Update: Washing Hardwood Floors with Vinegar

I’ve been washing my hardwood floors with vinegar and water for a couple months now.  Sometimes with a bucket and sometimes with a mop (I like the Rubbermaid Reveal mop).  My preferred method (for results, not knees) is the getting down on my hands and knees method.    (You can see my original post here, if you are interested.)  I am not a fan of the ‘just pickled’ smell that my house has after washing the floors, so I took to the comments and tried adding a little essential oils to my water/vinegar solution.  No vinegar smell before, during or after the floor washing – yay!
It’s super simple, here’s what you’ll need…..
  • I use a bucket of clean, plain water (for rinsing the dirty cloths during floor washing)
  • a bucket with hot water and vinegar (I use the ratio of 1/2 cup white vinegar to 1 gallon of warm/hot water)
  • a drop or two of essential oils added to the water/vinegar solution – I like this brand and I use a combination of lemon and orange or lemon and clove
  • microfiber cloths – I use three or four as I wash the floors – for drying and when the cloths get dirty
 It’s been almost 2 months since I posted about this method – anyone trying it out?


  1. Hi Becky, I have been using vinegar for a few months now on my bamboo floors and I love it. Very effective getting out food spills and stains (I have two girls under 4 yo). I prefer the hands and knees method … One hand wiping with the vinegar, the other drying it up….like the karate kid ‘wipe on, wipe off’!! The vinegar here (australia) isn’t too bad so I dont mind the smell but might try adding some oils to it. I don’t dilute.. Just straight vinegar in a spray bottle.

  2. Great tip! I will definitely do this.

  3. If you’ve got a pet cat, be wary about using essential oils on the floor. It’s quite toxic for them. The cannot metabolise certain components of the oil and it can build up and prove fatal.

    Considera hydrosol instead.

  4. I have actually been cleaning hardwood floors for vinegar and water solution for a year or more and I really like it. I don’t mind the smell, it goes away right after it dries in about 5 minutes.

    Vinegar is really good for tons of household cleaning, I add it to laundry and bathrooms and all sorts of rooms. It’s cheap and works better than anything I have found.

    I also use the Rubbermaid mop, I don’t LOVE it, but it’s the best I’ve found so I keep using it. The mop with vinegar and water is the only system I have that cleans hardwood well. I would recommend this to anyone. My cousin uses a Norwex system with good results too.

  5. I wash my floors with the two bare feet and two microcloths method. Wet your microcloths and put one under each foot and wash with your feet. Better than a mop but not as tough on your knees as the hands and knees method.

  6. WOW I love this post. When we moved in our new home 7 years ago we asked the place where we got our hardwood flooring from what to use on our floors. They gave us 2 options BONO floor cleaner(which is very expencive) or vinegar water. I chose the vinegar option & have used it exclucively since. The smell goes away real quick. I have started using other options for cleaning w/ vinegar in the past few months. Baking soda is also another great cleaner. I usually use a mop simply because I have bad knees & a bad back & it cleans great. Use one that you can wash the mop head after a couple uses. also just found your blog & enjoying it:)

    • Thanks Karen! I have a terrible back! Two failed back surgeries! I have been cleaning for others for over 30yrs until the last year. I have loved my work and clients! I found that the O Cedar mop that twists off the handle is the best mop ever! It is a micro fiber mop that can be put in the laundry with towels and washes up nicely! I also use vinegar and water with just a touch of dawn. Just a little! Good luck with your back! I love this blog too!

      • I LOVE the O’Cedar mop, too!!! In fact, for some reason, I was worried it was being discontinued, so I bought two extra ones – although my original is still fine as ever, even the mop head after what must be 100 washings!

  7. I’m going to have to try this. When we first moved into our house we mistakenly used Orange Glo {HUGE mistake}as our floors still have orange glo grime on them despite using BONO floor cleaner for the last 3 years! I’ll have to try vinegar and water on my hands and knees to see if it works. Thanks for the tip!

  8. I know it probably works amazing but i dont know if i could stand the smell of vinegar. How long does the smell stay? I use this http://jessica230918.blogspot.com/2012/08/five-cleaning-products-everyone-should_27.html?m=0

  9. I use lemon vinegar. Just slice a lemon into a quart jar of vinegar and steep in the windowsill (or whereever) until the lemon loses it’s color and the vinegar is pale yellow. Strain lemon peel out and use lemon vinegar in place of “regular” vinegar in natural cleaning. (I’m guessing you could do this with any citrus fruit?!) There’s a slight vinegar smell, but if you add a few drops of lemon essential oil, it’s super fabulous!!!

  10. This is how my mom has always cleaned her floors, all hard surface floors not just hardwood. I grew up with it and when I got into my own home thought it would be fun to buy cleaners… Now I know why mom stuck with vinegar and water. I have never thought that the smell lingered once it was dry. Then again, although I don’t measure, I don’t think I use quite that much vinegar per gallon. I don’t have hardwood only tile and vinyl but I do NOT rinse after washing with vinegar water. Great Page!

  11. Can you use this on laminate hard wood flooring?

  12. Hardwood floors provide lots of benefits to house owners and homemakers. Apart from the aesthetic value, this type of flooring is durable and eco-friendly. And it can last for a long time, as long as it is properly maintained and cleaned. Another tip to make hardwood floors clean is vacuuming it regularly. Dirt, grit, and sand can cause damage on the material and reduce the longevity of the wood. And to avoid scratches, don’t use a beater vacuum brush.

  13. Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.


  14. I would love to know the brand of the buckets you have pictured. they look great!

  15. Caitlin says:

    Hi, I appreciate this tip & just got finished using vinegar water filled in my swiffer wet jet instead of the solution they provide. Now that it is dry, the floors have what seems to be whiteish streaks instead of being shiny. Would you happen to know why or have any solutions for this? Maybe from the swiffer pad? Any help would be great! I have company coming in a few days = )

    • Hi Caitlin!
      I’m guessing you have hard water and might need to use distilled water if you are mixing up a solution.
      Hope this helps!
      xo, Becky

  16. Great blog. Thank you! With multiple dogs in residence, I can vouch for the facecloths under the feet method, with hands & knees for the corners and edges. Swiffer cleaning solution has been correlated with heart murmurs in puppies. As a breeder of Tibetan Terriers, I want the most inert and natural approach to everything, when I have a pregnant dog in the house. Straight hot water with essential oil of lavender has been my fave to date — but vinegar is great as a rinse after bathing your dog and my floor guy raves about using a solution of it for regular floor care. I’m going to try it. And I’m going to add a few drops of essential oil to the solution. Thank you for all the info!

  17. I used Rejuvenate on my engineered wood floors and now I can’t get the streaks out. help!!! This product is awful.

    • Wash them a couple times and the streaks should leave – I think that Rejuvenate is water-based so it should eventually wear off. Sorry!
      xo, Becky

    • What else have you tried on engineered hardwoods? I’ve read to use vinegar solution and not to. HELP!

  18. hey I just finished cleaning my floor with vinegar and water (before I got on line today). I used a mop and glo product that left my hardwood looking awful. how can I get the “wax” buildup off my hardwood. I am so upset that I put this on my floors.

    • Maybe too much vinegar? Remember never use softener in the laundry when you wash your mopping pads, that causes a very dull look.

  19. Hi Becky, thanks for the great tip. I’ve used 2 different solution today in different areas, Dettol floor cleaner for my kids rooms and this new vinegar solution for my kitchen, dining & family areas. I added a few drops of tea tree oil. You can guess which solution leave the floors sticky. I’ll be sure to use the vinegar for cleaning my home, but I still have to finish off with the newly bought Dettol. Thank you.

  20. I l ove the idea of adding essential oils. I am trying it right now! Thank you!

  21. I wonder how this method would work on tile or lanolium floors. We don’t have hardwoods here- mostly carpet with a few areas of tile or vinyl flooring.

    As far as mops go, I found I like the Casabella microfiber “magnet” mop. I tried a few of their mops over the years and found this to the most dependable since the pads can be washed.

    • I use vinegar and water for my kitchen vinyl as well as my bathroom and entrance way ceramic tile. It is also my go to for kitchen counters. I’ll be trying it on my hardwood floors as well.

  22. I have bamboo floors and have tried the vinegar method only to find that it leaves streaks and a slight film on top, not a gleaming shine. I have also tried just hot water and this also leaves streaks. I would get down on my hands and use a mibrofibre cloth but have a very large area. My family do not wear shoes inside the house and sweaty feet and socks leave horrible imprints so that my floor always looks dirty and full of foot prints. Any solution to help keep my floors shining would be seriously appreciated.

    • Have you tried Bona floor wash? That might work better on the bamboo for you. Or you could try distilled water instead of tap water – that could be leaving the streaks!
      xo, Becky

    • Fern Jeffries says:

      I have the same problem. Engineered bamboo flooring (Trillium) with high gloss finish that always looks streaky. I have tried Bona with minimal improvement. Any other suggestions? I’m at my wits end. The Trillium folks are of no help. Neither is Home Depot where I purchased the flooring.

    • I have the handscraped hardwood floors and have this same problem with the feet prints on my floors. I have used the vinegar & water solution & the Bona mop. My floors are only 1 year old his month & I feel like they have a film on them & really don’t know how to get them clean. I have never used anything on them but vinegar & water (with mop wrung out very good) & the Bona mop. I have researched & honestly don’t know what else to try 🙁
      I am a Young Living Essential Oils distributor….do you think the thieves cleaner would work? I have read where other YLEO have used it on their floors.

      • Ken Wallquist says:

        Try Murphy’s Oil Soap in water: Removed streaks, cleaned Bamboo floors, Dry within seconds, no footprints, leaves finish like new. Hands and Knees works best – dip, wring and wipe – all clean.

    • Same streaks and film on my bamboo floors! Have tried almost everything!

  23. I just had a mahogany floor put down.I have been researching how to mop it.a lot of people people said vinegar
    and water was the best.but there has been the few that says absolutely do not use it.Can you tell me why?

    • It depends on the type of flooring you have – I would ask find out what the flooring company or person that installed your floors recommends. If you use something other than what they recommend during the ‘warranty’ period you might void your warranty. That said, in my research and use, water and vinegar – with the correct ratio – is the best method on floors that it can be used on. (Waxed wood floors are a no-no)
      xo, Becky

  24. Jacqueline Ryan says:

    The man that installed my manufactured wood floor said to call his wife on how to clean the floor. She told me to use straight white vinegar in a spray bottle, no water. Is this ok or will it damage the floor,

    • I would not apply straight vinegar to wood floors – it’s too acidic on its own.
      xo, Becky

      • Jacqueline Ryan says:

        Thanks I will start using the white vinegar and water solution. The woman also said to use Apple cider vinegar if you wanted the floor to shine. What do you think about that ?

        • Personally, I’d stick to the white vinegar but you could try the apple and see what you think.
          xo, Becky

  25. Brittany says:

    Can I use this on laminate wood floors?

  26. Kendra G says:

    What a great post! I have been using vinegar and water on my floors and many other hard surfaces in our home for years and love the results. Although the vinegar smell no longer bothers me (it goes away once dry) I have recently started adding essential oils to my cleaning solutions and really enjoy the lingering scent they leave behind. My favorites are lavender, lemon grass, mint, and tea tree (especially for the added cleansing properties)! It’s great to see people choosing natural solutions rather than chemicals. Happy cleaning everyone 🙂

  27. O.k. I have hard wood dark cherry brazilian floors. The problem is every time I clean there are prints five min later from my kids feet or my dog. I am looking for solutions that keep the floor looking clean between weekly washes. Something that won’t show the footprints. Any suggestions? I wish we would have gone with a lighter floor but we can’t change that. 🙂

    • The only recommendation I have is to wear socks or slippers to keep the foot prints down a little bit – sorry!
      xo, Becky

  28. I have been quite a bit of research about the best way to clean hardwoods as we are moving to a house that has them throughout. I have found several sources that say not to use vinegar to clean them as they eat away at the finish, even if it’s diluted with water.

    I found this post very helpful – http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/reader-tip-the-best-way-to-cle-60991. Just an FYI.

    • It’s definitely a controversial subject, but I love how vinegar cleans hardwoods – the ratio to water is crucial. Great tips – thank you!

  29. Stacy Giddes says:

    Will this vinegar and water solution remove any odors (cig smoke, dog, cat,etc.) trapped in the wood?

    • It might help, but refinishing is probably the best way to remove those odors, unfortunately 🙁
      xo, Becky

  30. I use fantastic and Murphys oil soap. Spray the stain with fantastic and leave for about a minute then pour Murphys oil soap on it and wipe them together on the spot. Works wonders on animal pee stains. 🙂

    • I used Murphy’s oil soap after researching blogs several years ago and not being convinced to try vinegar. Recently had to have floors refinished due to renovation and discovered that Murphy’s oil reacts with sealant in such a way that floors had to be fully sanded, stained and resealed to remove all traces. With vinegar, a less expansive and expensive option was available, with only the patched area needing the full treatment. He said to use nothing but vinegar and water to clean, and mineral spirits on really tough spots. Lesson learned the hard way!

  31. Any recommendations for Dirty grout around tile? My tile always looks dull. will the vinegar bring back a luster?

  32. John Craft Jones says:

    Great info! I am a stickler for shiny bamboo floors, I use a old school dust mop with a touch of light lemon oil!!! Expensive bamboo really responds to this! S

  33. We bought a Lennar home with beautiful hardwood floors. I have been using bona cleaner and polish. Bona is a great product but it is very expensive. A friend told me that she uses vinegar and water. I tried it using a microfiber cloth and I cleaned the floor on my hands and knees. The floor defintely looked a lot cleaner. I think the vinegar and water is a better and cheaper option.

    • Kelly page says:

      We used bona for years and eventually felt like it left a film over time. Vinegar and water did the trick

  34. Bess Myers says:

    Spin mop is the best for a dryer mop and no touching the mop head needed.

    • I agree! I have the “original” spin mop. Saves your knees and your back since you can leave it in one place and run all over with the just spun mop. Spins out so much water, it does not drip, but there is enough to get your floors clean, clean, clean!

  35. Tina Deegab says:

    Thank you for the great tips for cleaning hardwood floors. I am going to try your solution right now. Go Raibh mile Maith agut. – Irish for a “thousand thanks”

  36. Hi, does this technique also work on ceramic floor tiles as I would love to try it out 🙂

  37. Hi
    I have tried the vinegar and warm water and it did clean the floor, but when I polished I still got streaks in some areas. I think my floor has too much polish residue on it that needs to be removed. I will welcome your advise.


  38. I use the shark steam cleaner mop & spray a mixture of half & half vinegar/water as I go. The steam & vinegar cleans my hardwood floors really well & it dries super fast so no moisture is left to seep into & water damage to the wood:)

  39. Can I use any essential oil? Like will using one over a citrus one mess up my floors? I was thinking Lavender or Juniper.

  40. Help!! One of my cats has been diagnosed with a multi resistant strain of a bacteria. I want to disinfect my house ASAP. I have a 13 month old baby. I have engineered hard wood floors and normally use Bona. Is vinegar a disinfectant?? If so, what ratio for cleaning. Thanks in advance:)

    • Vinegar can be a disinfectant but in this recipe there’s probably enough to disinfect your floors from you cat, sorry! What does your vet recommend?

  41. Mike Puncsak says:

    This white vinegar and water cleaning solution sounds like a winner IF and only IF your floors sealing is still good. Try a small area..add a small amount of solution.if the water/vinegar beads up-you are probably good to go HOWEVER…if that small amount spreads and begins to be absorbded by the wood.Then you face a refinishing project.

  42. A Cattan says:

    Please, please, don’t use essential oils if you havery a cat, they are all toxic to cats, especially tea tree oil which is deadly, their systems cannot process essential oils, I am an Animal Behaviorist, and have researched this subject in great detail, even if you rinse the floor thoroughly, there is still enough residue that is toxic, I like essential oils too, but don’t use them because they are toxic to cats and some are also toxic to puppies and dogs, I love natural and plant products, bUT please remember, just because something comes from nature doesn’t mean it is sake , just the tiniest part of a lily plant can cause kidney failure in cats, there are many, many toxic plants out there, even for us, think of belladonna,
    I Hope this helps you

  43. Jamie davis says:

    We just moved into a rental with badly stained hardwood floors. They have the potential to be pretty but I’m not sure what to try to make them nice. The last people had pets and even though we cleaned the house thoroughly I feel a lot of the lingering odor is in the floor. Please help.

  44. An addendum to the bare feet cleaning method if you like the idea but aren’t into slipping around on wet rags: Years ago, as a Mormon missionary, I served in Switzerland and Germany. My (American) companions and I swept the floor of our one-room apartment frequently, and felt that was fine. Then I got a German companion who believed in serious cleanliness. Because she was just coming across the country and didn’t have airline packing and weight restrictions, she brought cleaning supplies with her. She would soak a large rag in a cleaning solution, wring it out, spread it out on the floor, and put the mop on top of it (rectangular-type sponge mop). Then she’d press down hard and move the mop back and forth. Presto, clean floor with little bending and slipping! After the rag got dirty, she’d do the rinse/wring/soak in cleaning solution steps and repeat until the entire floor was washed. Worked very well, and I still do that occasionally today. Thanks, Sister Kersten!

  45. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to make my first vinegar water floor cleaming solution now (yay!).

  46. Sherrill says:

    I googled Bona for hardwood sanded and stained. Recommended not to use o a cleaner
    on them. Engineered ok.

  47. Linda Kamen says:

    Is vinegar and water ok to use when wood floors have been finished with polyurethane?
    We just returned rom New Orleans. We stayed in a beautiful old mansion/townhouse.
    The housekeeper was using vinegar and water on the beautiful old gorgeous floors!
    The floors were BEAUTIFUL. Before I try this “miracle” solution, I need to know the answer to the above question.
    The floors were stunning! Within minutes of being wet, they dried shiny and the the vinegar smell had dissipated
    completely! I couldn’t believe what I saw!

  48. You can make a citrus sage vinegar that takes away the vinegar scent. Just add an orange rind or two and a small bunch of sage leaves to a quart jar of vinegar. Let sit for ten days and strain. It adds to the cleaning and antimicrobial properties and smells good too!

  49. Doesn’t the acidity in the vinegar strip the protective coat on hardwoods? Most hardwood floor companies tell their customers not to use this method for this reason. I love cleaning with vinegar, I just don’t know about on hardwood floors.

  50. I have engineered floors & have developed a milky film that I can’t remove with anything I’ve tried, windex, vinegar, Bona, nothing works. Floor mfg suggested Bona, been using it for about a year, hasn’t helped. Any suggestions, PLEASE

  51. Very helpful, but can I use vinegar and water mixture on engineered flooring? Mine is Alterna/unilin flooring.by Armstong. Thanks

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