3 Ways to Clean Hardwood Floors with Vinegar

When it comes to controversial cleaning topics, patient cleaning hardwood floors with vinegar is close to the top believe it or not.  If you are in the ‘it’s not safe camp’, you probably won’t like this post.  But in my research and years of personal cleaning experience, I believe that there are 3 basic and safe methods that can be used.


What’s the big concern with vinegar and hardwood floors?  Vinegar is an acid and hardwood floors need a pH neutral or close to it cleaner.  When mixed with water, the solution’s acidity is drastically lowered and it becomes an effective method to wash hardwood floors.  The vinegar and water mixture cuts through dirt and grime, leaving a streak-free and naturally clean floor.


3 Ways to Wash Hardwood Floors via Clean Mama
NOTE:  Cleaning floors with vinegar is merely my suggestion, please form your own opinion and try at your own risk.  If you are unsure, test in an inconspicuous spot.  These recipes are only for SEALED hardwood floors or pre-fabricated hardwood floors, not waxed or unfinished hardwoods.
I always I like to give my readers 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.  At the end of the post you’ll see some a post linked with other hardwood floor cleaning options if you don’t want to use vinegar.

You probably know this, but it’s worth mentioning:

Hardwood floors foot sections and never let standing water sit on hardwood floors as it can warp and ruin the wood.

3 Ways to Safely Wash Hardwood Floors with Vinegar

METHOD #1: By Hand with a Bucket and Cloth

Bucket Method via Clean Mama

This is the old-fashioned method to wash floors and works great if you are wanting to get up close and personal with your floors.  I don’t do this every week, but when I feel like the floors need a really good cleaning, this works really well.  You can use the mixture on most baseboards too.

  • 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)

METHOD #2: Refillable Spray Mop

Refillable Spray Mop via Clean Mama

Refillable spray mops (this is the one I’m using now – I love it!) are super convenient and work well for daily touch ups and regular floor cleaning.  Make sure that your microfiber pad is rinsed frequently to prevent streaking.

  • 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)

METHOD #3: Spray Bottle and Microfiber Mop

Spray Bottle and Microfiber Mop via Clean Mama

If you prefer a spray bottle and microfiber mop, this works great – I recommend this microfiber mop.  Mix up the same solution that you’d put in a refillable spray mop bottle, wet the mop head with water and wring out.  Then spray and wipe, working in 4-6 foot sections.

  • 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)

3 Ways to Clean Hardwood Floors with Vinegar

What’s your favorite hardwood floor cleaner and/or method?

Check out these posts for more cleaning info – just click on the image to go straight to the post:

The Best Ways to Clean and Care for Hard Surface Floors via Clean Mama

How to Clean Your Vacuum Cleaner via Clean Mama

Kid-Friendly Cleaning Caddy + DIY Cleaning Spray via Clean Mama

Six Things I Do Every Day to Keep the House Clean via Clean Mama



  1. We always recommend for our eco-friendly clients to use vinegar for cleaning just about anything between our services. A lot of times they’re concerned about the smell, but that will go away once its dried and aired out.

  2. When we moved into our home two years ago, I discovered that the previous homeowner had cleaned all of the hardwood floors with a Swiffer mop. For years. When I used my microfiber mop for the first time, it quite literally stuck to the floor. It would not move. The Swiffer had left a layer of sticky, streaky nastiness all over my perfectly good wood floors. In addition to that, the previous homeowner had a little white dog that shed copious amounts of fur. The Swiffer had essentially glued all of that fur to the floor.

    I used the third method you described, the vinegar solution in a spray bottle and my microfiber mop, to undo all the caked on Swiffer solution and dog hair. It took about a week of daily treatments and elbow grease, but my persistence paid off.

    My floor is clean enough for my kids to skate on it in their socks any time they please. 🙂

  3. I am used to the first method. The easiest and the most convenient one. Thanks for the tips!

  4. I want to comment on the safety aspect. Almost all hardwood floors used to be coated with solvent-based polyurethane. That kind of coating was somewhat impervious to acids and bases like vinegar and ammonia (another traditional floor cleaning chemical). Now, we have a diversity of finishes on hardwood floors. Some are factory finished baked-on coatings that are extremely durable. My floors were recently coated with polyurethane in my home – but newer formulations are water-based and I expect them to be more vulnerable to acids and bases.

  5. I heard once that vinegar dulls the sheen on hardwood. Do you know if there’s any truth to that?

  6. Do you have any recommendations on cleaning wood laminate? Would this work on laminate as well?

  7. I love a good flat microfiber mop with diluted vinegar.

  8. if you have minor scratches, follow the vinegar wash with a strong tea solution on a microfiber cloth. I use 4 tea bags to a quart of water. The 100 year old floors look wonderful.

    • Awesome! I was just sitting here wondering because my word floors are older (20 years). I know that’s not very old but I don’t know anything about them. I’m going to try the vinegar and then tea!

    • I will have to try that Mary! Noted.

    • Wendy Hopman says:

      Thanks Mary, will definitely try the 4 bag of tea. I have been using cup of vinegar, cup of water and a cup of alcohol in a spray bottle equal amounts

  9. We don’t wear shoes in the house, so my floors look great. I always thought I took good care of them. Until one day My cleaning lady (when I had one *sigh*) told me to stop using vinegar on my floors and I was like HUH? so chemicals are better? LOL Thanks for showing me the way! I do all my own cleaning now (I only used a cleaning lady for a couple of years when I had severe adrenal fatigue).

  10. Thank you so much for this much needed article! I’ve been struggling to find a good way to clean our floors. My question is this: I just purchased a regular mop, could I use that instead of the spray/flat mop you have in section 2?
    Thanks again 🙂

    • Absolutely!

      • Hi Becky, I came to your sight because I misplaced my measurements for the vinegar water solution.Wish I could still do the floors on my hands and knees, but just can’t do it anymore. I had previously used Murphy’s oil for cleaning in another home, floor guy says it will clean, but dries to a dull film. my floor installer said not to use a regular “sponge” type mop because it holds to much water. Vinegar and water works great.

  11. Thanks for these great tips! Do you find that adding essential oils to your refillable mop does any damage to the mop over time? Essential oils are so potent that they break down plastic over time, so I always wondered about adding them to my mops for that reason.

    • I haven’t had any issues and I’ve been using refillable mops for a couple years with essential oils 🙂

  12. Connie says:

    I have engineered wood floors and currently use Bona. It leaves a dull residue behind. I would love to try your vinegar method. Any experience with engineered wood?

  13. I have hardwood floors throughout my house, which my dogs have ruined, will vinegar take the urine odors out? My floors are in desperate need of deep cleaning. Also the floors are dull and discolored, you can see in the corners the color they used to be. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    • Tiffany says:

      Tonya- Not sure about how to solve the discoloration issue, but we used a national carpet cleaning company who does hardwood floors too to get a deep clean in and they hit them with a top coat that helped shine them back up again. It helped us a lot and now they are more manageable to keep up with. Also, hardwoods tan from the sun. Good luck!

  14. cherie walker says:

    I have found this solution of vinegar and water is the ONLY way to get rid of the drool spots my beloved dog leaves on my hardwood floors. They look fantastic.

  15. The people that resurface our wood floor said to use the vinegar/water method. I misplaced directions for vinegar/water ratio. So thanks.

  16. Breda moore says:

    Using the vinegar water solution with a microfiber mop works great.
    I love your site:)

  17. We just moved apartments with hardwood floors that are sticky for some reason. I’m scared to use vinegar since it’s an apartment we’re renting. I’m guessing the floor was just varnished, and if it is will this still be safe? Thanks in advance!

  18. Brandy Riggs says:

    I made the mistake of using Quick Shine on my hardwoods and bathroom tiles. Now the have spots of shine and other no-shine. I need to strip off the wax/substance/crap from my floors! Will Vinegar do the trick? I am going to try this on my tile first but would really appreciate help on my hardwoods. Also, I have dog scratches from nails, they are small and all over the floors – can I re-mop with the tea method all over my floors or just the spots? (I see every imperfection in my floors and my husband just shakes his head and tells me I am crazy – but I want my floor perfect!)

    • I would contact the Quick Shine company and see how they recommend removing it. It’s water soluble so it should wear off over time.

  19. I have brand new engineered hardwood in my home and have been so reassured by the comments regarding the vinegar and water method. I used a ratio of 1 cup vinegar to 6 cups of water and they look great. Great to know I am on the right track/. I don’t have to resort to one of the commercial products that have reviews indicating they will dull my beautiful floors.

  20. Just a note to be VERY careful when using essential oils for cleaning surfaces that may come into contact with your pets (cats especially). Cats lack an enzyme (glucuronyl tranferase) that other animals have to help process and break down certain components of essential oils. In the above recipes, lemon and clove are both mentioned, but both of these can be toxic to cats.

  21. Can you tell me what kind of turquoise mop that is in your photo. I’ve cleaned my floors on my knees with a rag for years but now too old. I would love to get one of these…

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