6 Things You Should Never Do When Cleaning Your Floors

updated Apr 19, 2021
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Credit: Rikki Snyder

Floor cleaning is an all-too-rare occasion around my house. Honestly, it’s not that I don’t have the energy or desire to clean them — it’s that I’m afraid of doing irreversible damage. We recently moved into a new house, and for the first time I have gorgeous, refinished hardwood throughout my main level. I’m doing my best to keep them intact, and in my brain, that means it’s better to let the floors get dirty than risk damaging them with the wrong cleaner or brush.

Obviously, I just need to learn how to do it right. There are lots of ways to clean your floors effectively, but as with any cleaning jobs, there are a few black-and-white no-nos. I figured that starting with what not to do would help calm my floor-cleaning anxiety. So I spoke with Angela Bell, a cleaning expert with Grove Collaborative. She had six key things that everyone should avoid when the time comes to clean the floors.

1. Don’t ever start with the floors.

This one’s just about logistics: When it’s time to clean your kitchen, don’t start with the floors. Bell suggests cleaning everything else first — wiping off the counters, scrubbing the stovetop, and finishing whatever else is on your list before you tackle floors. These tasks will likely cause crumbs and debris to fall to the floor, ultimately doubling your workload.

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2. Don’t skip the sweep.

Your floors will be way easier to clean if you sweep or vacuum first. Use your broom or vacuum to get crumbs, pet hair, and dirt before you start with any sort of wet cleaning method (like a Swiffer pad or an old-fashioned mop and bucket). If you skip this step, you’re just going to make it harder to pick up any of this debris.

3. Don’t use too much water.

Overdoing it on the water is risky. According to Bell, over-soaking floors can result in warping, because excess water can seep around seals and boards. This rule applies to all floors, but it’s especially important with wood, laminate, or vinyl flooring.

Credit: Cat Meschia

4. Don’t use harsh cleaners.

Every floor type is different, so there’s not really a one-size-fits-all product that’ll safely and effectively work across the board. The key, though, is to avoid any floor cleaner that is not made for your floor type. For example, if a bottle doesn’t say it’s safe on hardwood, skip it and try something else. Always read the label of a store-bought cleaner before you use it.

“Even natural DIY options like vinegar can strip or discolor the finish of certain materials,” says Bell. No matter what you’re using, “testing a small, inconspicuous area first can go a long way in avoiding cleaning disasters.”

5. Don’t be careless around appliances.

No matter what type of floor cleaner you use, keep it on the floor. Bell says getting floor cleaner on the bottom part of stainless steel refrigerators, ovens, and dishwashers can leave unsightly streaking and buildup. 

6. Don’t procrastinate.

This is the tip I need to take to heart: It’s a whole lot easier to clean as you go than deal with big messes later. This is particularly critical for sticky spills, Bell says, as dust and dander can get caught in them, making a mess that’s a lot harder to clean. She suggests investing in a microfiber mop and pairing it with a mild spray floor cleaner for the best (and fastest!) results.