Home » Cleaning old hardwood floors without refinishing | Easy step by Step Guide

Cleaning old hardwood floors without refinishing | Easy step by Step Guide

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Cleaning old hardwood floors isn’t complicated, but you should know and be aware of do’s and don’t. They are one of the most valuable possessions in your house, so you don’t want to damage them. All cleaning methods can be applied also to newly installed floors except I wouldn’t polish them (last step)

Cleaning old hardwood floors without refinishing.

How to clean your old hardwood floors without refinishing? 

  1. Step: Sweep your floors
  2. Step: Clean your floors with one of the described cleaning methods (vinegar, lemon juice, Windex ammonia-free universal cleaner, Bona, or Bruce Hardwood floor cleaners, etc..) 
  3. Step: Polish your floors, if wanted desired finish
  4. Step: Make sure regular cleaning is done in the future to maintain the achieved look. 
You may be Interested also in my recent blog post on how to clean an Area Rug on Hardwood Floors or how to clean mold from wood floors 

Cleaning old hardwood floors without refinishing step by step

1.Step: Sweeping Your Floors

It does not matter what cleaning method you choose afterward, sweeping and vacuuming your floors is an essential everyday job you need to think about. It should be done daily or at least three times per week.

You don’t want small rocks brought from outside damage your delicate wooden floors, right?  The quality doormat will stop most of the dirt coming to your house. Check my list of 10 best doormats for hardwood floors and 10 best dust mop for hardwood floors and see what suits you best.

Regarding sweeping, I love Bissell sweeper, but you can use the regular broom as well.

After you sweep your old hardwood floors, it’s time for cleaning. There are a lot of cleaning methods “promoted,” but you need to choose your desired one based on your floor condition. 

2. Step: Old Hardwood floors Cleaning options with Pros and cons. 

Water with soap

Even if the water is one of the biggest enemies to your floors, there are few natural ways of cleaning them. One of them is mixing water with dish soap and a more popular alternative – Murphy oil soap. Both are incorporated equally. Take ¼ cup of soap and pour it into one gallon of water. Take your mop, and before applying the mixture to your floors, wrung it well. 

To be extra cautious, you can use dry Swiffer sweeper pads or cloth and wipe your floors after moping it with a water-soap solution.


  • Easy to made
  • Inexpensive
  • Natural 


  • The process includes a lot of water, which is the wooden floor’s biggest enemy. In small quantities, it can be beneficial, so you need to be extra careful and wrung your mop well.
  • If you have harder to remove stains, it can be ineffective. You can try mixing ½ cup of murphy oil soap and see if it works any better. 


It’s efficient and inexpensive cleaning option for your home which can work on long term, especially if you clean them on regular basis and bigger stains don’t appear. Be careful to wrung your mop well.

Water with Vinegar

Vinegar is very popular cleaning option among hardwood floor owners. If you’re thinking about it, you need to know few things. Vinegar contains higher concentration of acid which is harmful to your floors so you need to mix it with water to make effective floor cleaner. Choose white vinegar or cleaning vinegar found on Amazon. Other are not appropriate. Don’t even think about balsamic type 😊

Same as with every cleaning method, you need to vacuum your floors first before applying mixture. Mix 1 cup of vinegar and 1 gallon of warm water. Take your soft mop meant for hardwood floors and start moping. Same as with soap, it is essential to wrung it well so no excess water is poured on your precious old hardwood floors. If you larger area to clean, make sure you replace water when it becomes dirty. 


  • Natural cleaning sollution 
  • Inexpensive to make


  • I personally don’t like smell of vinegar even if it dissappears quite quickly. I prefer Murphy oil, Bona or Amonia-free Windex. 
  • Acid and water are harmful to your floors so you need to be careful to wrung your mop well before moping them. 


Cleaning with Vinegar is very effective, natural and inexpensive cleaning solution for your floors. Just make sure you follow above mentioned tips. 

Water with Lemon juice 

Lemon contains acid same as vinegar so cleaning with it mixed with water will disinfect your floors and make them stain free as weel. 

Before start cleaning with Lemon juice vacuum your floors well to get rid of dust and other dirt accumulated. Make ½ cup of lemon juice and mix it with one gallon of water.  Process of cleaning is same as with vinegar so I don’t want to repeat myself. Just make sure your mop is wrung well. 


  • Natural cleaning method
  • Smells nice
  • Inexpensive and effective


  • Lemons contain acid. Water and Acid are harmful for your floors in large quantities but very effective in small. 


Lemon juice is is great natural and inexpensive way of cleaning and disinfecting your floors. 

TIP: add few drops of olive oil in to lemon/water or vinegar/water mixture when cleaning old hardwood floors. You will achieve great final shine and bring back luster of your floors. 

Baking Soda

Baking Soda is not a cleaning sollution for your hardwood floors but it helps you to remove scuffs so It should be mentioned as well in my post. This scuffs happens mostly because of pets, walking with our shoes inside, moving furniture, etc,… 

Process is simple: Take your dish sponge and put little bit of baking soda on. Your sponge should be mildly damp. Rub mixture threw your scuffs and they should magically disappear. 

Hardwood floor cleaners like Bona and Bruce

For those who don’t know this brands yet or maybe those who just installed hardwood floors, Bona and Bruce are probably two of most popular brands regarding wooden floor cleaning solutions.

I won’t go to much in detail because I reviewed those two products recently in my blog posts Bona VS Bruce hardwood floor cleaners. You should check it out. 

Cleaning process is all in all very simple and at the same time effective. This are specialized cleaning products made for your hardwood floors so expect only the best. Also no additional water is needed. 

Just spray and mop after. It’s that simple. 


  • No water needed
  • Specialized for hardwood floors so you can not damage them
  • They are made to reveal floors natural shine


  • More expensive compared to other mentioned cleaners


With Bona and Bruce you will probably achieve best results but it is the most expensive option listed. Your floors are tt the same time probably on eof the most valuable possessions in your house. Threat them well. 

Windex ammonia-free all-purpose cleaner

I love this cleaner. It’s funny that most of people don’t know that this universal cleaner is great for hardwood floors. Since Windex release amonia-free version of its bestseller a lot of us started to explore it on wooden floors as well.

I wrote extensive article also about this cleaner: Can I use Windex on my Hardwood floors? 

Cleaning process is same with Bona and Bruce. You just take your spray bottle and spray it on the floor. After clean it with your microfiber mop or even better – Swiffer sweeper. In addition to above mentioned hardwood floor cleaners, amonia-free Windex is universal, what means you can use it on tiles, windows, cultured marble, laminate floors, glass items, etc… 


  • Universal cleaner 
  • Doesn’t need additional water 
  • Inexpensive 


As you saw I didn’t write any cons about this product. I believe you can achieve same results compared to much higher priced cleaners. Try it. 

3. Step: Polishing your old hardwood floors

I would polish my hardwood floors if I can not achieve desirable result after cleaning with regular floors cleaners. Maybe scratches are deeper and you want to fill them with polishing wax to smooth surface of your floors.

When polishing, you need to repeat your proces at least twice. You apply first coat, wait 24h and then apply second coat. 

Same as with hardwood floor cleaners, Bona polisher is brand well known to achieve best results. Beside Bona I encourage you try Rejuvenate polisher. It’s reviews are very positive and some say they had much better experience than Bona. CLICK HERE and read its reviews on Amazon from people who actually tried it.

Applying polisher is a bit different compared to cleaning with hardwood floor cleaners. Instead of spraying, you pour it directly on your floors and extend around with your mop. It is very important how to mop it so no buildup will occur after. See video below for better understanding.


As you saw on the video, your floors should be quite bumped and worn down before thinking about polishing hardwood floors. With polishers like Rejuvenate and Bona you can definitely bring back life to your floors. This is basically final step before sanding.

NOTE: polishing should be done every few months so this is ongoing proces.

Regular Care Plan for your old hardwood floors is needed

After you have finished all your hardwood floor cleaning steps, you should set up a plan to clean them on regular basis in the future. This way you will prolong their life and maintain its natural shine and beauty. Follow below flooring care steps:

  • Buy quality doormat – this Will literally save tone of possible problems and hours cleaning your floors
  • Vacum your floors 2-3x per week.
  • Mop your floors 1-2 times per month
  • If you polished your floors, maintain polishing them every 3-4months.

High-traffic areas, like entryways , dining room or kitchen need special treatment. If not doing regular care on your whole house, make sure you pay attention at least to those parts of you house. If stains happen, make sure you read my guide on how to clean white and dark stains from hardwood floors.