops I’ve used and recommend if you want a floor cleaner. If you are looking for a steam mop that is multiple-purpose, I am loving the Dupray Neat Steam. I’ve been using it for tile floors, around toilets, to sanitize furniture and more. My favorite floor steamer is the Bissell Steam Mop – great for tile, vinyl, linoleum – it has different temperature settings for different floor types. The Bissell Crosswave is another great machine – works on any floor surface, has a wet/dry vacuum, and it can clean rugs. It takes a little more time to take it apart and clean after each use but the dirty water tank is pretty satisfying.

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ALL-PURPOSE FLOOR CLEANER

Try this DIY Recipe for ANY floor – this recipe is for a 16 oz spray bottle and is super easy to mix up. Use it in a spray bottle or in a refillable mop.

FLOOR CLEANING SPRAY

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 16 oz. spray bottle (HERE’S MY FAVORITE GLASS SPRAY BOTTLE + LABELS)
  • 1-2 drops of Sal Suds or castile soap (both can be found in my Amazon shop HERE)
  • 3-5 drops ESSENTIAL OILS if you’d like a little scent – some of my favorites are lemon + clove for the castile and pine + lemon for the Sal Suds (it has a pine-y scent already)

My favorite application for deep cleaning is with a spray bottle and microfiber cloth but you can also spray and use a microfiber mop or spray mop (you can see my favorites here) or pour the solution into a small bucket and wipe up with a microfiber or cleaning cloth or with a mop.

HARDWOOD FLOORS:

Before using any cleaner, make sure that your hardwood floors are sealed. How to clean your wood floors is not always dependent on the kind of wood but rather the finish that is on them. If you aren’t sure what sort of finish is on your floors, check with the manufacturer. I prefer to use a refillable or microfiber mop versus a steam mop on my hardwood floors. While many people love the ease of a steam mop, my personal preference is to play it safe and use a more gentle, less moisture approach with a damp microfiber mop – just use a spray floor cleaner and spray and wipe you go.  I also use a refillable spray mop with a microfiber pad.

UNFINISHED OR BAMBOO FLOORS:

If you have unfinished, waxed, or bamboo hardwood floors, the best approach is to use a barely damp (with water) microfiber mop pad. Always check with your manufacturer’s instructions first.

COMMON ISSUES:

If you are using a microfiber pad, dampen it before starting and rinse often while washing the floors. If you have streaks with a steam mop and rinsing the mop head frequently doesn’t solve the problem, you might need to use distilled water (purchase by the gallon at your local grocery or drug store). If you have hard water the minerals in your water may be contributing to streaking and residue on your floors.

FAVORITE CLEANERS:

When it comes to just what brand or formulation of floor cleaner I prefer, I like to give a range of options and solutions. Some people love making their own cleaners while others prefer the pre-mixed, ready to go options. I only recommend products that are non-toxic and safe to use around people and pets, but these are all products that I use and love.

If you are looking for the most economical and green choice, then making your own cleaner is the way to go.

Vinegar-based floor cleaning recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 gallon of warm water
  • 2-3 drops essential oils (I love lemon or lemon and clove for my hardwood floors)

I mix this up using the same ratio in my refillable floor mop:

  • 3 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 16 ounces of warm water
  • 1-2 drops essential oils (I love lemon or lemon and clove for my hardwood floors

If you prefer the convenience of pre-made cleaners, there are many options to choose from. These recommended pre-made cleaners are all rated an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ on the EWG.com website. My favorite brands for performance and safe ingredients are ready to use – simply use the spray and mop method or pour into your refillable mop and clean away. Biokleen’s Multi-Surface  Floor Cleaner is a good pick if you have a variety of surfaces and Aunt Fannie’s Vinegar Floor Cleaner is a great pick if you like the smell of vinegar (don’t use on stone).  If you like a mop and bucket for washing floors (not my preference), you might like a spin mop. A popular and well-rated one is this one.

LAMINATE FLOORS:

One of the biggest complaints I hear about laminate floor cleaners is that all the commercial cleaners leave behind a sticky residue that attracts dirt and dust. My all time favorite laminate floor cleaner is a simple DIY cleaner using every day ingredients. Try out this recipe for an effective, economical solution to cleaning your laminate floors. Again, I prefer using a refillable mop for ease, but this solution can be mixed up and put into a spray bottle as well. The vinegar cleans and the rubbing alcohol aids in the drying and adds a sanitizing component. The combination is great for getting those floors perfectly clean. Laminate and water are not a good combination so you’ll want to use this in a spray format in lieu of a mop and bucket.

Mix equal parts of:

  • white vinegar
  • rubbing alcohol
  • water

I like to add several drops of peppermint essential oil for an invigorating and fresh scent. I mix up five ounces of each of three ingredients with 3-5 drops of essential oil to fill a 16 ounce spray bottle or to pour into a refillable mop. Grab this label in my shop!

TILE AND LINOLEUM FLOORS:

My favorite way to clean tile floors on a weekly basis is by using a steam cleaner. Steam cleaning is about as simple as it gets and uses just water to clean.  All it requires is a quick initial vacuum or sweep to remove dirt and crumbs and a couple minutes to heat the water.

If you prefer using an actual solvent based cleaner, I have several DIY recipes that are perfectly suited for tile floors. Both contain readily available household ingredients and are safe to use on any sealed tile floor. The Lemon and Peppermint Tile Cleaner is mixed and sprayed while the Citrus Tile Floor Cleaner is intended to be used for mopping. If you prefer not to use essential oil or don’t have any on hand, you can certainly eliminate them as they are mostly intended to just add scent.

Lemon and Peppermint Tile Cleaner:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 3 drops peppermint essential oil

Add the ingredients to a spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray thoroughly on tiles and allow to sit for 5-15 minutes. You can scrub if necessary, rinse and allow to air dry or dry using a clean cloth.

Citrus Tile Floor Cleaner:

  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1 gallon hot water
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops orange essential oil

Mix the Borax, water and essential oils in a mop bucket, stirring to dissolve. Mop as you normally do. Rinsing is usually not required. If your floors are extra dirty, you can add a drop or two of castile or dish soap to help cut the dirt. You may want to have a bucket of clean water on the side to rinse instead of using the cleaning bucket water. This will help eliminate streaking.

Please note: If you have marble, granite, or travertine tile you should not use vinegar, lemon, or anything acidic to clean them because the acid will etch the stone. Steam cleaners work well as does the Floor Cleaning Spray recipe in this post. You can also use the Stone Cleaning Spray on your floors or tile.

Once you’ve cleaned up your little or big mess, move on to more important things! I hope this post helps clear up some questions and gives you some ideas of methods and products that work!

Looking for more DIY Inspiration?

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Looking for more Cleaning Inspiration?

Get Access to Clean Mama's Free Quick Clean Printable

You'll also get access to the entire free printable library!