Baking Soda and Vinegar Are Not Good Wood Floor Cleaners
We mention this upfront because an online search for natural cleaning ingredients results in many postings suggesting these two ingredients.
While baking soda, a base or alkaline solution, and vinegar, a slightly acid product, are natural ingredients and might be effective cleaners in some circumstances they’re potentially harmful when used on hardwood floors.
So instead of baking soda and vinegar, what we’ll offer here are several other safe, non-toxic and sometimes organic tips and products for how to clean hardwood floors without toxins or harsh chemicals.
Why Search for A Natural Way to Clean Floors?
Reduce Chemicals In The Environment
One reason people choose to clean their floors naturally with household ingredients is to help the environment by using simple products or ingredients that aren’t made from unnatural chemicals that will end up in the environment.
Family and Pet Safety
Many people prefer to use natural ingredients to clean around the home to reduce the level of harsh or harmful chemicals that their loved ones might be exposed to. This is especially true for cleaners since young children and pets often play on the floor’s surface.
Another people seek chemical-free, natural floor cleaners is because their bodies are extremely sensitive to the odors and chemicals found in traditional cleaning products.
The Difference Between Sealed and Finished Hardwood Floors
Unfinished floors are basically raw wood. These types of floors are not common anymore because leaving wood completely exposed leaves them vulnerable to damage and stain from water or other liquids. Also, in time the wood could become worn and splinter creating a danger for those walking on them.
Also, unfinished wood would be in danger or warping as it took in and released water from the air in the surrounding environment. Over time the boards would twist, buckle and swell individually and would no longer fit nicely together.
Today unfinished floors might be seen in a very old building where the finish has worn off, or in a newly constructed area where unfinished wood was installed but the process to “finish” the wood hasn’t been completed yet.
What Is A Finished Floor?
A floor that’s been finished means the wood has been treated in some way to protect the wood and so that it’s no longer just raw wood. The most common types of floor finish are a coating of several layers of polyurethane that create a clear, shiny finish and oils that are applied to the flooring and absorbed by the wood to protect it from moisture. Sometimes darker oils are used to make the wood and floor a darker color.
But since completely unfinished floors are rare, for the purposes of this article we’ll be talking about cleaning products for finished floors.
Natural Wood Floor Cleaning Options
The first place to start in keeping floors clean and cleaning solutions to a minimum is in preventing them from getting dirty in the first place.
A few good ways to keep dirt from being tracked in are to ask people to remove their shoes upon entering your house. The best way to do this is to make an established request and do it consistently with all visitors at all entrances.
By being diligent about it regular visitors will come to remember your preference and start to take them off upon arrival out of habit. Regular use of this practice will drastically cut down on outside dirt and dust and protect not just floors but also rugs, carpets and reduce outside allergens from reaching the indoor air too.
Not only will less dirt mean less need for cleaning products, but by keeping out dirt particles between cleanings it will cut down on the fine dust and grit that can slowly wear down the floor’s finish. And since people walking on the floors aren’t wearing shoe the dirt won’t be ground in by the hard sole’s of their footwear.
Regular Mopping and Vacuuming
Another good way to clean with fewer chemicals in the home is to sweep or vacuum floors regularly. These two method aren’t as thorough as a complete cleaning with water over every part of the floor, but done regularly they can cut down on the overall dirt level and reduce how often the floors need to be cleaned with cleaning products.
Why Should You Not Clean Floors With Baking Soda Or Vinegar?
Vinegar is slightly acid and if mixed too strongly can dull and begin to remove the shiny finish from hardwood floors. Baking soda is alkaline, which means it is a base on the pH scale, and it can also harm the floor’s finish if too much is added for the quantity of water used.
Another problem with using baking soda to clean finished floors is the grit of the product itself. If it is not thoroughly dissolved or rinsed off, and it almost always isn’t, those fine particles can be as harsh to the surface of your wood floor as the dirt and dust you’re trying to remove.
Some discussions of natural cleansers have even suggested mixing baking soda and vinegar together, which is not an effective solution at all.
When you add the basic baking soda and the acidic vinegar together they simply neutralize each other and create a fizzy, bubbly mess. Rather than adding together their effective properties, they literally cancel each other out. Now, there are other uses for baking soda and vinegar as cleaning products in which they work well but for the purpose of cleaning floors we recommend some of the other solutions suggested below.
Other Good Cleaners That Are Bad On Wood
Some floor cleaners tout the use of wax and ammonia. Usually if you read more closely it’s mentioned that these are for use on tile or linoleum floors but not wood floors. Cleaners with wax and ammonia will also dull the finish of wood floors and should be used.
Organic, Natural or Non Toxic Wood Floor Cleaners
The Green Revolution is well under way in the home cleaning market. And this means there are many more options for off-the-shelf solutions that clean your floor without harming the environment or putting toxins in the paths of your children or pets.
Method is a cleaning company that uses only natural ingredients resulting in products that are biodegradable and non-toxic for the environment.
We used to recommend using their mild dish washing liquid for use on wood floors but now they’ve expanded their product line to include floor cleaners.
For wood floors they have a product called Squirt and Mop Wood Floor Cleaner. It has an almond smell which is not for everyone. If you’re not crazy about using an almond scented cleaner their dishsoap will still do the trick on wood floors.
Another company making natural cleaners is Biokleen. For cleaning hardwood floors they have a product called Citrus Essence Bac-Out. It’s labeled as a Multi-Surface cleaner and hardwood falls safely under that broad umbrella.
Both Method and Biokleen use concentrated formulas to reduce packaging. And with access to recycling options in most communities it’s now possible to use store-bought green cleaners without adding to landfill waste. A nice aspect of both Method and Biokleen is that their products are concentrated in order reduce packaging waster.
And a more familiar name in home cleaning, Clorox, is also in the green home cleaning space with their Clorox Green Works cleaning line. These products are pH neutral and made from 99% plant-based ingredients.
Two more lesser-known companies are Bona Hardwood Floor Cleaner, which makes non-toxic floor cleaning solutions, and Trewax, a company focusing on a pet safe, pH balanced floor cleaner. The Trewax has no fragrance making it perfect for those with those with allergies or chemical sensitivities.
Use Care Cleaning Wood With Water
It seems like a very natural thing to clean wood with water, either plain water or with a cleaning product but while it’s normally safe we would just suggest not leaving the water pooled on the wood too long.
Even wood floors that are finished can be marred by standing water, even if it’s only on there for a few minutes. This is why we use a coaster under a wet glass on wood table – to avoid leaving a ring.
To ensure you to get an even finish after cleaning your floors, try not to slop water around with a plan to eventually mop it around. Instead, only spread as much water as needed in the immediate area where you’re mopping.
The same caution applies to drying the floor. Even a few drops left behind can leave marks where the droplets were. To avoid this either use a damp mop and ensure that no standing water is left behind, or follow your mop path with a towel (a large bath towel that’s been retired works well) to dry up any remaining water.
Are Steam Mops Safe For Hardwood Floors?
Steam mops such as the Shark Steam Mop products are indeed safe to use on hardwood floors. In fact, if you’re looking for a non-toxic solutions you can clean a floor (wood or otherwise) with no chemicals at all if you use a steam mop.
That’s really a big selling point of floor steam cleaners; that there are no chemicals, smells or residue left behind because the machine clean only with heated water vapor (ok, steam!).
Many people even choose to use distilled water in the steam mop water reservoir. Not only is this good for keeping hard water mineral deposits from forming inside the machine, but it also means that the steam that’s used around the house will be clean and free of chlorine and anything else that is found in regular tap water.
Try Steam Or Natural Cleaning Products for a Toxin-Free Home
Today there are many choices for keeping your wood floors beautiful while also reducing or eliminating harsh chemicals and toxins from the environment.
Try one of the many natural cleaning products available or simply use the natural cleaning power of steam with a steam mop and distilled water. Either of these solutions will leave your home beautiful and chemical free providing a nice look, pleasing smell and safe environment for family and pets.