We Tested 5 Methods to Clean a Hardwood Floor, and the Winner Took No Time at All

updated Aug 30, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Different methods for cleaning hardwood floors labeled on a beige background featuring a photo of a hardwood floor.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Of all the pretty details about our new house, one of the best features is the oak flooring. I’ve lived in homes with hardwood before, but never hardwood this pretty. Suffice to say, I’ve been extra dedicated to finding the best ways to keep my wood flooring shiny and clean these days. A big part of my floor-cleaning routine is in my kitchen, where the oak is prone to plenty of messes and spills.

If you, too, have hardwood floors, then you probably already know how important maintenance is — that you can’t necessarily use the same products and techniques you would on, say, linoleum or tile flooring. That’s precisely why I set out to pinpoint the absolute best method for cleaning hardwood floors — so both you and I can rest assured knowing we’re using the smartest method.

In my research, I came across five popular and seemingly effective methods, including several spray-on products, a couple of DIY techniques, and one dedicated hardwood mop. Then, I tested each method on my own kitchen floor. I’m happy to report that one stood out above the rest. Read on to find out which one came out on top!

Quick Overview

What is the best way to clean hardwood floors?

All factors considered, the Swiffer WetJet was the clear winner of all five of the hardwood floor cleaning techniques we tested.

How We Tested Methods to Clean Hardwood Floors

To test the best wood floor cleaning methods, I first made sure to sweep dust, crumbs, and other debris off my galley kitchen floors. Then, I dedicated a section of my floor to each of the five cleaners and tried each method in its designated area, giving me a total of five equally dirty sections to clean.

To know which method worked the fastest, I set a timer for each one until I started to see results. I then estimated how long each method would take to clean my entire kitchen, multiplying it by five. For all cleaners but the Swiffer WetJet, I used the popular O-Cedar microfiber mop.

The Ratings

I rated my results on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best and 1 being the worst method overall. I also took notes on what I liked and disliked about each technique, including the process and results. Finally, I considered the cost of the product, the overall ease of using the technique, and how long each method took me to complete.

Note: Be sure to always check your manufacturer’s instructions before cleaning your hardwood floors. Spot test if you are unsure.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Method: White Vinegar

  • Estimated cleaning time: 7 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Ease of use: 3/5
  • Performance: 3/5
  • Overall rating: 2/5

The method: Good ol’ vinegar has long been touted for its cleaning power. It can be one of the most effective and most inexpensive ways to cut through grease, lift stains, remove limescale, and more. So, I could easily see why this simple and inexpensive DIY method might be popular as a floor cleaner.

For this method, you mix 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar with a gallon of lukewarm water in a bucket. To save time (and to avoid carrying a heavy load), I decided to try making my cleaning solution directly in a spray bottle with 1 part vinegar and 16 parts water (math!). Because I was cleaning just a portion of my floor, I thought this might be a good way to go. Then, I sprayed it on a clean microfiber mop. I wiped the dedicated section, re-spraying the mop as needed.

How it went: Hands-down, this was my least favorite method. It was easy to make in a spray bottle, which was a plus, and the vinegar did a decent job cleaning the floor. But I had to re-spray the microfiber more than once to lift stuck-on grime.

In the end, I sprayed it directly on the floor to make it easier, although making it in a bucket might have been more effective. The floors were clean enough, but not shiny when I was done. I was not impressed. Also, the vinegar didn’t smell that great, but I didn’t notice a strong after-smell either. Verdict? Save your white vinegar for other cleaning (and cooking) jobs.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Method: Castile Soap and Essential Oil

  • Estimated cleaning time: 8 minutes
  • Ease of use: 2/5
  • Performance: 4/5
  • Overall rating: 2.5/5

The method: Castile soap is another solid but gentle choice for cleaning around the house, making it useful for cleaning slick oven hoods, greasy pots and pans, hard-to-clean oily spills — and so many other messy home staples!

To get started, I filled a bucket with 1/4 cup of castile soap, a few drops of lemon essential oil (but you can use whatever scent you prefer), and one gallon of warm water. Then, I dipped my microfiber mop into the solution and cleaned my floor. You can also make this in a spray bottle if you have just a few spots to clean. To do that, just fill a spray bottle with three drops of castile soap, five drops of lemon essential oil, and two cups of warm tap water.

How it went: The castile soap, essential oil, and water mixture definitely cleaned the floor effectively, even lifting sticky residue from the wood. However, this technique required more elbow grease than some of the other methods. If you prefer a DIY cleaner and don’t mind moistening the mop several times, this one is definitely effective.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Method: Murphy Wood Cleaner

  • Estimated cleaning time: 10 minutes
  • Ease of use: 4.5/5
  • Performance: 4/5
  • Overall rating: 3/5

The method: I followed the instructions on the Murphy Wood Cleaner product label, diluting 1/4 cup of the product in a gallon of warm water. Then, I dipped the microfiber mop into the bucket and wiped the floor.

How it went: This is the method I use regularly to clean my floors, so I knew it would be effective. Of all of the techniques I tried, this one most easily deep cleaned my floors, restoring their shine and even removing sticky residue without much effort.

So why then isn’t this old-school method the winner? While Murphy and a mop made my floors look awesome, it also took way more time than other methods because I had to fill the bucket. It also was a bit harder to control how much liquid I used on my floor when I dipped the microfiber mop into the solution. Compared to the other methods, I ended up spending more time making sure I spread the cleaner around the floor.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Method: Method Squirt + Mop Wood Floor Cleaner

  • Estimated cleaning time: 6 minutes
  • Ease of use: 4.5/5
  • Performance: 3/5
  • Overall rating: 4/5

The method: I followed the instructions on the label of Method Squirt + Mop Wood
Floor Cleaner
, squirting a thin layer onto the floor and then wiping with my microfiber

How it went: The whole process was extremely satisfying. I loved how easy it was to squirt the mixture on the floor — definitely more efficient than filling a bucket and dipping a mop into it.

The cleaner was the perfect texture, just heavy and thick enough to clean grime from the floor. Plus, this stuff smells amazing! My only critique is that while the cleaner made the floors shiny and removed the layer of surface grime, it wasn’t super powerful at wiping away stuck-on gunk.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Hardwood Floor Cleaning Method: Swiffer WetJet Hardwood Floor Cleaner

  • Estimated cleaning time: 5 minutes
  • Ease of use: 4/5
  • Performance: 5/5
  • Overall rating: 4.5/5

The method: I followed the instructions that came with my Swiffer WetJet Hardwood
Floor Cleaner
. First, I affixed a clean cloth to the mop head, then I turned on the WetJet
and cleaned the floor as directed.

How it went: All factors considered, the Swiffer WetJet was the clear winner of all of the hardwood floor cleaning techniques I tried. I loved that I didn’t have to spray anything on
the mop or dip it in a solution. Instead, I just pressed a button and wiped the grime away. The battery-operated mop releases just the right amount of cleaning solution to get the job done, leaving the floors clean and polished-looking.

So, why subtract half a point? I had to scrub pretty hard to get a bit of sticky residue from the floor, so I wouldn’t use this method to deep-clean. The other issue is the environmental aspect. You can definitely use a reusable cloth instead of the accompanying disposable ones, but you’re still going through plastic containers when replacing the cleaning solution. But, despite that, the WetJet sure does make the job easy! (I plan to find other ways to planet-proof my cleaning routine to make up for this one.) While it’s a few dollars more than the other solutions, it costs less than the O-Cedar mop which you’d need for the other methods, so they’re all about even in the end.

Overall, if you’re looking for a convenient, effective solution that gets the job done quickly at a reasonable price, then the Swiffer WetJet is definitely worth a try. I’ll be keeping mine around for sure!

How do you clean your hardwood floors? Tell us your tips and tricks, plus your favorite products you love to use in the comments below.